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Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 Approaches to Understanding Emotions
An emotion is a physiological state or process that mediates between our concerns (or goals) and events of our world
Sylvan Tomkins: at any one time any one emotion gives priority to one concern over others
Emotions are locally rational: their rationality doesn’t range over all possible considerations, instead emotions are rational in
they help us deal adaptively with concerns specific to our current context  local to the concerns that has achieved priority,
and the emotions make it urgent
Emotions are the source of our values  our deepest values, whom and what we love, what we dislike, what we despise
Emotions help us form and engage in our relationships and they mediate our relationships
Charles Darwin, William James, Sigmund Freud.
Charles Darwin
1872 published The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
Asked two important questions: “how are emotions expressed in humans and other animals?” and “where do our emotions
come from?”
He proposed that emotional expressions derive from habits that in our evolutionary or individual past had once been useful 
emotional expressions are based on reflex-like mechanisms (some occur whether useful or not)
Darwin thought emotional expressions were like the appendix (had a use in our ancestors that we descended from but
seemingly does not have a use now)  argued that many of our emotional expressions have the same quality
oi.e. sneering  uncovering the teeth on one side as snarling or a preparation to bite; it was functional in our ancestors
but not to us
Darwin thought that emotions help us navigate our social interactions
William James
Emotion is the perception of changes of our body as we react to that fact
The core of an emotion is the patter of bodily responses
James concentrated on experiences  argued that this experience is embodied: our experiences of many emotions involves
changes in the autonomic nervous system (concerns inner organs, including heart, blood vessels, stomach, and sweat glands)
as well as changes associated with different emotions
Emotions give “colour and warmth” to our experiences  “rose-coloured glasses” or “jaundiced view of life”
Sigmund Freud
Certain events can be so damaging that they leave emotional scars that can shape the rest of our lives
Proposed that emotions are at the core of many mental illnesses
Developed psychoanalysis: the telling by a patient of his/her life story which is found to have gaps, the filling of such gaps by
“interpretations: of the therapist, and the insights of the person receiving the therapy, who realizes something of which he/she
had be unconscious
Freud’s work suggests that the emotional life of adulthood derives from relationships we had in childhood with parents or
other caregivers  this was the foundation of John Bowlby’s theory of attachment
Aristotle and the Ethics of Emotions
Emotions depend on what we believe  we are responsible for our emotions because we are responsible for our beliefs
The emotion is defined cognitively in terms of our belief that a slight has occurred  to be slighted is to be treated with
contempt, or thwarted, or shamed
In his book Rhetoric: Our emotional experiences are shaped by our judgments and evaluations
oi.e. it is a warm summer’s eve and you are lightly dressed, waiting in line at the cinema. A light touch on your arm
by the person you invited to the movie might trigger a surge of affection. The very same touch on your arm from a
stranger might make you feel anxious, angry, or even repelled. Our experiences depend on our judgments.
In his book Poetics: drama is about human action, and what can happen when human actions miscarry and have effects that
were unforeseen
Chapter 1 Approaches to Understanding Emotions
Noticed two important effects of tragic drama:
oAt the theatre, people are moved emotionally  we are moved to feel sympathy (or pity) for the principle character
who is good, but is being tortured by circumstances to which he/she has contributed but cannot control.
oCatharsis of our emotions  clarification – the clearing away of obstacles to understanding.
Two important schools of philosophy: Epicureanism and Stoicism the first emotion researchers in the West
oEpicureans taught that one should live in a simple way and enjoy simple pleasures (food and friendship), rather than
chasing after things that make one anxious (money), or are ephemeral (fame)
oStoics were more radical  believed that emotions derive from desires, to free oneself from crippling and destructive
emotions one should extirpate almost all desires
Rene Descartes: Philosophically Speaking
Founder of modern philosophy and of the scientific view of the world
The Passions of the Soul detailed discussion of sensory and motor nerves, reflexes and memory
Emotions were known as passions
He claimed that six fundamental emotions  wonder, desire, joy, love, hatred, and sadness occur in the thinking aspect of
ourselves, which he called the soul
Descartes differentiated emotions from perceptions of events that happen in the outside world in that perceptions tell us about
the outer world (such as bodily states like hunger and pain that tell us critical events in the body), and emotions tell us whats
important in our souls  our real selves, in relation to our concerns and our identities
Emotions cannot be entirely controlled by thinking, but they can be regulated by thoughts
Emotions depend on how we evaluate events
Emotions are usually functional but can sometimes be dysfunctional
There are “Four Humours” (as derived from Hippocrates and Galen) and disease is caused by the imbalance among the
humours, with an increase of each humour giving rise to a distinct emotional state
oBlood  rise to hope and vigour = Sanguine
oPhlegm  placidity = Phlegmatic (calm, unemotional, apathetic)
oYellow bile  anger = Choleric
oBlack bile  despair = Melancholy
And excess of any one the four humours (black bile) would result in an emotional state (melancholy)
Emotions arise in the mind, functionally enable our plans, and affect our bodies
George Eliot: The World of the Arts
The natural history of German life
Sympathies  emotions that connect us to each other
Emotions act as a sort of compass  the principal means by which we affect other people
John Harlow, Tania Singer: New Brain Science
Case of Phineas Gage and the rod that went through his eye and out his head which resulted in severe mood disruptions 
John Harlow attended him after his incident
Walter Cannon was a pioneer in modern brain research as it affected emotions
Trepidation fear, anxiety, uneasiness
Criticized William James and the James-Lange theory
Cannon showed that when the cerebral cortex was severed (in a cat) from the lower parts (subcortical regions) of the brain, or
removed altogether, the result was an animal that showed very intense emotions with no provocation
The phenomenon contributed to the idea that higher regions of the brain – the cortex – act to inhibit the lower regions where
emotions reside
Tania Singer assessed brain activity while volunteers experienced painful electrical shocks and compared it to that elicited
when they observed a signal indicating that their loved one – present in the room – was receiving a similar shock
Chapter 1 Approaches to Understanding Emotions
oThe anterior insula and parts of the anterior cingulate cortex were activated both when subjects received pain and
when they were signalled that their loved ones experienced pain
oThe emotional aspect of pain was shared
oUnderlies the important emotional quality of empathy
On the basis of this study Frederique de Vignemont and Tania Singer defined empathy as:
oHaving an emotion, which
oIs in some way similar to that of another person, which
oIs elicited by the observation or imagination of the other’s emotion, and that involves
oKnow that the other is the source of one’s own emotion
Magda Arnold, Sylvan Tomkins: New Psychological Theories
Arnold proposed that emotions are based on appraisals (evaluations) of events
Tomkins offered a theory about the relation of emotion to facial expression
Most researchers assume emotions derive from appraisals people make of events  similar to Aristotle’s idea of emotions as
Arnold and Gasson  idea of appraisal was that emotion relates self to object
oAn emotion…can be considered as the felt tendency toward an object judged suitable, or away from an object
judged unsuitable.”
Sylvan Tomkins saw emotions as central to human life
Central claim was that affect is the primary motivational system. Emotions are amplifiers of drives.
Human action and thought reflect the interplay of motivational systems, each capable of fulfilling a certain function (such as
eating, breathing, sex), each potentially capable of taking over a whole person  emotion prioritizes these systems
oi.e. when we are sexually excited, it is not the sexual organs that become emotionally exited, it is the person who is
excited and moves toward the other person and to fulfillment.
Alice Isen: New Experimentation
Conducted early influential experiments on emotion investigating how happiness influences our perception of the world
oExperiment  she gave a perceptual-motor skills test. Some people (randomly selected) were told that they had
succeeded the test, and as a result were made mildly happy. As compared to the other participants, who were not told
that they had succeeded, they were more likely to help a stranger (confederate) who dropped her books
Emotions colour how we perceive the world
Isen has shown that happiness has widespread effect on cognitive organization
Erving Goffman, Arlie Russell Hochschild: Selves and Others
Goffman proposed that we give dramatic presentations of ourselves to each other and create the social reality in which we
live  from such performances moral worlds are created  from them we derive our own selfhood  from them others derive
their sense of who we are
Goffman proposed that in each kind of social interaction, we pass though an invisible membrane into a little world with its
own rules, its own traditions, its own history, etc. We take the role tat is afforded in that kind of situation
These performances are viewed by ourselves and others as good or bad of their kind, as correct, incorrect, or partially correct.
They invite commentary from others including suggested modifications, blame, and praise.
Hochschild was influenced by Goffman  explored the tension that may occur when the person is in conflict about the role
he/she plays
Observed training of Delta Airline cabin crew
Method acting  easier to give a convincing performance when one fully enters into the part
Goffman and Hochschild offered a view in which culture-related roles, values, and social obligations determine our emotions
Researchers Conceptions of Emotions
Refer to page 26; table 1.3
Izard draws attention to the many meanings of emotion, and also to the considerable agreement among researchers as to how
emotions are elicited and what the functions are