Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x24gv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-25T09:02:05.529Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Cognition as the tip of the emotional iceberg: A neuro-evolutionary perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2015

Peter A. Bos
Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands. p.a.bos@uu.nld.terburg@uu.nl Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital, Observatory, J-Block, Cape Town, South Africa.
Eddie Brummelman
Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands. e.brummelman@uva.nl
David Terburg
Experimental Psychology, Utrecht University, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands. p.a.bos@uu.nld.terburg@uu.nl Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, Groote Schuur Hospital, Observatory, J-Block, Cape Town, South Africa.


We emphasize the importance of a neuroevolutionary perspective in moving beyond the cognition-emotion dichotomy. Cognitive behavior depends on cortical structures firmly rooted in the emotional brain from which they have evolved. As such, there cannot be cognition without emotion. Endocrine regulation of amygdala connectivity, a neural “switch” between impulsivity and deliberation, further underscores the phylogenetic impossibility of a cognition-emotion dichotomy.

Open Peer Commentary
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Archer, J. (2006) Testosterone and human aggression: An evaluation of the challenge hypothesis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 30(3):319–45.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Balleine, B. W. & Killcross, S. (2006) Parallel incentive processing: An integrated view of amygdala function. Trends in Neurosciences 29(5):272–79.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bickart, K. C., Hollenbeck, M. C., Barrett, L. F. & Dickerson, B. C. (2012) Intrinsic amygdala–cortical functional connectivity predicts social network size in humans. The Journal of Neuroscience 32(42):14729–41.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bos, P. A., Panksepp, J., Bluthe, R. M. & Honk, J. V. (2012) Acute effects of steroid hormones and neuropeptides on human social-emotional behavior: A review of single administration studies. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 33:1735.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bos, P. A., Terburg, D. & van Honk, J. (2010) Testosterone decreases trust in socially naive humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107(22):9991–95.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bryan, M. B., Scott, A. P. & Li, W. (2008) Sex steroids and their receptors in lampreys. Steroids 73(1):112.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Damasio, A. (2010) Self comes to mind: Constructing the conscious brain. Pantheon.Google Scholar
Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Michel, A., Berger, C. & Herpertz, S. C. (2007) Oxytocin improves “mind-reading” in humans. Biological Psychiatry 61(6):731–33.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Eisenegger, C., Naef, M., Snozzi, R., Heinrichs, M. & Fehr, E. (2010) Prejudice and truth about the effect of testosterone on human bargaining behaviour. Nature 463(7279):356–59.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Goodson, J. L. & Bass, A. H. (2001) Social behavior functions and related anatomical characteristics of vasotocin/vasopressin systems in vertebrates. Brain Research Reviews 35(3):246–65.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Zak, P. J., Fischbacher, U. & Fehr, E. (2005) Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature 435(7042):673–76.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Macedo, C. E., Martinez, R. C., Albrechet-Souza, L., Molina, V. A. & Brandao, M. L. (2007) 5-HT2- and D1-mechanisms of the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala enhance conditioned fear and impair unconditioned fear. Behavioural Brain Research 177(1):100108.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Macedo, C. E., Martinez, R. C. & Brandao, M. L. (2006) Conditioned and unconditioned fear organized in the inferior colliculus are differentially sensitive to injections of muscimol into the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala. Behavioral Neuroscience 120(3):625–31.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
MacLean, P. D. (1990) The triune brain in evolution: Role in paleocerebral functions. Plenum Press.Google Scholar
Montoya, E. R., Terburg, D., Bos, P. A., Will, G. J., Buskens, V., Raub, W. & van Honk, J. (2013) Testosterone administration modulates moral judgments depending on second-to-fourth digit ratio. Psychoneuroendocrinology 38(8):1362–69.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Munakata, Y., Herd, S. A., Chatham, C. H., Depue, B. E., Banich, M. T. & O'Reilly, R. C. (2011) A unified framework for inhibitory control. Trends in Cognitive Science 15(10):453–59.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Panksepp, J. & Panksepp, J. B. (2000) The seven sins of evolutionary psychology. Evolution and Cognition 6(2):108–31.Google Scholar
Pessoa, L. (2013) The cognitive-emotional brain. From interactions to integration. MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Phillips, A. G., Ahn, S. & Howland, J. G. (2003) Amygdalar control of the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system: Parallel pathways to motivated behavior. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 27(6):543–44.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Prinz, J. J. (2006b) Is the mind really modular? In: Contemporary debates in cognitive science, ed. Stainton, R. J., pp. 2236. Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
Riem, M. M., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., Pieper, S., Tops, M., Boksem, M. A., Vermeiren, R. R., van IJzendoorn, M. H. & Rombouts, S. A. (2011) Oxytocin modulates amygdala, insula, and inferior frontal gyrus responses to infant crying: A randomized controlled trial. Biological Psychiatry 70(3):291–97.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Seung, S. (2012) Connectome: How the brain's wiring makes us who we are. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
Sporns, O. (2010) Networks of the brain. MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stoop, R. (2012) Neuromodulation by oxytocin and vasopressin. Neuron 76(1):142–59.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Terburg, D., Aarts, H. & van Honk, J. (2012a) Testosterone affects gaze-aversion from angry faces outside of conscious awareness. Psychological Science 23(5):459–63.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Terburg, D., Morgan, B. E., Montoya, E. R., Hooge, I. T., Thornton, H. B., Hariri, A. R., Panksepp, J., Stein, D. J. & van Honk, J. (2012b) Hyper-vigilance for fear after basolateral amygdala damage in humans. Translational Psychiatry 2:e115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Terburg, D. & van Honk, J. (2013) Approach–avoidance versus dominance–submissiveness: A multilevel neural framework on how testosterone promotes social status. Emotion Review 5(3):296302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tye, K. M., Prakash, R., Kim, S. Y., Fenno, L. E., Grosenick, L., Zarabi, H., Thompson, K. R., Gradinaru, V., Ramakrishnan, C. & Deisseroth, K. (2011) Amygdala circuitry mediating reversible and bidirectional control of anxiety. Nature 471(7338):358–62.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
van Honk, J., Eisenegger, C., Terburg, D., Stein, D. J. & Morgan, B. (2013) Generous economic investments after basolateral amygdala damage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110(7):2506–10.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
van Honk, J., Montoya, E. R., Bos, P. A., van Vugt, M. & Terburg, D. (2012) New evidence on testosterone and cooperation. Nature 485(7399):E4E5.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
van Honk, J., Schutter, D. J., Bos, P. A., Kruijt, A.-W., Lentjes, E. G. & Baron-Cohen, S. (2011a) Testosterone administration impairs cognitive empathy in women depending on second-to-fourth digit ratio. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108(8):3448–52.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
van Honk, J., Terburg, D. & Bos, P. A. (2011b) Further notes on testosterone as a social hormone. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15(7):291–92.Google ScholarPubMed
Whalen, P. J. & Phelps, E. A., eds. (2009) The human amygdala. The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Wilson, E. O. (1998) Consilience: The unity of knowledge. Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar