Why Humans Experience Fear
One of the most fascinating questions about human behavior is why humans experience fear. The feared condition is one of the most widespread and often disabling emotions in the world. Its physiological and psychological causes are poorly understood, but recent findings suggest that there are several functional properties of fear that help us understand the physiology of our behavior. For example, we have two kinds of instrumental responses: habitual and action-outcome. In the former, the body speeds up and tenses in response to danger. The second type of instrumental response is prospective: it involves the prefrontal cortex. In the former, the brain sends impulses to the adrenal medulla, which releases the hormones that cause the heart to speed up and blood pressure to rise. The latter type of reaction is the most flexible, and is usually reserved for high-level situations.
While the physical response is very similar in all animals, the mechanism responsible for fear is entirely different in humans. In animal models, fear is a result of the mind sending signals to various parts of the body. The brain then generates memory-based expectations of how the body will respond to an threatening situation. These predictions are crucial for understanding why humans experience fear. Ultimately, they are responsible for our erratic behavior, and they can help explain our complex and fascinating behaviors.
While other animals experience danger, it is unclear how humans perceive it. In addition to its physiological effects, humans can have a variety of physical sensations, including a faster heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and sweating. The physiological response triggered by fear can be mild or extreme, depending on how intense it is. This is why a cognitive account can only provide a single, comprehensive answer to the question of why we feel fear in the first place.