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Affection, attraction, infatuation, or fondness is a "disposition or rare state of mind or body" that is often associated with a feeling or type of love. It has given rise to a number of branches of philosophy and psychology concerning emotion, disease, influence, and state of being. "Affection" is popularly used to denote a feeling or type of love, amounting to more than goodwill or friendship. Writers on ethics generally use the word to refer to distinct states of feeling, both lasting and spasmodic. Some contrast it with passion as being free from the distinctively sensual element.
More specifically, the word has been restricted to emotional states, the object of which is a living thing such as a human or animal. Affection is compared with passion, from the Greek "pathos". As such it appears in the writings of French philosopher René Descartes, Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and most of the writings of early British ethicists. However, on various grounds (e.g., that it does not involve anxiety or excitement and that it is comparatively inert and compatible with the entire absence of the sensuous element), it is generally and usefully distinguished from passion. In this narrower sense the word has played a great part in ethical systems, which have spoken of the social or parental affections as in some sense a part of moral obligation. For a consideration of these and similar problems, which depend ultimately on the degree in which the affections are regarded as voluntary, see H. Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics pp. 345–349.
Numerous behaviors are used by people to express affection. Some theories suggest that affectionate behavior evolved from parental nurturing behavior due to its associations with hormonal rewards. Research also verifies that expressions of affection, although commonly evaluated positively, can be considered negative if they pose implied threats to one's well being. Furthermore, affectionate behavior in positively valenced relationships may be associated with numerous health benefits. Other, more loving type gestures of affectionate behavior include obvious signs of liking a person. Affection can also shape infants' brains.
George Homans (1950) proposed that positive sentiment increases the propensity of people to interact and that familiarity gained through affection increases positive sentiment among them.
Affection can be displayed in different manners in different cultural societies. An example is the Manchu ethnic group, where mothers would never publicly kiss their child as it is viewed with revulsion, while performing fellatio to their babies was actually the proper act of affection.
In the Manchu tribe, a mother will routinely suck her small son's penis in public but would never kiss his cheeks. Among adults, the Manchu believe, fellatio is a sexual act, but kissing—even between mother and infant son—is always a sexual act, and thus fellation becomes the proper display of motherly affection.
Manchu kissing is purely a private sexual act, and though husband and wife or lovers might kiss each other, they would do it stealthily since it is shameful to do ... yet Manchu mothers have the pattern of putting the penis of the baby boy into their mouths, a practice which probably shocks Westerners even more than kissing in public shocks the Manchu.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Affection.|