Cognition, Emotion, and Behaviour


Cognition, Emotion, and Behaviour are three steps that happen one after the other normally.

Cognition is the process of processing the raw information received by the sense organs into a intelligible or actionable information. Cognition is much influenced by the past experiences. For example, a person who is scared of snakes will see a rope to be a snake in the dark, whereas a child who has no concept of snake might see the real snake as a rope.

In the above example, emotion is the guiding factor for blurred vision. The fear and apprehension of being bitten by the snake turn the vision of the rope into the vision of a snake. This is also an unconscious protective mechanism of the brain that understands the urgency of spotting the snake if there is a possibility of there being one. Emotions have a very strong impact on the way we see things. Stronger the emotion, greater will be the impact.

sunset-hands-love-woman.jpgLove is a very strong emotion, which can completely change the perception of a person. It is said that when one is in love with someone, esp. a girl or a boy, he/she become more attentive towards the beauty of flowers, nature, songs or love stories. He/she can see beauty in a storm and feel the music in the noise of a manufacturing factory. One famous love story depicts how emotions can absolutely change the cognition of a person. A lover wanted to meet his girl who resided across the river. He stood by the stormy river and saw a boat afloat. He climbed the boat and reached the house of his lover and saw a boat hanging by the window of his girl. He climbed the rope and reached the room of his lover. He thanked his beloved for hanging a rope so that he could climb up. The girl was confused. She said that she did not hang any rope outside the window. As the man started to return, the couple saw a big cobra hanging from the window. The man reached the river spot where he had tied the boat. He saw that the boat was actually a floating corpse that he had mistaken for the boat. Such is the power of emotions, they can make a person completely automaton.

Therefore all the religions of the world have advocated to control the emotions and not to be led astray by them. Milder forms of emotions, feelings are the healthy state of mind. We should definitely be feeling towards the problems of others and try to help them. But to be completely driven by the current of emotions actually helps no one. Therefore, overly strong emotions like fear(phobia), attachment(mania), anger, grief or excessive happiness, present a pathological state of mind.

Few people, who can control and manipulate the effects of emotions on their mind, have the ability to see the whole picture. This is the truly refined and evolved state of human mind. Such mind is like a magnet, where all the particles are aligned in the same direction.  A mind guided by strong emotions is like an iron rod, where there is a chaotic presence or misalignment. All logical arrangement or clarity of vision is jumbled by the tornado of emotions. Control over emotions defined the stage of evolution of a human mind.

Behavior can be of 3 types – instinctive or animal-like, led by emotions, led by reason.

Instinctive behavior is related to more or less basic actions.  These can be actions related to hunger, protection, plain sexual attraction etc.

Behavior can be led by emotions as explained in the above story.

Also, it can be led by pure and unbiased reason or moral values. This happens when there is no hindering emotions and no need for basic needs. For example, a person can perform very well in math by practice and observation, if there is no underlying fear of failure. A person does not farts or pees in a holy place because of moral values of reverence and the public good.

I have a personal hypothesis about the relationship of Cognition, Emotion, and Behaviour. A person can be cognition centric, emotion-centric or behavior-centric. A cognition centric person sees something beyond the effects of the emotions. He does not convert the cognition into some actionable information. He is just a mindless observer, like a cow who sees things as it ruminates its fodder.

Emotion centric person is one who has strong emotions. He is one step higher than the cognition centric person. He quickly transforms the cognition into biased actionable information because of his strong emotions. He can be guided by anything from fear, anger, grief, happiness, excitement or attachment (love). Emotion centric person is in the process of development. He is like a child who is trying to learn how to handle things by beating the rattle on the ground. An emotion-centric person is learning how to handle emotions by getting kicked by them. Gradually, he gets to understand that emotions are to be handled and not to be followed.

Behavior centric person has a clear vision, unguided by tamed emotions and he can make the best use of this immaculate information. It is said that “yoga (union) is the perfection of karma”. A behavior-centric person can make the best decisions and do the most doable things without any guilt, fear, hope, anger etc.

One paragraph of Sir Henry Wotton’s “The Character of a Happy life” defines what I am trying to say-

Whose passions not his masters are;

Whose soul is still prepared for death,

Untied unto the world by care

Of public fame or private breath;


Who hath his life from rumors freed;

Whose conscience is his strong retreat;

Whose state can neither flatterers feed,

Nor ruin make oppressors great;


—This man is freed from servile bands

Of hope to rise or fear to fall:

Lord of himself, though not of lands,

And having nothing, yet hath all.

Thanks for reading!

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