Emotion, Cognition and Indigenous Ways-of-Knowing

In daily discourse we distinguish between the heart and the mind, emotion and cognition.

And as a former journalist and professor of journalism we learned to separate feelings from facts, and to view the world though an unjaundiced, distant and objective eye.

The journalism approach resonates well with our Western approach to science, where we separate facts and feelings.

Problem is that we can’t truly sever emotion from cognition: we just pretend we can.

Emotions emerge from the brain, even though it is sure appealing to consider the heart as the center for emotions.

But by locating cognitions and emotions in the brain we actually help bridge the divide, forcing us to consider the linkage between them.

We even distinguish how we feel from how we believe when we want to separate emotions from cognitions. For example, a social science researcher might ask you which candidate you BELIEVE will make the best president in order to tap into your cognitions.

But the question, which candidate do you FEEL will make the best president—that one gets to your gut.

It’s more than just the rhetoric of the question wording. The wording reflects scientific judgments that beliefs are different from feelings; that they “live” in different neighborhoods in ourselves.

But what if we refused to consider that beliefs are different from emotions? How would that alter the ways in which we look at thoughts? Behavior?

I wonder if that sort of reframing aligns more with indigenous ways-of-knowing, where beliefs and emotions co-exist rather than being bundled into separate packets that live separate lives?

If neurologists are correct—if emotions and thoughts spring from the same fount—then perhaps we can learn from our native elders how best to embrace them.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in framing, health, Native Science, science and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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