PSYB10H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Sympathetic Nervous System, Autonomic Nervous System, Facial Expression
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Emotions & Morality
• What is an Emotion?
o Brief, specific response to goal-relevant events.
▪ Physiological and psychological.
• Emotions Motivate Behaviour:
o Emotions motivate behaviour to achieve goals.
▪ The emotion of "fear" guides our action (i.e., to fight to flee the situation we are afraid
of) to achieve the goal of survival or simply getting out of a scary/uncomfortable
o Psychological effects that drive behaviour.
▪ What are we thinking about when we experience a certain emotion?
o Physiological effects that help the organism achieve goals.
▪ How do we react physiologically? (e.g., with fear, we may see heightened heart rate,
dilated pupils, etc.).
• Components of Emotions:
o Physiological state.
o Psychological state ("appraisals" - technical term for when we see something going on in our
environment, we make certain judgements depending on what it is).
o Facial expression (sometimes formed when we are feeling a sort of emotion - some
emotions are not accompanied by facial expressions).
• Emotion Physiology:
o Autonomic nervous system:
▪ Part of nervous system outside of conscious control (i.e., heart rate, respiration rate,
• Two branches of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic (prepares body
for dealing with a stressor) and parasympathetic (regulates body once again
once stressor is dealt with).
• Sympathetic nervous system may instruct your heart rate to accelerate, while
the parasympathetic nervous system will inhibit your heart rate from
accelerating to reduce the amount of energy your body is using with such a
heightened heart rate.
• Cognitive Appraisals:
o Appraisal processes:
▪ How objects and events in our environment are evaluated relative to our current
▪ Different appraisals = different emotions.
• Two people may be confronted by the same situation, but may appraise the
situation differently and thus they will experience it differently.
o Primary appraisal stage:
▪ Initial, quick appraisal made of an event or circumstance.
• Limited more or less to the judgement of whether something is good or bad
(e.g., seeing a giant spider may cause a quickly generated negative reaction,
whereas seeing a kitten may generate a quick positive initial reaction).
o Secondary appraisal stage:
▪ Later appraisal, which concerns why we feel the way we do and how we would like to
• "Unfair": anger.
• "Dangerous": fear.
• "Delicious": happiness.
• Someone bumps into you - primary appraisal encourages annoyance,
anger, etc.; secondary appraisal allows you to make further judgements
about whether the intentions of the individual who bumped into you
were good or bad (i.e., did they purposely bump into you?) -
consequently, this guides our response to the situation.
• Universality of Facial Expression:
o Facial expressions are recognized cross-culturally.
o Human facial expressions resemble displays of other primates.
o 6 main facial expressions that are cross-culturally common:
▪ Anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness, sadness.
o Human anger resembles other primates' threat displays.
▪ Human laughter resembles the open-mouth hoot that chimps express when they're
having a good time.
o Facial expressions are innate.
▪ Blind and sighted athletes show similar facial expressions of pride after winning a
• Evolutionary vs. Cultural Views:
o Evolutionary explanation:
▪ Emotions are biologically based behavioural adaptations meant to promote survival
▪ Physiological responses to emotions (facial expressions, heart rate, breathing,
vocalizations, and so on) should be cross-culturally universal).
• Emotional expression via facial expressions and other physiological responses
should be evolutionally advantageous and cross-culturally recognizable for
purposes of survival.
• Therefore, cross-culturally, physiological responses to emotion tend to be pretty
• This is not to say that culture does not play an important role in emotion.
o Cultural approaches:
▪ Emotions are influenced by views of self, social values, and social roles, which vary
from culture to culture.
▪ Emotions should be expressed in different ways in different cultures.
• The degree to which people feel either ashamed, angry, happy, or other
emotions in a given situation often depend on cultural values.
o Both evolutionary and cultural approaches are correct.
▪ Certain emotional responses are innate and universal, but cultures have different
emotional accents and display rules.
• Cultural Variation in Emotion:
o Emotional accents:
▪ Culturally specific ways that emotions are expressed.
• For example, "universal" facial expression linked to the emotion of
embarrassment is different in India, where individuals tend to bite their tongue
as opposed to looking down.
o Display rules:
▪ Cultural norms for whether/which emotion should be expressed.
• When can you express pride?
• An individual from an individualistic culture may express pride more often
than individuals from collectivist cultures.
Initial, quick appraisal made of an event or circumstance. Later appraisal, which concerns why we feel the way we do and how we would like to respond. Someone bumps into you - primary appraisal encourages annoyance, anger, etc. For instance, sadness leads to less stereotyping than other emotions. Immune neglect: tendency to underestimate our resilience during negative life events, painful, difficult experience are often less upsetting then we might expect them to do. Some increase in happiness with age: richer people happier than poorer people, people are happier in countries where individual rights and economic opportunities are available. Improvement over time (e. g. , kids develop better moral decision-making skills as they grow): heinz"s dilemma (kohlberg, 1973), heinz"s wife has cancer. She"ll die if she doesn"t get her medicine. There"s just one medicine that can cure the disease. A doctor in town has discovered this medicine, but asks for it - 10 times the price it should cost.