Emotions are frequently defined as distinct "feeling states"
-- such as fear or joy.
The various "emotions" range very widely in intensity,
specificity, and function.
If one accepts the view that emotions are
"feeling states," then emotions would include
hunger, pain, boredom, and curiosity --
in addition to more conventional emotions such
as envy, anger, sadness, and elation.
Emotions are sometimes contrasted with moods.
Some researchers regard emotions as transient and episodic,
whereas moods are regarded as feeling states
that may last for an extended period of time --
perhaps several hours.
For many or most researchers, the term "emotion"
includes both transient experiences as well as moods.
People appear to differ in their susceptibility
to various emotions and mood states.
Some people tend to be frequently morose or
depressed, whereas other people tend to be
perpetually sanguine and optimistic.
In short, people may differ according to
Possible sources for differences in temperament
might include genetic factors, cultural environment,
or significant life experiences.
Emotions are widely regarded as evolutionary adpatations;
they evoke behaviors that improve an animal's
chances for survival and procreation
Emotions can be understood as "motivational amplifiers"
Emotions confer meaning to the events of our lives,
and add passion and conviction to our actions.
Emotional responses appear to divide
into fast (reflexive) behaviors
and slow (cognitive) behaviors.
In the case of fear, for example,
LeDoux (1998) has demonstrated two
neurophysiological paths corresponding
to the fast and slow responses.
The fast and slow brain responses
reflect a basic neuro-evolutionary
understanding of brain functioning.
Specifically, the cortex often functions
to suppress or inhibit otherwise
automatic responses (reflexes).
The effect of inhibition is evident
in the difference between hearing
an unexpected door slamming,
and watching the door about to slam.
The former case evokes a full-fledged
startle response, whereas the latter
produces an attenuated startle response.
The slow (conscious or thinking) brain is also
able to generate emotions without external stimuli.
Rumination can therefore evoke emotional responses.
Simply thinking about something can bring a smile to your face.
Fast emotional responses appear to "assume the worst."
Reflexive behaviors often respond to innocuous
stimuli as though they are life-endangering.
Emotions have been derided in many cultures,
including the West.
Emotions have tended to be regarded as "irrational"
people who behave "emotionally" are poorly regarded;
we praise "dispassionate" reason.
Yet the research indicates that impairment of
normal emotional functioning is often disastrous for
the person involved (Damasio, 1994).
Normal emotional functioning is essential
for "rational" and adaptive behavior (Nesse, 1991).
Emotions are valenced: negative & positive.
There are no neutral emotions.
Emotions act as positive and negative inducements
to avoid or pursue particular courses of action.
There are more negative than positive kinds of emotions
-- probably because there are more ways things
can go wrong than can go right.
Negative emotions include fear, anger, hatred,
jealousy, suspicion, pain, disgust, annoyance, etc.
Positive emotions include joy, elation, contentment, etc.
Humans are highly social animals.
It should not be surprising
that humans appear to develop
socially-related emotions that do not seem
to appear in other animals.
There is a developmental sequence for the
appearance of various emotions in humans:
fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, interest, joy
The appearance of secondary emotions is correlated
with passing the Gallup ("mirror") Test.
This implies that socialized emotions arise
when an individual establishes the ability to
conceptualize self versus other. (Lewis, 1995)
Individuals who fail to develop secondary (socialized)
emotions appear unable to understand or appreciate music
Emotions arise only because of appraisal.
It is the appraisal of some situation that
leads a person to respond to the situation as
either something to be feared,
or something to be welcomed
(Arnold, 1960; Averill, 1980; LeDoux, 1998).
However, it is important to recognize that not all
appraisals arise from conscious thought.
Many or most appraisals are unconscious.
For example, appraisals (good/bad) have been shown
to precede recognition/perception for some types of stimuli
(Posner & Snyder, 1977; Zajonc, 1980, p. 154).
Since learning figures strongly in human behavior,
appraisal often reflects specific socio-cultural norms.
Each emotion represents a different biological adaptation.
The biological machinery for "hate" is separate from
the biological machinery for "affection".
Even though "hate" and "affection" might be considered
conceptual opposites, the biological concommitants differ
is a common physiological
response evoked by many different emotions.
Arousal entails increased heart-rate, respiration,
glucous uptake, epinephrine release, etc.
The purpose of arousal is to prepare the body
The types of actions that ensue can differ dramatically, however:
preparing for flight, fighting, chasing a prey, jumping for joy,
raising an alarm, speaking to others,
attending closely to the environment, etc.
Feedback from the body (somatosensory feedback)
appears to play some role in our experiencing
of emotions (James, 1884, 1890; Damasio, 1994).
For example, holding a pencil between your teeth
causes a person to feel happier than holding a
pencil with your lips (Strack, Stepper & Martin, 1988).
A reduced ability to sense one's body is
correlated with a lessening of emotional intensity.
Misattribution occurs when we identify incorrectly
the cause of an emotional state
(Dutton & Aron, 1974).
Misattribution appears to be commonplace.
Emotional states often result in characteristic
changes in a person's physical appearance or in
the sound of their voice.
For example, some facial expressions
(grief, joy, surprise, fright, disgust, sneer)
appear to produce reliable configurations
of facial musculature
Similarly, fear, joy, aggression, timidity, sadness and other
emotions appear to produce reliable changes in the human voice.
Cross-cultural research investigating
facial expressions implies that
certain expressions might be universal
(Ekman & Friesen, 1998).
At the same time, culture-specific modifications
to these "basic" expressions are evident --
what Ekman calls "display rules."
Western composers are capable of communicating some emotional
states to Western listeners through a monophonic melody -- including
joy, sorrow, excitement, dullness, anger, and peace
(Thompson & Robitalle, 1992).
For social animals, like humans,
deciphering the emotional states of others is important.
Some emotions are expressed through visual cues such
as smiling (Kraut & Johnson, 1979).
Emotions can also be expressed through
auditory cues such as in the "nervous voice"
(Scherer & Oshinsky, 1977; Ohala, 1997).
Emotional expressions can be used to deceive others.
For example, a person might feign love, or pretend
to be angry, in order to achieve a particular benefit.
Expressions of emotions are political tools used
to influence others (Abu-Lughod & Lutz, 1990).
Humans appear to be very sensitive to possible deception
in emotional expressions.
In order to avoid detection of intent,
a person may attempt to hide, modify, or obscure
various expressions, such as with the "poker face"
Emotions are widely viewed as essential to living
a meaningful and fully human life.
The complete absence of emotions or feelings
is commonly regarded with horror -- as evident
in films such as
Invasion of the Body Snatchers.