It is a common belief that the heart is somehow related to emotions. When we are nervous,our heartbeat is effected (increased heart rate) and when we are happy, another pattern in heart function can be observed.

My question is the following. Does the heart have a significant role in the occurence of emotions, or is it that the heart is just an organ that pumps blood and these physiological changes are merely a by-product of processes relevant to emotion?
Is the heart's function of interest to any cognitive scientific field of study?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! I'm not sure what you're asking--are you asking what changes in heartbeat can tell us about emotion? $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking for a link between the function of the heart and cognitive function or affect? Your question might be related to this m.pnas.org/content/111/2/646 Take a look.. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ Or are you asking the symbolism of heart ❤️? Many symbolism such as care, long-lasting, empathy, love and so on are related to emotions. If you think two people hugging/kissing each other or being very close, their outline in a way forms a heart -- does it explain the origin or feelings associated with it? Attachement, feeling of belonging. $\endgroup$
    – hhh
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 13:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Let me make it more clear, Is there any space for heart in cognitive sciences ? or its just an organ to pump blood? $\endgroup$
    – Adnan Ali
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ The heart is as relevant as any of your other muscles for emotional processes - so it is not really relevant to the cognitive sciences. Basically, it's just an organ to pump blood (and a symptom of certain emotional states). $\endgroup$
    – user6682
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 6:41

2 Answers 2


As it has been pointed in the other answers and the comments, the heart is indeed only an organ that pumps blood and all the processes responsible for emotions are carried out by the brain. However, the heart and generally the autonomous nervous system is of critical importance to somatic theories of emotion. These theories propose that bodily responses in the presence of a certain stimulus, initiate emotional processing. However, it is not that the heart, for instance, creates an emotion. It is the brain that notices any significant physiological changes like the heart rate being increased and makes an interpretation of this internal state taking into account the available stimuli. This idea originates with William James' theory of emotion but it was also incorporated in more recent approaches like the somatic marker hypothesis by Antonio Damasio.


Emotions are attached to heart.

Eg. if you feel scared in dangerous situation, sympathetic part of autonomic nervous system is activated. It increases heart rate and then blood flow to brain is elevated. More blood transports more oxygen and then brain functions better.


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