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any of a number of extremely complex phenomena that are a synthesis of subjective experience, expressive behaviour, and neurochemical activity. Though psychologists have not found a simple yet comprehensive definition of emotion, they have generally agreed that emotions entail, to varying degrees, awareness of one's environment or situation, bodily reactions, and approach or withdrawal behaviour.

A brief treatment of emotion follows. For full treatment, see Emotion, Human.

Contemporary thinking on emotion is grounded in psychological experimentation, but the use of the experimental method in psychology came only after about 1850. The pioneer in this area was the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, who performed experiments in which subjects provided introspective reports of their responses to stimuli that were varied in a controlled way. Contemporary with Wundt's work was a theory, offered by English naturalist Charles Darwin, that helped to focus investigation into emotion. In this theory Darwin suggested that emotional behaviour in animals was a vestige of adaptive behaviour from an earlier stage of the given species' development.

A particularly influential early theory of emotion was proposed independently by the American psychologist William James and the Danish physician Carl Georg Lange. The James-Lange theory firmly links mental states to physiological processes: it holds that an emotion is a perception of phenomena within the body. When a person sees a frightening sight, for example, the body immediately responds in certain ways (e.g., the heart rate increases). The perception of bodily response to the original stimulus constitutes the emotion of fear, according to the James-Lange view. Thus people are happy because they smile, sad because they cry, and afraid because they flee.

It has been shown that emotions are accompanied by physiological changes manifested by excitation of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system; specifically, these changes can be detected in the galvanic skin response (see psychogalvanic reflex), in which the electrical conductivity of the skin varies, and also in the heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, and others. But according to the James-Lange view, these physiological changes would themselves be stimulated by a perception. It is argued that, by the time a signal from the senses reaches the appropriate centre in the brain, physiological changes have already taken place to cause the signal which then produces the feeling of the emotion. This element of the James-Lange view raised some serious objections.

An American physiologist, Walter B. Cannon, proposed a theory that became one of the chief arguments against the James-Lange view. Cannon showed that subjects reacted emotionally even when nerves connecting the central nervous system to various organs were severed, suggesting that physiological changes were not necessarily the primary cause of emotion. Cannon also proposed that signals from the senses may be received by the thalamus, which performs the dual function of providing the emotional content to the appropriate perceptual centre and transmitting the stimulus to other parts of the body. (see also Index: Cannon-Bard theory)

Further research has called into question Cannon's view of the preeminence of the thalamus for emotions. But the basic insight of his theory continues to be upheld, with more sophisticated anatomical support. Cannon's successors examined a structure called the reticular formation, in the centre of the brain stem. Electrical activity throughout the brain was found to be accompanied by electrical activity in the reticular formation. Emotion is held to be the result of a certain level of reticular-formation activation, a level less than that necessary to sustain such brain functions as perception and behaviour. Because the reticular formation serves to integrate virtually all brain activity, any perception or action is necessarily infused with emotional content.

A perceptual-motivational theory of emotion was individually proposed by American psychologists Magda Arnold, in 1960, and R.W. Leeper, in 1965. According to the theory, emotions are no more than strong motivational or drive states (see motivation). A motivational state is an inner condition of imbalance (for example, thirst) that provokes an organism to take some remedial action (in this case, to search for a drink). Although this approach to emotion was shown to be incomplete, later research gave evidence of what appear to be anatomical mechanisms of motivation. Significantly, these mechanisms serve a function in emotional behaviour as well.

The mechanisms in question involve the hypothalamus, a small structure near the base of the brain. The hypothalamus plays a very complex role in regulating a variety of physiological processes. It is also involved in behaviour that expresses the emotions of anger and fear. The results of complicated experiments involving electrical stimulation of the hypothalamus and related brain structures have led researchers to propose that emotions result from a dynamic process of stimulation and inhibition of certain bodily movements, as regulated by the hypothalamus.

An objection to this view is that it ignores the cognitive element in emotions. Presumably the same physiological events might be said to underlie emotions directed at different objects; how then are the emotions to be distinguished? It is here that the importance of perception and learning to discussions of emotion is apparent. However, the cognitive element in emotion cannot be processed by the relatively simple brain structures considered so far. While these can lead to emotional expression, the cognitive element must be processed by more complex structures found in higher parts of the brain. (see also Index: cognition )

Modern researchers often view emotions in three components, physiological, expressive, and experiential, each of which can be studied in terms of structure and functions.


An emotion, as it is commonly known, is a distinct feeling or quality of consciousness, such as joy or sadness, that reflects the personal significance of an emotion-arousing event. In modern times the subject of emotion has become part of the subject matter of several scientific disciplines--biology, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, and sociology. Emotions are central to the issues of human survival and adaptation. They motivate the development of moral behaviour, which lies at the very root of civilization. Emotions influence empathic and altruistic behaviour, and they play a role in the creative processes of the mind. They affect the basic processes of perception and influence the way humans conceive and interpret the world around them. Evidence suggests that emotions shape many other aspects of human life and human affairs. Clinical psychologists and psychiatrists often describe problems of adjustment and types of psychopathology as "emotional problems," mental conditions that an estimated 1 in 3 Americans, for example, suffers from during his or her lifetime.

The subject of emotion is studied from a wide range of views. Behaviorally oriented neuroscientists study the neurophysiology and neuroanatomy of emotions and the relations between neural processes and the expression and experience of emotion. Social psychologists and cultural anthropologists study similarities and differences among cultures by the way emotions are expressed and conceptualized. Philosophers are interested in the role of emotions in rationality, thought, character development, and values. Novelists, playwrights, and poets are interested in emotions as the motivations and defining features of fictional characters and as vehicles for communicating the meaning and significance of events.

This article will consider the meaning of emotions; the use of emotion concepts in literature and philosophy; the activation, structure, and functions of emotions as conceived by psychologists and neuroscientists; and the causes and consequences of emotions as reflected in individual experience and social relationships.


Definitions and humanistic background


Emotion has been defined as a particular psychological state of feeling, such as fear, anger, joy, and sorrow. The feeling often includes action tendencies and tends to trigger certain perceptual and cognitive processes. Most experts agree that emotion is a causal factor or influence in thoughts, actions, personalities, and social relationships.

The concept of emotion that will be developed here is a multiaspect, or multilevel, one, considering structure and functions at the levels of neurophysiology, emotion expression, and emotion experience (feeling). It should be noted, however, that not all of the numerous definitions that can be found in emotion literature fit into this multilevel concept. The definitions, which reflect differences in the interests and theoretical orientations of the authors, can be reduced to three categories concerned with structure and three concerned with functions. The three structural categories are the three levels, or aspects, that are included in the multilevel concept. The first of these categories of definition focuses on the neurophysiological processes underlying or accompanying emotions, the second on expression, or emotional behaviour, and the third on the subjective experience, or conscious aspect, of emotion.

Of the three categories of definition related to functions, the first defines emotions in terms of their adaptive or disruptive influences. The second category defines emotion in terms of motivation and considers it as part of the same class of phenomena that contains physiological drives, such as pain, thirst, and the need for elimination. The third category concerned with functions consists of definitions that attempt to distinguish between emotion and other psychological processes.

A multilevel definition of emotion essentially subsumes definitions that focus on one of the three structural categories of neural processes, expressive behaviour, and subjective experience, and elaborations and extensions of such a definition would consider concerns of the three categories related to functions. In summary, the foregoing consideration of definitions of emotion suggests that a multilevel concept comes closest to a consensus viewpoint among emotion theorists and provides a way of resolving the complex issue of definition. Thus, a specific emotion is a particular set of neural processes that gives rise to a particular configuration of expressive behaviours and a particular feeling state or quality of consciousness that has motivational and adaptive functions. Under some circumstances extremely intense emotion may become disruptive.


Orators, literary artists, and philosophers have recognized emotions as part of human nature since recorded history. Homer's Iliad contains vivid descriptions of the emotions of the characters; the goddess Athena frequently goes among Agamemnon's troops playing upon their emotions, attempting to allay their fears and bolster their courage for battle. Ancient philosophers discussed the emotions at length, and from these discussions it appears that the basic meanings of emotion concepts are timeless. For example, in the Rhetoric, Aristotle described the significance, causes, and consequences of the experiences of anger, fear, and shame in much the same way as contemporary writers. He observed that anger is caused by undeserved slight, fear by the perception of danger, and shame by deeds that bring disgrace or dishonour. His understanding of the relations among emotions also has a modern ring. In contrasting the young and the old, he said of the young,

And they are more courageous, for they are full of passion and hope, and the former of these prevents them fearing, while the latter inspires them with confidence, for no one fears when angry, and hope of some advantage inspires confidence.


The use of emotion words in literary works serves several purposes. They help define the motivations and personalities of the characters in a play or novel, and they help the reader to understand and identify with characters and to experience vicariously their emotions.

Shakespeare, for example, was a master at expressing emotion through his characters and eliciting emotions from the audience. His work also contains quite accurate descriptions of emotional expressions. An example in Henry V is the king's effort to ready his soldiers for battle:

Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; Let it pry through the portage of the head Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height.

(Act III, scene 1)

In modern times James Joyce used emotion words and words with emotional connotation to powerful effect. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, much of Stephen Dedalus' mood and character are revealed in a few lines describing a time when he was drinking with his cronies and trying to overcome his sense of alienation from his father:

His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. . . . Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys, and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.

According to the literary critic Rosemarie Battaglia, the emotion-arousing words cold, cruel, loveless, dead, lost, and barren resonate with a sense of Stephen's withdrawal from his social world.

Other modern writers have made frank use of psychological concepts of emotion and emotion-related processes, particularly those introduced by Sigmund Freud. Thus, for example, the author's characters may be motivated by unconscious processes, feelings they cannot label and articulate because the fundamental underlying ideation associated with the feelings has been repressed.



Using Aristotle's system of causal explanation, the 16th-century British philosopher John Rainolds defined emotion as follows: the efficient cause of emotions is God, who implanted them; the material cause is good and evil human things; the formal cause is a commotion of the soul, impelled by the sight of things; and the final cause is seeking good and fleeing evil. The American philosopher L.D. Green's commentary on Rainolds' thesis indicates that Rainolds was not faithful to Aristotle's own discussions of emotion.

One thing that Aristotle did advocate was moderation of emotions, allowing them to have an effect only at the right time and in the right manner. Rainolds noted that the Aristotelian thinker Cicero saw emotions as beneficial--fear making humans careful, compassion and sadness leading to mercy, and anger whetting courage. These thoughts about emotion are similar to those of some modern theorists.

For Rainolds, the emotions are the active, energizing aspects of human nature. Although the intellect exercises control over emotions, intellect can have no impact without emotion. Rainolds was specifically concerned with the effects of emotion on rhetoric, but he saw rhetoric as a principal means of influencing human behaviour and affairs. He believed that

the passions [emotions] must be excited, not for the harm they do but for the good, not so they twist the straight but that they straighten the crooked; so they ward off vice, iniquity, and disgrace; so that they defend virtue, justice, and probity.

Benedict de Spinoza in the 17th century described emotions in much the same way as Rainolds did, but he discussed them in relation to action rather than to language. He saw emotions as bodily changes that result in the amplification or attenuation of action and as processes that can facilitate or impede action. For Spinoza, emotion also included the ideas, or mental representations, of the bodily changes in emotion.

Blaise Pascal and David Hume reversed Rainolds' position by assuming the primacy of emotion in human behaviour. Hume said that reason is the slave of the passions (emotions), and Pascal observed in Pensées that "the heart has reasons that reason does not know." Although Hume believed that passions (emotions) rule reason or intellect, he thought the dominant passion should be moral sentiment. Some contemporary psychologists trace morality to empathy and empathy to discrete emotions including sadness, sorrow, compassion, and guilt.

Since Rainolds lectured on emotions at Oxford, philosophers have considered many questions related to emotions: Are they active or passive? Can they be explained by neurophysiological processes and reduced to material phenomena? Are they rational or nonrational? Are they voluntary or involuntary? Characterizing or categorizing emotions according to these dichotomies has resulted in yet other classifications or distinctions.

Ultimately, emotion concepts resist definition by way of dichotomous distinctions. Emotions are generally active and tend to generate action and cognition, but extreme fear may cause behavioral freezing and mental rigidity. Emotion can be explained on one level in terms of neurochemical processes and on another level in terms of phenomenology. Emotions are rational in the sense that they serve adaptive functions and make sense in terms of the individual's perception of the situation. They are nonrational in the sense that they can exist in the brain at the neurochemical level and in consciousness as unlabeled feelings that may be independent of cognitive-rational processes. Emotions are voluntary in that their expression in older children and adults is subject to considerable modification and control via cognition and action, and willful regulation of expression may result in regulation of emotion experience. Emotions are involuntary in that an effective stimulus elicits them automatically, without deliberation and conscious choice. Nowhere is this more evident than in infants and young children, who have little capacity to modulate or inhibit emotion by means of cognitive processes.

One contemporary American philosopher, Amélie O. Rorty, espouses a three-part causal history for emotions, which includes (1) the formative events in a person's past, including the development of habits of thought, (2) sociocultural factors, and (3) genetically determined sensitivities and patterns of response. These are essentially the same factors that are recognized by psychologists, who frequently reduce the list to two: (1) experience as mediated by culture and learning and (2) genetic determinants that unfold with ontogenetic development. The first of these two causal factors indicates that individual differences in interpretations of an event or situation lead to different emotions in different persons. (see also Index: human genetics)

Some philosophers are concerned with the question of the rationality of emotion as judged on the basis of causes and consequences. One resolution is in terms of appropriateness: an emotion is appropriate if the reasons for it are adequate, regardless of the reasons against it. There may be a sense, however, in which emotions are intrinsically nonrational because they can come into a person's consciousness without that person having considered all of the relevant reasons for them. In the final analysis, caution should be used in judging the rationality of emotions.

Another contemporary philosopher, James Hillman, has been notably effective in using classical philosophical principles to explain emotions. He has delineated 12 ways that emotion has been conceptualized in philosophy and psychology. These include conceptions of emotion as a distinct entity or trait, an accompaniment of instinct, energy for thought and action, a neurophysiological mechanism and process, mental representation, signal, conflict, disorder, and creative organization. This philosopher found each of these conceptions incomplete or incorrect and returned to Aristotle's system of four causes in an effort to integrate the information from each of the foregoing approaches to defining and studying emotions.

For Hillman, the efficient cause of emotion, described psychologically, consists of conscious or unconscious mental representations (perceptions, images, or thoughts) and conflicts between physiological or psychological systems or between a person and the environment. The efficient cause described physiologically includes genetic endowment and the neurochemical and hormonal processes involved in emotion activation. Hillman stated that the material cause of emotion is energy. He argued that matter, the ultimate source of energy, is relative and that emotion, as the psychological aspect of general energy, is going on all the time and is a two-way bridge uniting subject and object.

In considering the formal cause, one may see emotion as a pattern of neurophysiological and expressive behaviours and subject-object relations. Hillman concluded that, in a formal sense, emotion is a total pattern of the soul:

Emotion is the soul as a complex whole, involving constitution, gross physiology, facial expression in its social context as well as actions aimed at the environment.

The final cause, or purpose, of emotion, according to Hillman, can be thought of in terms of what it achieves: survival (energy release, homeostatic regulation, and action on the stimulus and environment), signification (qualification of experience, expression, communication, and values), and improvement (emergence of energy into consciousness, facilitation of creative activity, and strengthening of the organization of self and behaviour). Hillman integrated these various descriptions of final cause in the concept of change. Emotion occurs in order to actualize change; "emotion itself is change."


In 1872, emotion studies received a boost in scientific status when Charles Darwin published his seminal treatise The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Twelve years later, the American philosopher and psychologist William James, one of the pioneers of psychology in the United States, published what was to become a famous and controversial theory of emotions. In it James proposed that an arousing stimulus (such as a poignant memory or a physical threat) triggers internal physiological processes as well as external expressive and motor actions and that the feeling of these physiological and behavioral processes constitutes the emotion. Thus, people are happy because they smile, sad because they cry, angry because they frown, and afraid because they run from danger.

A few years later the Danish physician Carl Lange published a more constricted theory, maintaining that emotion is a function of the perception of changes in the visceral organs innervated by the autonomic nervous system. Although there were distinctively individual components in the theories of James and Lange, the theories became linked in the minds of psychologists and the combination became known as the James-Lange theory.

The James-Lange theory was seriously challenged by the American physiologist Walter B. Cannon, who showed that, among other things, animals whose viscera were separated from the central nervous system still displayed emotion expression. Cannon contended that bodily changes were similar for most kinds of emotions, whereas the James-Lange theory implied a different bodily pattern of response for different emotions. The James-Lange theory has remained a more or less permanent fixture in behavioral science nevertheless, and most psychology textbooks summarize the theory and Cannon's criticisms of it. Some theories of emotion are classified as neo-Jamesian, and most theories can be identified or classified on the basis of their similarities and differences with the landmark James-Lange theory.

Psychological theories of emotion can be grouped into two broad categories--biosocial and constructivist. Although this system of categorization is an oversimplification, it provides a way for the student of emotion to get a perspective on a particular theory. A contemporary textbook, for example, describes 20 psychological theories of emotion, and there are many others that it does not consider.

Many of the differences between the two categories of emotion theory stem from different assumptions regarding the relative importance of genetics and life experiences. Biosocial theories assume that emotions are rooted in biological makeup and that genes are significant determinants of the threshold and characteristic intensity level of each basic emotion. In this view, emotional life is a function of the interaction of genetic tendencies and the evaluative systems, beliefs, and roles acquired through experience. Constructivist theories assume that genetic factors are inconsequential and that emotions are cognitively constructed and derived from experience, especially from social learning. The constructivists' crucible for emotions is formed by the interactions of the person with the environment, especially the social environment. Thus, according to the constructivists, emotions are a function of appraisals, or evaluations, of the world of culture, and of what is learned. (For examples of both types of theory and some of the research generated by each, see below Contemporary approaches to emotion.) (see also Index: sociobiology)

The importance of emotions

The use of emotion concepts is common in literature and philosophy, as was discussed above, and there is widespread agreement among scientists that emotions are important in individual development, physical and mental health, and human relations. Experts in different disciplines emphasize different reasons for the importance of emotions.


Darwin included emotions, in particular emotion expressions, in his studies of evolution. He considered continuity or similarity of expression in animals and human beings as further evidence of human evolution from lower forms. His finding that certain emotion expressions are innate and universal was seen as evidence of the "unity of the several races." Thus, the expressions, or the language of the emotions, provide a means of communication among all human beings, regardless of culture or ethnic origin.

In his work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin made an explicit value judgment regarding the significance of emotion expressions:

The movements of expression in the face and body, whatever their origin may have been, are in themselves of much importance for our welfare. They serve as the first means of communication between the mother and infant; she smiles approval, and thus encourages her child on the right path, or frowns disapproval. We readily perceive sympathy in others by their expression; our sufferings are thus mitigated and our pleasures increased; and mutual good feeling is thus strengthened. The movements of expression give vividness and energy to our spoken words. They reveal the thoughts and intentions of others more truly than do words, which may be falsified.

From his studies of emotion expressions, Darwin concluded that some emotion expressions were due to the "constitution of the nervous system," or our biological endowment. The implication is that these expressive movements are part of human nature and have played a role in survival and adaptation. Darwin thought other expressions were derived from actions that originally served biologically adaptive functions (e.g., preparation for biting became the bared teeth of the anger expression). Although he noted that expressive movements may no longer serve biological functions, he made it quite clear that they serve critical social and communicative functions.


From the very beginning of scientific psychology, there were voices that spoke of the significance of emotions for human life. James believed that "individuality is founded in feeling" and that only through feeling is it possible "directly to perceive how events happen, and how work is actually done." The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung recognized emotion as the primal force in life:

But on the other hand, emotion is the moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.

Psychologists did not rally to the Darwinian thesis on the evolutionary-adaptive functions of emotions in significant numbers until the 1960s. Several influential volumes following this theme were published in the 1960s and '70s. For example, the American psychologist Robert Plutchik echoed Darwinian principles in several of the postulates of his theory: emotions are present at all levels of animal life, and they serve an adaptive role in relation to survival issues posed by the environment.

The American psychologist Silvin Tomkins believed that the emotions constitute the primary motivational system for human beings. He held that even physiological drives such as hunger and sex obtain their power from emotions and that the energizing effects of emotion are necessary to sustain drive-related actions. In this way, he argued that emotions are essential to survival and adaptation.

Other theorists and researchers that follow the Darwinian principles of the survival value and adaptive value of emotions have emphasized their role in human development and in the development of social bonds, particularly mother-infant or parent-child attachment. These researchers have shown that even the very young infant has a repertoire of emotion expressions translatable into messages calling for nourishment and affection, both essential ingredients of healthy development. The distress expression is the infant's all-out cry for help, the sadness expression an appeal for empathy, and the smile an invitation to stimulating face-to-face interactions. (For discussion of empirical evidence of the importance of emotions in child development, social relations, cognitive processes, and mental health, see below The functions of emotion.) (see also Index: infancy)

Contemporary approaches to emotion

Contemporary psychologists are concerned with the activation, or causes, of emotion, its structure, or components, and its functions or consequences. Each of these aspects can be considered from both a biosocial and a constructivist view. On the whole, biosocial theories have been relatively more concerned with the neurophysiological aspects of emotions and their roles as motivators and organizers of cognition and action. Constructivists have been relatively more concerned with explaining the causes of emotion at the experiential level and cognition-emotion relations in terms of cognitive-linguistic processes.



The question of precisely how an emotion is triggered has been one of the most captivating and controversial topics in the field. To address the question properly, one must break it down into more precise parts. Emotion activation can be divided into three parts: neural processes, bodily (physiological) changes, and mental (cognitive) activity.

While it is easy for people to think of things that make them happy or sad, it is not yet possible to explain precisely how the feelings of joy and sadness occur. Neuroscience has produced far more information about the processes leading to the physiological responses and expressive behaviour of emotion than about those that generate the conscious experience of emotion.

Neural processes.

An emotion can be activated by causes and processes within the individual or by a combination of internal and external causes and processes. For example, within the individual, an infection can cause pain, and pain can activate anger.

The findings of neuroscience indicate that stimuli are evaluated for emotional significance when information from primary receptors (in the visual, tactual, auditory, or other sensory systems) travels along certain neural pathways to the limbic forebrain. Scientific data developed by Joseph E. LeDoux show that auditory fear conditioning involves the transmission of sound signals through the auditory pathway to the thalamus (which relays information) in the lower forebrain and thence to the dorsal amygdala (which evaluates information). (see also Index: neurophysiology)

Evidence from neuroscience suggests that emotion activated by way of the thalamo-amygdala (subcortical) pathway results from rapid, minimal, automatic, evaluative processing. Emotion activated in this way need not involve the neocortex. Emotion activated by discrimination of stimulus features, thoughts, or memories requires that the information be relayed from the thalamus to the neocortex. Such a circuit is thought to be the neural basis for cognitive appraisal and evaluation of events.

This two-circuit model of the neural pathways in emotion activation has several important theoretical implications. The neurological evidence indicating that emotion can be activated via the thalamo-amygdala pathway is consistent with the behavioral evidence that very young infants respond emotionally to pain and that adults can develop preferences or make affective judgments in responding to objects before they demonstrate recognition memory for them. This suggests that in some instances humans may experience emotion before they reason why.

It might be expected that in early human development most emotion expressions derive from automatic, subcortical processing, with minimal cortical involvement. As cognitive capacities increase with maturation and learning, the neocortex and the cortico-amygdala pathway become more and more involved. By the time children acquire language and the capacity for long-term memory, they may process events in either or both pathways, with the subcortical pathway specializing in events requiring rapid response and the cortico-amygdala pathway providing evaluative information necessary for cognitive judgment and more complex coping strategies.

Physiological processes.

Many theorists agree that feedback from physiological activity contributes to emotion activation. There is disagreement over the kind of feedback that is important. Some think that it is a visceral feedback--coming from the activity of the smooth-muscle organs such as the heart and stomach, which are innervated by the autonomic nervous system. Others believe that it is feedback from the voluntary, striated muscles, especially of the face, which are innervated by the somatic nervous system.

Cognitive processes.

Constructivist theorists and researchers have been concerned with the causes of emotion at the cognitive-experiential level and with the relations between cognitive processes and emotion. This research has focused on two topics: the relations between appraisals, or evaluations, and emotions and the relations between causal attributions and emotions. (see also Index: cognition )

Magda B. Arnold was the first contemporary psychologist to propose that all emotions are a function of one's cognitive appraisal of the stimulus or situation. She maintained that before a stimulus can elicit emotion it has to be appraised as good or bad by the perceiver. She described the appraisal that arouses emotion as concrete, immediate, undeliberate, and not the result of reflection. Her position was adopted and elaborated by others, some of whom assumed that cognitive activity, whether in the form of primitive evaluative perception or symbolic processes, is a necessary precondition of emotion. Biosocial and constructivist theorists agree that cognition is an important determinant of emotion and that emotion-cognition relations merit continued research.

Research by the American psychologists Phoebe C. Ellsworth and Craig A. Smith on the relations between appraisals and specific emotions show that people tend to appraise situations in terms of elements such as pleasantness, anticipated effort, certainty, responsibility, control, legitimacy, and perceived obstacle. Researchers have found that each discrete emotion tends to be associated with a distinctive combination of appraisals. For example, a perceived obstacle (barrier to a goal) that is due to someone else's responsibility is associated with anger, a perceived obstacle that is the person's own responsibility is associated with guilt, and a perceived obstacle characterized by uncertainty is associated with fear. This study was based on subjects' retrospective accounts of emotion-eliciting situations, and therefore the data cannot confirm the view that appraisal causes emotion. However, the assumption that emotion and appraisal are causally related seems reasonable.

Another approach to explaining the causes of emotions is that of attribution theory. The central idea of this theory, according to the American psychologist Bernard Weiner, is that the perceptions of the causes of events can be characterized in three principal ways which affect many emotional experiences. The perceived causes of events (e.g., success and failure) are characterized by their locus (internal or external to the person), stability (a trait of the person or a temporary condition), and controllability (under the person's control or not).

Research has shown that different patterns of causal attribution are associated with different emotions, including anger, guilt, shame, and the more complex phenomena of pity, pride, gratitude, and hopelessness. Pity is attributed to the perception of uncontrollable and stable causes--people feel pity for a person who has an affliction due to a genetic defect or accident. Anger is attributed to external and controllable events--people feel anger when an affront or injury is caused by someone's lack of concern or thoughtlessness. Guilt is attributed to the perception of internal and controllable causes--people feel guilt for wrongdoing they could have avoided. Children aged five to 12 understand the emotional consequences of revealing the causes of their actions; they know that their teachers might be angry at their failure if they have not tried hard enough and that teachers might feel pity for students who lack the ability to learn efficiently and perform well.

Psychologists researching cognitive activation have studied the relations between the ways people cope with stressful encounters and the emotions they experience after their efforts to resolve the problems. In one study emotions were assessed by asking subjects to indicate the extent to which they experienced emotions on four scales: worried/fearful, disgusted/angry, confident, and pleased/happy. Coping was assessed by subjective ratings on eight scales: confrontive coping ("stood my ground and fought"), distancing ("didn't let it get to me"), self-control ("tried to keep my feelings to myself"), seeking social support ("talked to someone"), accepting responsibility ("criticized myself"), escape-avoidance ("wished the situation would go away"), planful problem solving ("changed or grew as a person"), and positive reappraisal. Four of these ways of coping were associated with the quality of emotion that followed the effort to cope. Planful problem solving and positive reappraisal tended to increase happiness and confidence and to decrease disgust and anger. Obversely, the subjects reported that confrontation and distancing techniques increased their disgust and anger and decreased their happiness and confidence. Because these data were retrospective, there can be no firm conclusion that a particular way of coping causes a particular emotion experience. Nevertheless, the observed relations among ways of coping and subsequent emotion experiences are reasonable and in line with theoretical expectations.

The controversy as to whether some cognitive process is a necessary antecedent of emotion may hinge on the definition of terms, particularly the definition of cognition. If cognition is defined so broadly that it includes all levels or types of information processing, then cognition may confidently be said to precede emotion activation. If those mental processes that do not involve mental representation based on learning or experience are excluded from the concept of cognition, then cognition so defined does not necessarily precede the three-week-old infant's smile to the high-pitched human voice, the two-month-old's anger expression to pain, or the formation of the affective preferences (likes or dislikes) in adults.

Multimodal theory.

Evidence suggests that a satisfactory model of emotion activation must be multimodal. Emotions can, as indicated above, be activated by such precognitive processes as physiological states, motor mimicry (imitation of another's movements), and sensory processes and by numerous cognitive processes, including comparison, matching, appraisal, categorization, imagery, memory, attribution, and anticipation. Further, all emotion activation processes are influenced by a variety of internal and external factors.


In the discussion of the structure of emotions it is not always possible to ignore the function of emotions, which is discussed in the following section. The separation, however, is conducive to sorting out the complex field of emotions.

Both biosocial and constructivist theories of emotions acknowledge that an emotion is a complex phenomenon. They generally agree that an emotion includes physiological functions, expressive behaviour, and subjective experience and that each of these components is based on activity in the brain and nervous system. As noted above, some theorists, particularly those of the constructivist persuasion, hold that an emotion also involves cognition, an appraisal or cognitive-evaluative process that triggers the emotion and determines or contributes to the subjective experience of the emotion.

The physiological component.

The physiological component of emotion has been a lively topic of research since Cannon challenged the James-Lange theory by showing that feedback from the viscera has little effect on emotional expression in animals. Cannon's studies and criticisms were regarded by many as too narrow, failing to, among other things, consider the possible role of feedback from striated muscle systems of the face and body.

Role of the nervous system.

Since the popularization of the James-Lange theory of emotion, the physiological component of emotion has been traditionally identified as activity in the autonomic nervous system and the visceral organs (e.g., the heart and lungs) that it innervates. However, some contemporary theorists hold that the neural basis of emotions resides in the central nervous system and that the autonomic nervous system is recruited by emotion to fulfill certain functions related to sustaining and regulating emotion experience and emotion-related behaviour. Several findings from neuroscience support this idea. Neuroanatomical studies have shown that the central nervous system structures involved in emotion activation can exert direct influences on the autonomic nervous system. For example, efferents from the amygdala to the hypothalamus may influence activity in the autonomic nervous system that is involved in defensive reactions. Further, there are connections between pathways innervating facial expression and the autonomic nervous system. Studies have shown that patterns of activity in this system vary with the type of emotion being expressed.

Roles of the brain hemispheres.

There is some evidence that the two hemispheres of the brain are related differently to emotion processes. Early evidence suggested that the right (or dominant) hemisphere may be more adept than the left at discriminating among emotional expressions. Later research using electroencephalography elaborated this initial conclusion, suggesting that the right hemisphere may be more involved in processing negative emotions and the left hemisphere more involved in processing positive emotions.

The expressive component.

The expressive component of emotion includes facial, vocal, postural, and gestural activity. Expressive behaviour is mediated by phylogenetically old structures of the brain, which is consistent with the notion that they served survival functions in the course of evolution.

Involvement of brain structures.

Emotion expressions involve limbic forebrain structures and aspects of the peripheral nervous system. The facial and trigeminal nerves and receptors in facial muscles and skin are required in expressing emotion and in facilitating sensory feedback from expressive movements.

Early studies of the neural basis of emotion expression showed that aggressive behaviour can be elicited from a cat after its neocortex has been removed and suggested that the hypothalamus is a critical subcortical structure mediating aggression. Later research indicated that, rather than the hypothalamus, the central gray region of the midbrain and the substantia nigra may be the key structures mediating aggressive behaviour in animals.

Neural pathways of facial expression.

Of the various types of expressive behaviour, facial expression has received the most attention. In human beings and in many nonhuman primates, patterns of facial movements constitute the chief means of displaying emotion-specific signals. Whereas research has provided much information on the neural basis of emotional behaviours (e.g., aggression) in animals, little is known about the brain structures that control facial expression.

The peripheral pathways of facial emotion expression consist of the seventh and fifth cranial nerves. The seventh, or facial, nerve is the efferent (outward) pathway; it conveys motor messages from the brain to facial muscles. The fifth, or trigeminal, nerve is the afferent (inward) pathway that provides sensory data from movements of facial muscles and skin. According to some theorists, it is the trigeminal nerve that transmits the facial feedback which contributes to the activation and regulation of emotion experience. The impulses for this sensory feedback originate when movement stimulates the mechanoreceptors in facial skin. The skin is richly supplied with such receptors, and the many branches of the trigeminal nerve detect and convey the sensory impulses to the brain.

The innateness and universality of emotion expressions.

More than a century ago Darwin's observations and correspondence with friends living in different parts of the world led him to conclude that certain emotion expressions are innate and universal, part of the basic structure of emotions. Contemporary cross-cultural and developmental research has given strong support to Darwin's conclusion, showing that people in literate and preliterate cultures have a common understanding of the expressions of joy, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, and fear. Other studies have suggested that the expressions of interest and shyness and the feelings of shame and guilt may also be innate and universal.

The experiential component.

There is general agreement that various stimuli and neural processes leading to an emotion result not only in physiological reactions and expressive behaviour but also in subjective experience. Some biosocial theorists restrict the definition of an emotion experience to a feeling state and argue that it can be activated independently of cognition. Constructivist theorists view the experiential component of emotion as having a cognitive aspect. The issue regarding the relation between emotion feeling states and cognition remains unresolved, but it is widely agreed that emotion feeling states and cognitive processes are typically highly interactive.

Emotion experiences, the actual feelings of joy, sadness, anger, shame, fear, and the like, do not lend themselves to objective measurement. All research on emotion experience ultimately depends on self-reports, which are imprecise. There are few instances where feelings and words are perfectly matched. Yet, most students of emotions, whether philosopher or neuroscientist, ultimately want to explain emotion experience.

The physiological structure of emotion experience.

Little is known about the neural basis of emotion experience. Critical reviews have shown that there is little evidence to support the position that activity in the autonomic nervous system provides the physiological basis for emotion experience. However, there is some evidence to support the hypothesis that sensory feedback from facial expression contributes to emotion experience.

Cognitive models of emotion experience have influenced conceptions of the underlying neural processes. Explanations of emotions in terms of appraisal and attributional processes led some researchers to suggest that conscious experiences of emotions derive from the cognitive processes that underlie language. This led to the hypothesis that emotion experiences involve interactions between limbic forebrain areas and the areas of the neocortex that mediate language and language-based cognitive systems. However, this view does not take into account the possibility that emotions occur in preverbal infants and may be mediated in adults by unconscious or nonlinguistic mental processes, such as imagery.

Action tendencies in emotion experiences.

Both constructivist and biosocial theorists have emphasized that emotions include action tendencies. The experience, or feeling, of a given emotion generates a tendency to act in a certain way. For example, in anger the tendency is to attack and in fear to flee. Whether a person actually attacks in anger or flees in fear depends on the individual's methods of emotion regulation and the circumstances.


In academic discussions of the functions of emotions the focus is usually on the phenomenological, or experiential, aspect of emotions. For purposes of this discussion, however, the functions of emotions are examined in terms of the three structural components--physiological, expressive, and experiential.

Physiological functions.

The functions of physiological activity that is mediated by the autonomic nervous system and that accompanies states of emotion can be considered as part of the individual's effort to adapt and cope, but, of course, physiological as well as cognitive reactions in extreme emotion usually require regulation (expressed through cognitive processes and expressive behaviour) in order for coping activities to be effective. For example, adaptation to situations that elicit a less extreme emotion such as interest require a quite different physiological and behavioral activity than do situations that elicit intense anger or fear. The heart-rate deceleration and quieting of internal organs that occur in interest facilitate the intake and processing of information, whereas heart-rate acceleration in intense anger and fear prepares the individual to cope by more active means, whether through shouting, physical actions, or various combinations of the two.

Functions of emotion expressions.

Emotion expressions have three major functions: they contribute to the activation and regulation of emotion experiences; they communicate something about internal states and intentions to others; and they activate emotions in others, a process that can help account for empathy and altruistic behaviour.

Role of expressions in emotion experiences.

In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals Darwin clearly revealed his belief that even voluntary emotion expression evoked emotion feeling. He wrote: "Even the simulation [expression] of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds." Thus, Darwin's idea suggested that facial feedback (sensations created by the movements of expressive behaviour) activate, or contribute to the activation of, emotion feelings. A number of experiments have provided substantial evidence that intentional management of facial expression contributes to the regulation (and perhaps activation) of emotion experiences. Most evidence is related not to specific emotion feelings but to the broad classes of positive and negative states of emotion. There is, therefore, some scientific support for the old advice to "smile when you feel blue" and "whistle a happy tune when you're afraid."

Darwin was even more persuasive when speaking specifically of the regulation of emotion experience by self-initiated expressive behaviour. He wrote:

The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions.

Experiments by more contemporary researchers on motivated, self-initiated expressive behaviours have shown that, if people can control their facial expression during moments of pain, there will be less arousal of the autonomic nervous system and a diminution of the pain experience.

Role of expressions in communicating internal states.

The social communication function of emotion expressions is most evident in infancy. Long before infants have command of language or are capable of reasoning, they can send a wide variety of messages through their facial expressions. Virtually all the muscles necessary for facial expression of basic emotions are present before birth. Through the use of an objective, anatomically based system for coding the separate facial muscle movements, it has been found that the ability to smile and to facially express pain, interest, and disgust are present at birth; the social smile can be expressed by three or four weeks; sadness and anger by about two months; and fear by six or seven months. Informal observations suggest that expressions indicative of shyness appear by about four months and expressions of guilt by about two years.

The expressive behaviours are infants' primary means of signaling their internal states and of becoming engaged in the family and larger human community. Emotion expressions help form the foundation for social relationships and social development. They also provide stimulation that appears to be necessary for physical and mental health.

Role of expressions in motivating response.

One- and three-day-old infants cry in response to other infants' cries but not to a computer-generated sound that simulates crying. Infants as young as two or three months of age respond differently to different expressions by the mother. The information an infant obtains from the mother's facial expressions mediates or regulates a variety of infant behaviours. For example, most infants cross a modified "visual cliff" (an apparatus that was originally used in depth perception study, consisting of a glass floor that gives the illusion of a drop-off) if their mother stands on the opposite side and smiles, but none cross if she expresses fear.

Facial expressions, particularly of sadness, may facilitate empathy and altruistic behaviour. Darwin thought facial expressions evoked empathy and concluded that expression-induced empathy was inborn. Research has shown that, when mothers display sadness expressions, their infants also demonstrate more sadness expressions and decrease their exploratory play. Infants under two years of age respond to their mother's real or simulated expressions of sadness or distress by making efforts to show sympathy and provide help.

Functions of emotion experiences.

Psychologists who adopt a strong behaviourist position deny that emotion experiences are matters for scientific inquiry. In contrast, some biosocial theories hold that emotion feelings must be studied because they are the primary factors in organizing and motivating human behaviour. According to these theories, most of the functions attributed to emotion expressions, such as empathy and altruism, are dependent on the organizing and motivating properties of underlying emotion feelings. Emotion experiences have several other functions.

Research has shown that people in widely different literate and preliterate cultures not only recognize basic emotion expressions but also characterize and label them with semantically equivalent terms. It seems reasonable to assume that the common feeling state of a given emotion generates the cues for the cognitive processes that result in universal emotion concepts. Of course, if researchers include contextual factors, such as societal taboos, in their description of an emotion experience, they then find differences across cultures. In any case, although the feeling of a given emotion, say fear, may be constant, people within and across cultures learn to be afraid of quite different things and to cope with fear in different ways.

Experiential influence on cognitive processes.

Several lines of research have shown that induced emotion affects perception, learning, and memory. In one study, conducted by Carroll E. Izard and his students, subjects were made happy or angry and then shown happy and angry faces and friendly and hostile interpersonal scenes in a stereoscope. Happy subjects perceived more happy faces and friendly interpersonal scenes, and angry subjects perceived more angry faces and hostile interpersonal scenes. In this case, emotion apparently altered the basic perceptual process. In another study subjects were made happy or sad and then given happy and sad information about fictional persons and later asked to give their impressions and make judgments about the fictional characters. Overall, happy subjects reported more favourable impressions and positive judgments than did sad subjects. These studies provide evidence for the common wisdom that happy people are more likely to see the world through rose-coloured glasses.

Experiential facilitation of empathy and altruism.

An extensive series of studies indicated that positive emotion feelings enhance empathy and altruism. It was shown by the American psychologist Alice M. Isen that relatively small favours or bits of good luck (like finding money in a coin telephone or getting an unexpected gift) induced positive emotion in people and that such emotion regularly increased the subjects' inclination to sympathize or provide help.

Experiential relation to increased creativity.

Several studies have demonstrated that positive emotion facilitates creative problem solving. One of these studies showed that positive emotion enabled subjects to name more uses for common objects. Another showed that positive emotion enhanced creative problem solving by enabling subjects to see relations among objects that would otherwise go unnoticed. A number of studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of positive emotion on thinking, memory, and action in preschool and older children.

Explanation of the functions of emotion experiences.

There are two kinds of factors that contribute to the enhancing effects of positive emotion on perception, learning, creative problem solving, and social behaviour. Two factors, emphasized by cognitive-social theorists, are related to cognitive processes. First, positive emotion cues positive material in memory, and, second, positive material in memory is more extensive than neutral and negative material. The second set of factors, emphasized by biosocial theorists, are related to the intrinsic motivational and organizational influences of emotion and to the particular characteristics of the subjective experience of positive emotion. For example, these theorists maintain that the experience of joy is characterized by heightened self-esteem and self-confidence. These qualities of consciousness increase the receptibility to information and the flexibility of mental processes. Biosocial theorists consider that the positive emotion induced by experimental manipulations and experimental tasks includes the emotion of interest, which is characterized by curiosity and the desire to explore and learn. The concepts emphasized by biosocial and cognitive-social theories may be seen as complementary.


The results of many of the experiments discussed above indicate that emotions have motivational and adaptive properties. Perhaps the most convincing demonstrations of this come from studies showing that emotions influence perception, learning, and memory and empathic, altruistic, and creative actions.

Some theorists have viewed emotions more negatively, seeing them as disorganizing and disrupting influences. Researchers in this tradition have also viewed emotions as transient, episodic states. These ideas were fueled by a research emphasis on "emergency emotions," such as rage and panic. These researchers might agree that, although such emotions may serve an adaptive function under certain circumstances, in many situations they can lead to behaviours that prove to be maladaptive and even fatal. As was indicated above, however, emotion expressions can serve critical functions in mother-infant communication and attachment, and emotion experiences, or feeling states, facilitate learning and empathic, altruistic, and creative behaviour.

Although psychologists generally favour viewing emotions as having motivating, organizing, and adaptive functions, the conditions under which emotions become maladaptive warrant further research. Extreme anger and fear can bring about large changes in the activities of internal organs innervated by the autonomic nervous system. When such arousal repeatedly involves the sympathetic nervous system and the hormones of the medulla of the adrenal gland, the individual may develop resistance to mental and physical disorders. When there is repeated arousal involving the sympathetic nervous system and the hormones of the cortex of the adrenal gland, the individual may experience adverse effects.

Problems of adaptation and mental health can also be conceived as attributable not to the emotions but to the way a person thinks and acts. For example, if a person decides to break a moral code and consequently feels guilty, the guilt may be adaptive in that it can provide motivation for making amends. In this framework psychological problems or disorders arise because the individual fails to respond appropriately to the emotion's motivational cues while the emotion is still at low or moderate intensity.


Several beliefs and attitudes have contributed to the idea that emotions should be brought under rather tight control. Historically, some religious and philosophical literature has treated human passion, a concept which included emotions, as an evil force that could contaminate or even destroy the mind or soul. In this tradition passions became associated with sin and wrongdoing, and their rigorous control was thus a sign of goodness. Even in this tradition, however, some negative emotions were exempt from tight control--guilt as a result of wrongdoing and righteous indignation toward moral transgressions.

Changing views of emotion regulation.

Traditionally, scientists have given far more attention to negative emotions and their control than to positive ones. The focus on negative emotions has continued among clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, who are concerned with relieving depression and anxiety. However, as parents have long recognized, there is also a need to regulate positive emotions when, for example, children are having fun at someone else's expense or while neglecting chores and homework.

Developmental processes in emotion regulation.

Of central importance in emotion regulation are developmental processes that enable children, as they mature, to exercise an increasingly greater control over affective responses. For example, before an infant can regulate the innate affective behaviour patterns elicited by acute pain, maturation of neural inhibitory mechanisms is required. Further control is realized through techniques that result from cognitive development and socialization, processes involving both maturation and learning.

In a study of responses of two- to 19-month-old infants to the pain of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) inoculation, it was found that the physical distress expression occurred as the initial response in all infants at the ages of two, four, and seven months (the ages at which the first three DTPs were administered). The physical distress expression is an all-out emergency response, a cry for help that dominates the physical and mental capacities of the infant. Beginning at the age of four months and accelerating rapidly between seven and 19 months, the infants became capable of greatly reducing the duration of the physical distress expression. As the duration of the physical distress expression decreased, that for anger expression increased. By 19 months of age, 25 percent of the infants were able to inhibit the distress expression completely. It was inferred that these developmental changes are adaptive for the relatively more capable toddler: whereas the physical distress expression in the younger subjects is all-consuming, anger mobilizes energy for defense or escape.

Other factors in emotion regulation.

Several other factors are observable in emotion or mood regulation. First, there is neurochemical regulation by means of naturally occurring hormones and neurotransmitters. Regulation is also attained through psychoactive drugs, many of which were developed to control the prevalent psychological disorders of anxiety and depression. A substantial body of research has shown that anxiety and depression are associated with chemical imbalances in the brain and nervous system. Psychoactive drugs help to correct these imbalances.

Socialization processes, especially child-rearing practices, influence emotion regulation. Attempts by parents, teachers, and other adults to control emotions may be aimed either at the level of expression or experience or both. Parents may try to control their child's anger expressions before they culminate in "temper tantrums." A father may try to control his son's expressions of fear of bodily injury because he anticipates the shame of his son being seen as a coward. In considering the net effect of socialization on emotion regulation, it is necessary to weigh the effects that the child's unique genetic makeup may contribute to the process.

Cognitive-social theories point to cognitive processes as means of controlling emotion. According to this approach, if it is possible for people to change the way they make appraisals and attributions about the nature and cause of events, their emotion experiences can be changed. This could be manifested, for instance, in a reduction in self-blame and an alteration in negative concepts and outlooks. That cognitive therapy and cognitive techniques for controlling depressive and aggressive behaviour have achieved some success is testimony to the validity of the idea of cognitive control of emotion. That they sometimes fail indicates that it is no panacea and that other factors may be necessary for emotion regulation. As discussed above, theory and empirical data support the notion that expressive behaviour, which is under voluntary control, can be used to regulate emotions.


Most theorists agree that emotion thresholds and emotion responsiveness are part of the infrastructure of temperament and personality. There has, however, been little empirical research on the relations among measures of emotions, dimensions of temperament, and personality traits.

Emotions and temperament.

Most theories of temperament define at least one dimension of temperament in terms of emotion. Two theories maintain that negative emotions form the core of one of the basic and stable dimensions of temperament. Another suggests that each of the dimensions of temperament is rooted in a particular discrete emotion and that these dimensions form the emotional substrate of personality characteristics. For example, proneness to anger would influence the development of aggressiveness, and the emotion of interest would account for the temperament trait of persistence.

Emotions and personality.

A number of major personality theories, such as theories of temperament, identify dimensions or traits of personality in terms of emotions. For example, the German-born British psychologist Hans J. Eysenck has proposed three fundamental dimensions of personality: extroversion-introversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Extroversion-introversion includes the trait of sociability, which can also be related to emotion (e.g., interest, as expressed toward people, versus shyness). Neuroticism includes emotionality defined, as in temperament theory, as nonspecific negative emotional responsiveness. Psychoticism may represent emotions gone awry or the absence of emotions appropriate to the circumstances.

Several studies have shown that measures of positive emotionality and negative emotionality are independent, are not inversely related, and have stability over time. Further, it has been shown that positive and negative emotionality have different relations with symptoms of psychological disorders. For example, negative emotionality correlates positively with panic attack, panic-associated symptoms and obsessive-compulsive symptoms; that is, the higher the degree of negative emotion, the more likely that the attack or symptoms will occur. Conversely, positive emotionality correlates negatively with these phenomena. Although several of the same negative emotions characterize both the anxiety and depressive disorders, a lack of positive emotion experiences is more characteristic of depression than of anxiety.

Continuity of emotion expressiveness.

Some studies have shown that specific emotions, identified in terms of expressive behaviour and physiological functions, have stability. One study showed that a child's expression of positive and negative emotion was consistent during the first two years of life. Other studies have shown stability of wariness or fear responses, indicating that a child who is fearful at one age is likely to be fearful in comparable situations at a later age. In a study of infants' responses to the pain of DTP inoculation, it was found that the child's anger expression indexes at ages two, four, and six months accurately predicted his or her anger expression in the inoculations at 19 months of age. Similar results were obtained for the sadness expression.

A study of mother-infant interaction and separation found that infants' expression at three to six months of age were accurate predictors of infant emotion expressive patterns at nine to 12 months of age. Emotion expression patterns have also shown continuity from 13 to 18 months of age during brief mother-infant separation.


The emotions are central to the issues of modern times, but perhaps they have been critical to the issues of every era. Poets, prophets, and philosophers of all ages have recognized the significance of emotions in individual life and human affairs, and the meaning of a specific emotion, at least in the context of verbal expression, seems to be timeless. Although art, literature, and philosophy have contributed to the understanding of emotion experiences throughout the ages, modern science has provided a substantial increase in the knowledge of the neurophysiological basis of emotions and their structure and functions.

Research in neuroscience and developmental psychology suggests that emotions can be activated automatically and unconsciously in subcortical pathways. This suggests that humans often experience emotions without reasoning why. Such precognitive information processing may be continuous, and the resulting emotion states may influence the many perceptual-cognitive and behavioral processes (such as perceiving, thinking, judging, remembering, imagining, and coping) that activate emotions through pathways involving the neocortex.

The two recognized types of emotion activation have important implications for the role of emotions in cognition and action. Subcortical, automatic information processing may provide the primitive data for immediate emotional response, whereas higher-order cognitive information processing involving the neocortex yields the evaluations and attributions necessary for the appropriate emotions and coping strategy in a complex situation.

Biosocial and constructivist theories agree that perception, thought, imagery, and memory are important causes of emotions. They also agree that once emotion is activated, emotion and cognition influence each other. How people feel affects what they perceive, think, and do, and vice versa.

Emotions have physiological, expressive, and experiential components, and each component can be studied in terms of its structure and functions. The physiological component influences the intensity and duration of felt emotion, expressions serve communicative and sociomotivational functions, and emotion experiences (feeling states) influence cognition and action.

Research has shown that certain emotion expressions are innate and universal and have significant functions in infant development and in infant-parent relations and that there are stable individual differences in emotion expressiveness. Emotion states influence what people perceive, learn, and remember, and they are involved in the development of empathic, altruistic, and moral behaviour and in basic personality traits.


BIBLIOGRAPHY. Studies of philosophical and cultural views on emotion include JAMES HILLMAN, Emotion: A Comprehensive Phenomenology of Theories and Their Meanings for Therapy (1960), a contemporary philosopher's explanation of emotions in terms of Aristotle's system of causes and a review of other approaches; AMÉLIE OKSENBERG RORTY (ed.), Explaining Emotions (1980), a collection of philosophical essays on the causes, meaning, and consequences of emotions; and ROM HARRÉ (ed.), The Social Construction of Emotions (1986), a collection of studies on the role of language and culture in the cognitive construction, i.e., learning, of emotions.

The significance of emotions is the subject of many analyses, beginning with CHARLES DARWIN, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872, reprinted 1979), a classical work that placed human emotions in evolutionary perspective and presented the first evidence for their innateness and universality in human beings; CARROLL E. IZARD, Human Emotions (1977), a discussion of each of the fundamental emotions of human experience in terms of their unique organizing and motivational influence on cognition and action; SUSANNE K. LANGER, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, 3 vol. (1967-72), a philosopher's view of the significance of feelings in the evolution of human mentality; GEORGE MANDLER, Mind and Body: Psychology of Emotion and Stress (1984), a cognitive, or constructivist, view of the role of emotions in mental and bodily processes; ROBERT PLUTCHIK, Emotion, a Psychoevolutionary Synthesis (1980), a look at emotions in evolutionary perspective; and SILVAN S. TOMKINS, Affect, Imagery, Consciousness, vol. 1, The Positive Affects (1962), a brilliant essay on emotions as the primary motivational system of human beings.

The following works reflect some contemporary approaches to the study of emotions: MAGDA B. ARNOLD, Emotion and Personality, vol. 1, Psychological Aspects (1960), emphasizes the role of cognitive appraisal in emotion and sets the stage for later cognitive-social, or constructivist, theories of emotion; NICO H. FRIJDA, The Emotions (1986), is a comprehensive cognitive-social view of emotions; JOSEPH J. CAMPOS et al., "Socioemotional Development," chapter 10 in MARSHALL M. HAITH and JOSEPH J. CAMPOS (eds.), Infancy and Developmental Psychobiology, 4th ed. (1983), pp. 783-915, provides a comprehensive review of theory and research on emotional development; ROBERT N. EMDE, THEODORE J. GAENSBAUER, and ROBERT J. HARMON, Emotional Expression in Infancy: A Biobehavioral Study (1976), is an influential contribution to the study of expressions; NATHAN A. FOX and RICHARD J. DAVIDSON (eds.), The Psychobiology of Affective Development (1984), presents a collection of reviews of theory and research papers on the biological aspects of emotional development; CARROLL E. IZARD, JEROME KAGAN, and ROBERT B. ZAJONC (eds.), Emotions, Cognition, and Behavior (1984), is a collection of research papers by leading psychologists on the relations between emotions, cognition, and actions; CARROLL E. IZARD and C.Z. MALATESTA, "Perspectives on Emotional Development I: Differential Emotions Theory of Early Emotional Development," chapter 9A in JOY DONIGER OSOFSKY (ed.), Handbook of Infant Development, 2nd ed. (1987), pp. 494-554, provides a detailed theory of emotional development and a review of related research; JOSEPH E. LEDOUX, "Emotion," chapter 10 in FRED PLUM (ed.), Higher Functions of the Brain (1987), pp. 419-59, in Handbook of Physiology, section 1, vol. 5, discusses brain mechanisms and neural pathways involved in the activation, expression, and experience of emotion; MICHAEL LEWIS and LINDA MICHALSON, Children's Emotions and Moods: Developmental Theory and Measurement (1983), explores a cognitive-social view of the development of emotions; PHOEBE C. ELLSWORTH and CRAIG A. SMITH, "From Appraisal to Emotion: Differences Among Unpleasant Feelings," Motivation and Emotion, 12(3):271-302 (September 1988), surveys research on the relations between appraisal processes and emotions and presents a new theory of cognition-emotion relations; H. HILL GOLDSMITH et al., "What Is Temperament? Four Approaches," Child Development, 58(2):505-29 (April 1987), reviews theories of temperament with attention to temperament-emotion relations; ALICE M. ISEN, KIMBERLY A. DAUBMAN, and GARY P. NOWICKI, "Positive Affect Facilitates Creative Problem Solving," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6):1122-31 (June 1987), exemplifies research showing how positive emotion facilitates creative thinking, empathy, and altruism; CARROLL E. IZARD, ELIZABETH A. HEMBREE, and ROBIN R. HUEBNER, "Infants' Emotion Expressions to Acute Pain: Developmental Change and Stability of Individual Differences," Developmental Psychology, 23(1):105-13 (January 1987), studies change and continuity in children's emotion expressions; WILLIAM JAMES, "What Is an Emotion?" Mind, 9:188-205 (1884), provides a classic definition of emotion that remains influential today; JEROME KAGAN, J. STEVEN REZNICK, and NANCY SNIDMAN, "Biological Bases of Childhood Shyness," Science, 240:167-71 (April 1988), summarizes a series of studies on biological bases and the continuity of shyness; and ROGER SPERRY, "Some Effects of Disconnecting the Cerebral Hemispheres," Science, 217:1223-26 (September 1982), discusses the effects of disconnecting cerebral hemispheres on mental and emotional experience.

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