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Home » Jaak Panksepp: The Science of Emotions at TEDxRainier (Transcript)

Jaak Panksepp: The Science of Emotions at TEDxRainier (Transcript)

Jaak Panksepp

Here is the full transcript of neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp’s TEDx Talk presentation: The Science of Emotions at TEDxRainier conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: The science of emotions by Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier


What would art be like without emotions? It would be empty. What would our lives be like without emotions? There would be empty of values. So a famous classical poet said, “We hate and we love; can one tell me why? – Catullus. Science does not answer why questions; science answers how questions.

But the why question would be answered as follows. We have feelings because they tell us what supports our survival and what detracts from our survival. And I’ve been in this field now for half a century and it’s been a fairly lonely field, because when I was a student in electrical engineering, I started getting bored and I worked in the backwards of a psychiatric hospital and saw human tragedies, their emotional tragedies. And no one knew what emotions were, how we get these feelings, so I decided to shift to neuroscience – first clinical psychology, then neuroscience, that is the only path to understanding how we feel.

This seems to be an impenetrable mystery but it is potentially penetrable with neuroscience, especially if we take the emotions of animals seriously. And a friend sent me these pictures, a little fawn was injured and the dog took a special interest in the fawn. Now is the dog thinking or — interesting, we cannot penetrate the cognitive mind of animals, even though they are very skilled in living as we saw earlier this morning.

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