It seems to be the obvious for many psychologists, but on what grounds emotions are considered to be different than reflexes?

  • $\begingroup$ Reflexes don't go through the brain, emotions do. See also: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/9270/… $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Nov 28, 2016 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for a good question. @ArnonWeinberg, Reflexes do go through the brain otherwise how do reflex actions occur? Look at the fight, fright, flight, fawn reactions to threats. This is one example of where the definition of conscious, subconscious and unconscious reactions become blurry. Some reflex actions may be unconscious psychologically but cognitively to a degree, and neurologically, they are conscious otherwise the reflex actions wouldn't occur. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2016 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris, feel free to post a separate question re how reflexes work, or check out a similar question here: cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/9174/…. I think you are referring to unconscious actions however, which are different (not mentioned in the OP's question), so perhaps posting a question about those would be more appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Nov 28, 2016 at 23:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris I think it's an interesting question, but not yet a good question. It could use a lot more background and context. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Dec 7, 2016 at 2:16

1 Answer 1


In a simplified example, a tennis player's eyes see the tennis ball's movements, and is working with the brain to track the speed and trajectory. The brain is then reacting to these cues along with all other available cues, to send signals to the nerves responsible for moving the body in the required way to respond to these cues.

If however, something happens externally to the tennis game, which is then interpreted by the amygdalae and hypothalamus as a threat to the host's wellbeing, the brain's attention is immediately moved from the tennis game to the threat in order for it to react in the best way possible to protect the body from the perceived impending danger.

Now, the brain may not be immediately conscious of the threat in a psychological sense as it may not have time to think about the threat in a psychological way, but nevertheless, the brain will be conscious of the impending danger and will respond accordingly in the most efficient way possible.

This is reflex reaction.

Emotional reactions are psychological reactions to stimulae which the brain receives, whereas reflex reactions are reactions which result from stimulae which the brain currently doesn't have time to process psychologically.


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