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PSYC18H3 (275)
Chapter 1

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Michelle Hilscher

Understanding Emotions –3 Edition Chapter 1 – Approaches to Understanding Emotions What is an Emotion? First Ideas - An emotion is a psychological state or process that mediates between our concerns and events of our world - Sylvan Tomkins: at any one time, an emotion gives priority to one concern over others; gives the concern urgency - Emotions are locally rational, as in they help us deal adaptively with concerns specific to our current context - Emotions are the source of our values: whom and what we love, what we dislike and despise - Emotions help us form and engage in relationships - Most of our important emotions happen between us and others Nineteenth-Century Founders - Charles Darwin: The Evolutionary Approach o Observations of emotions date back to 1838 o Accepted theory at the time: god gave humans special facial muscles that allowed them to express uniquely human sentiments o Darwin: humans are descended from other species o Emotional expressions derive largely from habits that in our evolutionary or individual past had once been useful o Emotional expression are based on reflex-like mechanisms, which can be triggered involuntarily o Expressions show the continuity of adult human emotions with those of lower animals and of infancy o Our emotions link us to our past (of our own species and our infancy) o Emotions help us navigate our social interactions - William James: The Physiological Approach o An emotion is the perception of changes of our body as we react to an „exciting fact‟ (e.g. seeing a bear) o The core of an emotion is the pattern of bodily responses o Our experience of many emotions involves changes of the autonomic nervous system and movements of muscles and joints o Emotions give “warmth and colour” to experience - Sigmund Freud: The Psychotherapeutic Approach o Certain events can be so damaging that they leave emotional scars that can shape the rest of our lives o Argued that emotions are at the core of many mental illnesses o An emotion in the present could derive from one in the past o Psychoanalysis, developed by Freud, is one of the earliest and most influential psychological therapies o Emotional life we have as adults derives from relationships we had in childhood with parents or caregivers  Foundation of John Bowlby‟s work (attachment theory) Philosophical and Literary Approaches - Aristotle and the Ethics of Emotions o Most fundamental insight: While many assume that emotions happen to us outside of our control, emotions actually depend on what we believe  We are responsible for our emotions because we are responsible for what we believe o Emotional experiences are shaped by our judgements and evaluations o Drama is about what can happen when human actions miscarry and have effects that were unforeseen; we do not know enough to predict the consequences of everything we do o Katharsis: clarification, the clearing away of obstacles to understanding o Two schools of philosophy – epicureanism and stoicism o Epicureans and stoics were the first emotion researchers in the West o Epicureanism  Epicurean: “devoted to the pursuit of pleasure”  Humans have a right to the pursuit of happiness  Natural living; living in harmony with the environment  One should live in a simple way and enjoy simple pleasures (i.e. food and friendship, rather than chasing after wealth and luxury)  Chasing wealth and luxuries leads to painful emotions  One should live in a way that is pleasurable, but moderate o Stoicism  Stoic: “indifferent to pleasure or pain”  Because emotions are derived from desires, one should eliminate almost all desires  Most emotions are damaging to the self and society and should not be included in our daily experience  One should live so that rationality is the highest virtue o Epicureanism and stoicism is ethical because they had the goal of understanding how emotions work, as well as understanding how one could shape one‟s life for the better  Ethical meaning considering what we have to do to best structure our life in relation to others - Rene Descartes: Philosophically Speaking o 6 fundamental emotions – wonder, joy, desire, love, hatred, sadness – occur in the soul (the thinking aspect of the self) o Emotions tell us what is important is our souls in relation to our concerns and our identities o Emotions cannot be entirely controlled by thinking, but can be regulated by thought o Like Aristotle, suggested emotions depend on how we evaluate events o Emotions are functional, but can sometimes be dysfunctional o Hippocrates, Galen – disease was caused by imbalance amongst four humors, with an increase of each humor leading to a distinct emotional state  Blood – hope and vigor  Phlegm – placidity  Yellow bile – anger  Black bile – despair o Descartes – emotions arise in the mind, functionally enable our plans, and affect our bodies - George Eliot: The World of the Arts o Emotions can act as a compass and are the principle means by which we affect others o Relationships are made of emotions o They have powerful effects on how we perceive others and the situations in which we find ourselves Brain Science, Psychology, Sociology - John Harlow, Tania Singer: New Brain Science o The case of Phineas Gage  Railroad explosion caused an iron rod to go t
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