1 Sandra Safarjalani
Chapter 1 Approaches to Understanding Emotions
For over two thousand years, thinkers argued our emotions are base and
destructive and more noble reaches of human nature are achieved when our
passions are controlled by our reason.
Wests most prominent early theorist of emotions Epicureans and Stoics.
Epicureans and Stoics thought emotions are irrational and damaging.
A view that emerged in recent study of human emotions emotions serve
important functions especially in social lives.
Charles Darwin: The Evolutionary Approach
1872, Charles Darwin, published most important book on emotions yet The
Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
Darwin did not propose that emotions had function in our survival.
1838, accepted theory was that God gave humans special facial muscles that
allowed them to express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals.
Central tenet of Darwins theory humans descended from other species.
o We ourselves are animals.
He realized the importance of cross-cultural study.
Was one of the first to use questionnaires.
In his book on emotions, Darwin asked two broad questions:
o How are emotions expressed in humans and other animals?
o Where do our emotions come from?
Darwin concluded emotional expressions derive largely from habits that in our
evolutionary or individual past had once been used.
For Darwin, emotional expressions showed continuity of adult human behavioral
mechanism w/ those of lower animals and w/ those of infancy.
Darwin thought emotional expressions were like vestigial parts of our bodies.
In Darwins eyes, our emotions link us to our past of our species and to our
Darwin argued for universality of expressions.
Darwin thought emotions have useful functions too.
William James: The Bodily Approach
William James argued against commonsense idea that when we feel an emotion it
impels us to certain kind of activity.
Jamess theory is really about nature of emotional experience.
He stressed way in which emotions move us bodily.
According to James, core of an emotion is pattern of bodily responses.
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James stressed our experience of many emotions is set of changes of autonomic
James thought that changes from movement of muscles and joints were parts of
felt bodily changes.
James proposed that emotions give color and warmth to experience.
Sigmund Freud: The Psychoanalytic Approach
Sigmund Freud proposed that certain events, usually sexual kind, can be so
damaging that they leave psychological scars that can affect rest of our lives.
Freud was one of first to argue that emotions are at core of many pathologies.
Philosophical and Literary Approaches
Aristotle: The Conceptual Approach
Most fundamental insight emotions connected w/ actions.
Aristotle contended that emotions depend on what we believe and are evaluations.
Therefore, we are responsible for our emotion because we are responsible for our
belief and evaluations of world.
His book Rhetoric
Offered three principles:
o Hearer more likely believe good person than bad.
o People persuaded when what is said stirs their emotions.
o People persuaded by arguments that seem truthful.
Aristotle discussed different judgments give rise diff. emotions.
Aristotle observes when speaking to persuade, must know something about
people to whom you speak and their values, and about effects that speaking may
have on them.
Message echoed by Shakespeares quotation from Hamlet, emotional experiences
shaped by our judgments and evaluations.
Aristotle said Drama is about universal human action, and what can happen when
well-intentioned human actions miscarry.
Aristotle noticed two effects of tragic drama:
o People are moved emotionally.
o Experience katharsis of emotions.
Katharsis means clearing away of obstacles to understanding our
Rene Descartes: The Philosophical Approach
Descartes generally regarded as founder of modern philosophy and scientific view
Descartes focuses on emotions in The Passion of the Soul, book many think of as
basis of modern neurophysiology.
Descartes claimed that six fundamental emotions wonder, desire, joy, love,
hatred and sadness occur in thinking aspect of ourselves, soul.
Descartes stated that perceptions tell us about what important in outside world,
bodily passions tell us about what important in inside world, emotions tell us what
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important in our souls our real selves, our goals, our concerns, and our
Descartes described how emotions cannot be entirely controlled by thinking, but
can be regulated by thoughts.
Descartes suggested that emotions depend on how we evaluate events.
Descartes one of first to argue that emotions serve important functions.
Descartess idea is that our emotions usually functional but can sometimes be
Descartes wrote in era historians called Early Modern Period.
Descartes was contemporary of William Harvey.
Disease was caused by imbalance among four humors, and each gave rise to
distinct emotional state.
New physiology to which he contributed, emotions arise in mind, enable our plans
and affect our bodies.
George Eliot: the Literary Approach
Many of greatest insights into emotions come from novelists and poets.
Writing of George Eliot offers some of most impressive ideas regarding
emotional experience and its place in intimate relationships.
1871-1872, Eliot published Middlemarch, novel about emotions.
Eliot Our emotions can act as sort of compass. Emotions also principal means
by which people affect each other.
Eliot Emotions are what relationships are made of. Emotion has powerful
effects. Understand our emotions differently from those of other people.
Historical Figure: George Eliot
One of the greatest novelist.
Born Mary Ann Evans.
One of the few women of her time to support herself independently financially.
Her and George Henry Lewis had one of the greatest emotional and intellectual
relationships of history of letters.
Brain Science, Psychology, Sociology
Behaviorism and cognitive psychology tended ignore emotions.
Past 50 years, study of emotions came into its own in brain sciences, in
psychology, and in social sciences.
Walter Cannon and Walter Hess: Brain Science
Before age of electronics, and findings that brain itself works by sending
electrical signals from neuron to neuron, main findings about brain function came
from brain lesions, either deliberately in animals or accidently in people.
Walter Cannon argued against Harvard colleague, William James.
James theory viscera where bodily feelings supposed to arise.
Cannon argued if James right, when viscera severed from brain of laboratory
animals, one expect reduction in their emotions.
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o With this operation, no reduction occurred.
Cannon found transection of neural pathways at quiet different level that had huge
effects on emotions.
Higher regions of brain, cortex, act to inhibit lower regions where emotions
Phineas Gage, foremen of railway construction, had rod entering skull and exiting
from hole in top of head.
o Previously amiable, now was impatient, irreverent, and easily moved to
Antonio Damasios book Descartes Error
o The cortex, in particular frontal region, exercises important modulating
function on human emotions.
Damasio et al. show in brain imaging studies, that experience of human emotions
derives not from cortex, but from subcortical regions.
When electronics became available, could stimulate brain electrically.
Well-coordinated patterns of response, propensities characteristic of emotions,
can be induced experimentally by electrically stimulating subcortical areas of
o Pioneer was Swiss physiologist Walter Hess.
Hess developed new kind of electrical stimulation and implanted electrodes into
hypothalamic regions of brains of cats. Electrical stimulation could be applied to
brains via electrodes, as animals moved freely around.
Electrodes planted into one region of hypothalamus, stimulation produced
following response: heart speeded up, cat became alert and arous