The function of emotions

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Louise Hay

The function of emotions

In this article we explain the function of emotions, fundamental physiological and behavioral processes.

Last update: April 22, 2022

Trying to define the concept of emotion is complicated, in fact the scholars Wenger and Jones stated: “Most everyone thinks they know what an emotion is until they try to define it. Here at that moment, practically no one is able to understand it ”. What, then, is the function of emotions?

Emotions are intrinsically innate physiological and behavioral processes. Despite this, some can be acquired by observing the people around us.

Three fundamental dimensions are involved in these global responses, as we might call them:

  • Cognition: conscious or unconscious component that is based on the subjective evaluation of an event.
  • Neurophysiology: totally involuntary, includes emotions such as tremors or sweat.
  • Behavior: It can be voluntary or involuntary, such as crying, tone of voice or body movements.

But… What is the function of emotions?

According to Reeve (1994), emotions have three important main functions:

  • Adaptive: every emotion has its usefulness. For example, fear has the function of protection and disgust functions as rejection.
  • Motivational: stimulates a motivated behavior that is performed more vigorously and effectively.
  • Communicative: comprehends intrapersonal and interpersonal communication. From the first we get the information; in the second, the focus is on verbal and non-verbal communication, which influences the behavior of others.


We can say that the function of emotions is to give one emotional response of pleasant and unpleasant sensations which differ in intensity and duration.

These feelings help us cope with certain life circumstances with greater or lesser success.

According to our experiences, basic or innate emotions can be transformed in social emotions that are very important for establishing healthy and lasting relationships.

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