Two women being watched by a wall of cctv cameras

I'm remembering a time when my then 3 year old son leans over a cake mix before I put it in the oven. He says: 'Daddy, my nose is telling me to eat this. Can I?' It makes me laugh and despite remembering the times when I used to clean out the cake mix bowl, I think of the raw eggs and ask him to wait until it's been baked....boring Dad.

What I love about this is that until he decided to translate his experience into language, there wasn't any cognition involved in this for my son. One might be tempted to say it's merely the impulsiveness of a child, but is it?

Recently I was reading some work by Brian Massumi: The Autonomy of Affect. I found a study he talked about really amusing and interesting primarily because the researchers' "study was notable for failing to find much of what it was studying: cognition."

What I found most fascinating about this study was that the participants rated the sad scenes in a film "*most pleasant*, the sadder the better...Their physiological reactions were monitored. The factual version elicited the highest level of arousal, even though it was the most unpleasant (i.e., happy) and made the least long-lasting impression."

Confusing to say the least.

As a result of their study, the researchers "contented themselves with observing that the difference between sadness and happiness is not all that it's cracked up to be, and worrying that the difference between children and adults was also not all that it was cracked up to be (judging by studies of adult retention of news broadcast)."

Given the current predominance of beliefs about positive thinking and positive feelings floating around in the world today, this may be cause for a sharp intake of breath. Did you?

How much of your feelings are one-dimensionally good or bad, positive or negative? Or do you also find some of your experiences of being sad really pleasant, an angry outburst relaxing, a bout of joy shameful? Driven by guilt to do the things you really enjoy, feeling guilty doing things just pleasure? It's all there isn't it?

So why do we judge feelings so?

And if the 'happy' factual experience might actually be the least pleasant and the one that makes the 'least long-lasting impression,' how should we then approach learning experience?

unsplash-logo Matthew Henry