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Affection or fondness is a "disposition or state of mind or body" commonly linked to a feeling or type of love. It has led to multiple branches in philosophy and psychology that discuss emotion, disease, influence, and state of being. Often, "affection" denotes more than mere goodwill or friendship. Writers on ethics generally use the word to refer to distinct states of feeling, both lasting and temporary. Some contrast it with passion as being free from the distinctively sensual element.
Affection can elicit diverse emotional reactions such as embarrassment, disgust, pleasure, and annoyance. The emotional and physical effect of affection also varies between the giver and the receiver.
Sometimes the term is restricted to emotional states directed towards living entities, including humans and animals. Affection is often compared with passion, stemming from the Greek word pathos. Consequently, references to affection are found in the works of philosophers such as René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and early British ethicists. Despite these associations, it's commonly differentiated from passion on various grounds. Some definitions of affection exclude feelings of anxiety or heightened excitement, elements typically linked to passion. In this narrower context, the term holds significance in ethical frameworks, particularly concerning social or parental affections, forming a facet of moral duties and virtue. Ethical perspectives may hinge on whether affection is perceived as voluntary.
Further information: Public display of affection
Affection can be communicated by looks, words, gestures, or touches. It conveys love and social connection. The five love languages explains how couples can communicate affections to each other. Affectionate behavior may have evolved from parental nurturing behavior due to its associations with hormonal rewards.[verification needed] Such affection has been shown to influence brain development in infants, especially their biochemical systems and prefrontal development.
Affectionate gestures can become undesirable if they insinuate potential harm to one's welfare. However, when welcomed, such behavior can offer several health benefits.[clarification needed] Some theories suggest that positive sentiments enhance individuals' inclination to engage socially, and the sense of closeness fostered by affection contributes to nurturing positive sentiments among them.
Affection exchange is an adaptive human behavior that benefits well-being. Expressing affection brings emotional, physical, and relational gains for people and their close connections. Sharing positive emotions yields health advantages like reduced stress hormones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system. Expressing affection, not merely feeling affection, is internally rewarding. Even if not reciprocated, givers still experience its effects.
Affectionate behavior is frequently considered[by whom?] an outcome of parental nurturing, tied to hormonal rewards. Both positive and negative parental actions may [vague] health issues in later life. Neglect and abuse result in poorer well-being and mental health, contrasting with affection's positive effects. A 2013 study highlighted the impact of early child abuse and lack of affection on physical health.
Affectionism is a school of thought that considers affections to be of central importance. Although it is not found in mainstream Western philosophy, it does exist in Indian philosophy.