Lecture #8: Part I: Emotions & Development
According to Darwin and William James (functionalism), to change is to
adapt. These adaptations can be in response to evolution or personal and
developmental changes (brain plasticity in the London cab drivers). Adaptations
are described as the physical characteristics, skills or abilities that increase the
chances of reproduction or survival and are therefore likely to be passed along to
Emotions are immediate and specific responses to environmental events.
These are not the same as moods because moods are more diffuse than emotions
and tend to not be linked to any particular event (no source of the mood). Emotions
are: adaptive, communicative and subjective. They involve both physiological and
cognitive components (thoughts and interpretations of the event can elicit a fight or
flight response). Emotions are adaptive in function. For example, if there is a lion,
the emotional response is to be scared, which initiates fight or flight to help you get
away as fast as you can. If there were no emotions, one would be killed by the lion
and not be able to pass on his/her genes.
Emotions alter cognition, negative emotions narrow attention and have
adaptive functions (making us more aware through being scared) and positive
emotions broaden attention. An experiment was done in which the participants
view a stimuli to elicit a particular emotion and then they are asked to group a
target image with one of two images. One indicates a positive, global attitude and
the other a negative, local attitude. Positive emotions lead to creativity and
exploring. Negative emotions often promote withdrawal or attacking. This is why if
you are stuck on a homework problem, you should step away until you are in a more
positive mood, which leads to creativity.
Good feelings signal progression towards a goal, while negative feelings
indicate the opposite. Somatic markers are bodily reactions that arise from the
emotional evaluation of an action’s consequences (gut feelings). In an experiment
called the Iowa Gambling Task, there are four decks of cards, two of which are
good and two of which are bad. The goal is to earn as much money as you can. Gut
feelings are used to choose only the good decks early on (even if you don’t realize
it). Later on, you will consciously realize why you are choosing them. Expressions of
emotion are also adaptive because they help predict other people’s behaviour and
learn what other people think of our behaviour.
Types of Emotions:
Primary (or basic) emotions: evolutionary adaptive emotions that
humans share across cultures; they are associated with specific biological
and physical states. These include: happiness, anger, disgust, fear, sadness
and sometimes surprise and contempt.
Secondary emotions: blends of primary emotions, such as remorse, guilt,
submission and anticipation. These moods are harder to recognize. Emotions serve a communicative purpose. Darwin proposed that only the
humans that were able to express certain emotions were the ones that were able to
reproduce and pass on their genes. This is why facial expressions are considered to
be universal across all cultures. It was believed initially that facial expressions
served physiological functions, but they later took on a social and communicative
function. For example, a facial expression of disgust crinkles the eyes and nose,
which prevents intake of a possibly dangerous toxin, which caused the expression in
the first place. There are six reliable emotions across all cultures: happiness,
sadness, fear, surprise, anger and disgust. These emotions can be correctly
identified from people of different cultures. Shariff and Tracy (2011) listed several
emotions and their hypothesized physiological and communicative functions. To
this day, some of these expressions are still not understand and need further
research to understand their functions.
Display rules are rules learned though socialization that dictate which
emotions are suitable to given situations. The identification of facial expressions is
better within cultures than between cultures. This is not universal because it
depends on the culture whether the emotion is appropriate at the time. In written
word it is hard to convey nuances of speech because of the lack facial expressions
and tone of voice. Therefore, emoticons express facial expressions in the written
text to help portray these emotions. Women more often use them, but men use more
types of emoticons. However, men only use them when they are in a mixed crowd
(not seen in men-men dialogue).
There is a positive correlation between the expression of positive emotions
and individualism within a society. Individualism is correlated with expressions of
happiness and surprise. Therefore there is higher emotional expression, as it is
more appropriate. In holistic societies, the expression of positive emotions is rarer,
as it is not as appropriate. This makes sense because individualistic cultures tend to
be more extroverted. In all cultures, sadness is more appropriate for ingroup
members as opposed to outgroup. However, contempt and disgust are appropriate
for outgroup members.
Humans are social creatures and function by the need to belong. It is the
need for interpersonal attachments s a fundamental motive that is evolved for
purposes. A lack of social contact leads to loneliness and despair. It also leads to
being more apt to treating inanimate objects as humans (ex. Wilson in “Castaway”).
Jails use solitary confinement as the worst possible punishment because of this.
Being rejected is worse than physical pain because it is deeper and longer lasting.
Rejection by strangers or non-humans even hurt.
Guilt is adaptive and strengthens relationships in 3 ways:
1. Prevents people from engaging in behaviours that would harm their
relationships, while encouraging behaviours that strengthen
relationships because no one likes to feel guilty.
2. Displays of guilt show that you care, which strengthens social bonds. 3. Guilt is effective at getting people to do what we want.
Emotions are subjective experiences, as some people are better at regulating
emotions than others. Some people experience more intense emotions or a wider
variety of emotions. Alexithymia is a disorder where there is no subjective
experience of emotion, or one has trouble identifying their own emotions. An
example of this is those who are anger prone (everyone experiences anger to a
different scale). Theories of emotion are composed three attributes: bodily
responses, cognitive responses, and emotional experiences.
Three Major Theories of Emotion:
1. James-Lange Theory
o Physical changes lead to specific emotions
i.e. we feel afraid because we tremble.
o The stimulus causes an emotional expression and physical
response, which leads to the emotional experience
o Facial Feedback Hypothesis
If emotional expressions influence subjective emotional
experiences, then the act of forming a facial expression
should elicit the specific, corresponding emotion
While reading comic strips, certain participants were asked
to hold a pen with their lips (forcing a frown), while the
other were asked to hold it with their teeth (forcing a smile)
Those with the smile reported the comic strips as more
amusing than those who were frowning
Therefore, if you want to feel happy, force a smile and it
should elicit the corresponding response
2. Cannon-Bard Theory
o The physiological response and subjective experience of emotion
happen independently and simultaneously of each other
The stimulus separately elicits an emotional expression and
physiological response and an emotional experience at the
3. Schachter-Singer/Two Factor Theory
o Both our physiological response and cognitive appraisal of the
situation determine the emotional experience
The stimulus elicits the emotional expression and
physiological response and cognitive appraisal
(interpretation), which come together to determine an
o To test this, there were different variables:
Type of injection (placebo vs. adrenaline)
Type of reaction expected (aroused vs. nothing)
Type of confederate (euphoric vs. angry) Dependent:
How did the individuals behave?
What mood did they report?
o The participants were given a survey with personal and offensive
questions. A confederate either acted in a euphoric or angry manner
Behavioural euphoria: the informed (about the affects of
adrenaline) and uninformed patients has similar outcomes
and both claimed to experience euphoria
Behavioural anger: the informed patients showed a negative
response to anger, whereas the uninformed patients with
adrenaline misinterpreted the physiological effects as anger
like the confederate
An example of how cognitive appraisal contributes to
the emotional experience misattribute the source
of the physiological response (heart beats faster for
o Dutton & Aron, 1974: males were interviewed by an attractive girl
in two different locations, one on a regular and the other on a
dangerous, scary bridge. Those on the scary bridge were more likely
to ask out the girl on a date due to the misattribution of fear for
arousal (39% vs. 9%).
Developmental psychology focuses on the physiological, cognitive and
social changes that occur in individuals across the lifespan. The “adaptive
hypothesis” postulates that pregnant women become more hypersensitive to
certain foods because it encourages the avoidance of foods that may cause harm to
health of her fetus during the critical period of organ development. Certain foods,
like strong tasting vegetables, are likely to carry toxins and are likely to be aversive.
Morning sickness is rare after 18 months of pregnancy. The fetus before this stage
doesn’t require any extra nutrients, it only requires the avoidance of the toxins.
Morning sickness reduces the risk of miscarriage, but not all women experience it.
At birth, the five senses are present, but can be limited. For example, only a
30cm of diameter of sight is needed so the baby can see its mother while
breastfeeding. The baby is also born with the following reflexes: grasping, sucking
and rooting (rubbing the baby’s cheek causes it to turn its head and open its mouth).