Book/ Chapter 1

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Published on 20 Jun 2011
School
UTSC
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYC18H3
PSYCHC18
Chapter 1
Introduction
Many thinkers have argued that our emotions are base and destructive, and that the more noble
reaches of human nature are achieved when our passions are controlled by our reason.
The Wests most prominent early theorists of emotions, the Epicureans and Stoics, whose influence
has continued for more than 2,000 years, thought that emotions are irrational and damaging.
Nineteenth-century founders
Charles Darwin: the evolutionary approach
The accepted theory was that god had given humans special facial muscles that allowed them to
express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals. Darwin observed emotional expressions
in nonhuman species, as well as in adult and infant humans.
In his book on emotions, Darwin asked two broad questions that guide emotion researchers today.
First, how are emotions expressed in humans and other animals? In table 1.1 we present a
taxonomy of some of the expressions Darwin described.
The second question Darwin addressed is 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.
He thought emotional expressions were like vestigial parts of our bodies.
Darwin traced expressions to infancy: crying, he argued, is the vestige of screaming in infancy,
though in adulthood it is partly inhibited.
Darwins most interesting suggestions is that patterns of adult affections, of taking those whom we
love in our arms, are based on patterns of parents hugging young infants.
See table 1.1
William James: the bodily approach
William James argued against the commonsense idea that when we feel an emotion it impels us to
a certain kind of activity – that if we were to meet a bear in the woods we would feel frightened
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and run. Instead, James thought that when we perceive the object of fear, a bear, the exciting fact
as he put it, then the emotion is the perception of changes in our body as we react to that fact.
Jamess theory is really about the nature of emotional experience. He stressed the way in which
emotions move us bodily.
The core of an emotion, James contended, is the pattern of bodily responses.
James has guided the contemporary study of emotion in two important ways.
First James stressed that our experience of many emotions, from fear to joy, is the set of changes of
the automatic nervous system, that part of the nervous system supplies inner organs, including the
heart, the blood vessels, the stomach, and the sweat glands.
Second, James proposed that emotions give “color and warmth” to experience. Without these
effects of emotion, he said, everything would be pale.
Sigmund Freud: the psychoanalytic approach
Freud was one of the first to argue that emotions are at the core of many pathologies.
Brain science, psychology, sociology
Walter Cannon and Water Hess: brain science
Cannon found, it was transection of neural pathways at a quite different level that had huge and
striking effects on emotions.
The phenomenon contributed to the idea that higher regions of the brain – the cortex – act to
inhibit its lower regions where emotions reside.
Damasios book takes Cannons idea forward to show that the cortex, in particular the frontal
region, exercises and important modulating function on human emotions.
Damasio has shown in brain imaging studies that the experience of human emotions derives not
from the cortex, but from the subcortical regions.
Hesss striking result for understanding emotions was this: When electrodes had been implanted
into one region of the hypothalamus, stimulation produced the following response: the heart
speeded up, the cat became alert and aroused, and if the stimulation were continued it would
become angry, even ferociously attacking objects in its environment.
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Document Summary

Many thinkers have argued that our emotions are base and destructive, and that the more noble reaches of human nature are achieved when our passions are controlled by our reason. The west"s most prominent early theorists of emotions, the epicureans and stoics, whose influence has continued for more than 2,000 years, thought that emotions are irrational and damaging. The accepted theory was that god had given humans special facial muscles that allowed them to express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals. Darwin observed emotional expressions in nonhuman species, as well as in adult and infant humans. In his book on emotions, darwin asked two broad questions that guide emotion researchers today. In table 1. 1 we present a taxonomy of some of the expressions darwin described. Darwin concluded that emotional expressions derive largely from habits that in our evolutionary or individual past had once been useful. He thought emotional expressions were like vestigial parts of our bodies.