What is the difference between thoughts and feelings?
Emotions or feelings are often distinguished from thoughts. Emotions are typically considered the irrational or animal part of humans, whereas thoughts are the rational. Strong feelings such as anger, joy, fear, and sadness result in behaviors that do not seem to always serve one’s interest. Thoughts are the words in the head that give mental content to hopes, dreams, and desires and allow for reasoning and weighing of options so that an assessment of consequences can be made before actions are taken.
Scientists now know through the use of experiments and clinical observation that thoughts, feelings, and perceptions coexist as a unified whole and cannot be easily teased apart. Thus, every thought is given a positive or negative emotional valence that allows us to prioritize our actions on those thoughts. Evidence in support of that comes from the fields of neurology and the computer sciences. Neurologic studies show that people who suffered brain damage that cuts thoughts off from feelings are unable to prioritize a list of preferences and act on them in order to achieve even the simplest of goals. Even simple tasks, such as choosing a restaurant, become impossible because of entrapment in a never-ending cost-benefit analysis of numerous and conflicting options. Similarly, computer programmers have struggled to develop simple algorithms that can generate decisions, appropriately weighing all of the costs and benefits without becoming literally buried underneath an infinite loop of ones and zeros. Emotions are therefore a necessary piece that works with thoughts in decision making and hence planning of future goals.