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Chapter 1

Chapter 1

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Michelle Hilscher

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Chapter 1: Approaches to understanding Emotions
19th century founders
Charles Darwin - The evolutionary approach
- at that time, the accepted theory was that God had given humans special facial muscles that allowed them to
express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals
- humans descended from animals, but we are ourselves animals
- he observed emotional expressions in nonhuman specials, as well as in adult and infant humans
- realized importance of cross-cultural study
- used photographs of naturalistic and posed expressions to make scientific points
- asked 2 questions that guide research today: how are emotions expressed in humans and other animals and
where do our emotions come from?
- Darwin concluded that emotional expressions derive largely from habits that in our evolutionary or individual
past had once been useful; based on reflex-like mechanisms
- emotional expressions showed the continuity of adult human behavioural mechanisms with those of lower
animals and with those of infancy; they were like vestigial parts of our bodies. Eg. appendix (a small
functionless organ in our digestive system) provides evidence that we are descended from pre human ancestors
in whom this organ had use
- our emotions link us to our past, both to the past of our species and to our own infancy
- provided descriptions of facial descriptions and even argued for the universality of expressions, an uncommon
view back then
- thought that emotions have useful functions as well, for example communication between mother and child
via smiling/frowning
William James - The bodily approach
- argued against the common sense idea that when we feel an emotions it impels us to a certain kind of activity
( if we were to meet a bear in the woods we would become frightened and escape). Instead he thought that
when we perceive the object of fear, "the exciting fact", then the emotion is the perception of changes of our
body as we react to the fact. When we feel frightened, we feel our heart beating, etc.
- his theory is really about the nature of emotional experience. he stressed the way in which emotions move us
- the core of an emotion is the pattern of bodily responses. this vital point about the embodied nature of
emotion is captured in this idea of James: "if we fancy some strong emotion and then try to abstract from our
consciousness of it all the feelings of its bodily symptoms, we find we have nothing left behind
- guided research in 2 important ways:
--first: he stressed that our experience of many emotions from fear to joy, is the set of changes of the autonomic
nervous system, that part of the nervous system that supplies inner organs including the heart, the blood
vessels, the stomach, and the sweat glands. He also thoughts that changes from movements of muscles and
joints were parts of the felt bodily changes
--second: he proposed that emotions give colour and warmth to experience. without these effects of emotion,
everything would be pale. ("jaundices view of life" or "rose coloured glasses"- how emotions affect our
Sigmund Freud - The psychoanalytic approach
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- proposed that certain events, usually of a sexual kind, can be so damaging that they leave psychological scars
that can affect the rest of our lives
- first to argue that emotions are at the core of our many pathologies
- elements of psychoanalytic therapy, where the telling of one's life story that is found to have gaps and the
feeling of these gaps by interpretations of the therapist and the insights of the person receiving the therapy, who
realizes something that might have been unconscious
- Freud's theories were critical to Richard Lazarus ( theory of appraisal on the basis of goals) and to Bowlby,
who used the theories to create his own theory of attachment
Philosophical and literary approaches
Aristotle - The conceptual approach
- most fundamental insight was that emotions are connected with action. Whereas many assume that emotions
happen to us outside of our control, he contended that they depend on what we believe, that they are
evaluations, so we are responsible for our emotions because we are responsible for our beliefs and valuations of
the world
- how are people persuaded by others?
1. a hearer is more likely to believe a good person than a bad one
2.people are persuaded when what is said stirs their emotions
3. people are persuaded by arguments that seem truthful
- to persuade you must know something about the people to whom you speak, about their values, and the
effects that speaking has on them
- Solomon (2004) Emotions are judgements and to understand how this occurs we can say they are subjective
engagements in the world
- katharsis meant clarification, the clearing away of obstacles to understanding our emotions
Rene Descartes - The philosophical approach
- claimed that six fundamental emotions - wonder, joy, love, desire, hatred and sadness - occur in the thinking
aspect of ourselves he called the soul. At the same time they are closely connected to our bodies, for example,
to our heart beating rapidly
- whereas perceptions tell us about what is important in the outside world, and bodily passions like hunger and
pain tell us about important events in the body, emotions tell us what is important in our souls - in our real
selves, our goals/concerns, identities.
-emotions cannot be entirely controlled by thinking but they can be regulated by thoughts, especially the ones
that are true
- like Aristotle, he suggested that the emotions depend on how we evaluate events
- emotions are usually functional but can sometimes be dysfunctional
- bodily humours were the consciousness of each kind of emotion, eg. feeling melancholy = excess of black
George Eliot - The literary approach
- insight into the emotional experience and its place in intimate relationships
- published novel about emotions, which portrays experience from inside the persons own consciousness
- emotions can act as a sort of a compass, they are also the principal means by which people affect each other
Brain Science, psychology, sociology
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