Emotions

Emotions

Perhaps all of us have experienced both positive and negative feelings. We all have felt joy, sorrow or fear. All these feelings represent emotions – feelings that generally have both physiological and cognitive elements and that influence behavior. So when we experience a feeling it is likely that there are changes, for example, in our heart rate. What is more, it probably involves some cognitive elements such as our understanding. However, it is possible to experience an emotion without the presence off cognitive elements. For example, we can react with fear to an unusual or new situation.

Some psychologists argue that only separate systems influence cognitive and emotional responses. The discussion is based on the question whether the emotional response predominates over the cognitive response or conversely. Some theorists suggest that we first respond to a situation with an emotional reaction and then try to understand it. Others believe that people first develop cognitions about a situation and then react emotionally. The quuestion isn‘t solved yet. Perhaps the sequence varies from situation to situation, with emotions predominating in some instances and cognitive processes occuring first in others. But both sides agree that we can experience emotions that involve little or no conscious th

hought.

The functions of emotions.
Emotions not only make our lives more interesting but also play some other important functions:
• Preparing us for action. Emotions act as a link between events in our environment and our responses.
• Shaping our future behavior. Emotions promote learning that will help us make appropriate responses in the future.
• Helping us interact more effectively with others. Our verbal and nonverbal behaviors can act as a signal to other people, allowing them to understand better what we are experiencing and to predict our future behavior.

Labeling feelings.
But there is one more challenge for psychologists – to make the list of words that identify the most important, fundamental emotions. There have been lots of discussions and theorists have come up with different lists, depending onn how they define the concept of emotion. Some of them reject the question entirely, saying that no set of emotions should be singled out as most basic, and that emotions are best understood by breaking them down into their component parts. Others look at emotions in terms of a hierarchy, dividing them into positive and negative categories, and then organizing them into narrower sub-categories. Still, most researchers suggest that a list of basic emotions would include, at least, happiness, an

nger, fear, sadness, and disgust. Hundreds of studies show that these emotions are distinct and identifiable.
One difficulty in defining emotions is the differences in descriptions among cultures. There are lots of ways to describe how we feel. It‘s interesting that the language we use to describe emotions is based on the physical symptoms.
Imagine the experience of a fear. Pretend that you are walking down a dark road in the evening and hear a stranger following you. You will probably think about what you will do if he try to rob or hurt you. While you are thinking about it, something is happening with your body as well. The most likely reactions include an increase in your rate of breathing, an acceleration of your heart rate, etc. All these physiological changes are likely to occur without your awareness. At the same time, the emotional experience accompanying them will be obvious: it‘s fear. But although it is easy to describe these physical reactions, defining the specific role that those responses play in the experience of emotions has proved to be a major puzzle for psychologists. Some of them sugest that specific bodily reactions cause us to experience a particular emotion, while others –
that the physiological reaction results from the experience of an emotion.

The James–Lange theory.
It states that emotional experience is a reaction to instinctive bodily events that occur as a response to some situation or event in the environment. We can summarize this in James‘s statement: „we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble“. James and Lange suggested that for every major emotion there is an accompanying physiological or „gut“ reaction of internal organs – called a visceral experience. It helps us to describe the emotional experience.
However, there are some serious drawbacks. For the theory to be valid, visceral changes would have to occur relatively quickly. Yet emotional experiences often occur even before certain physiological changes. So it is hard to see how they could be the reason of immediate emotional experience.
There is another difficulty: physiological arousal does not consistently produce emotional experience. For example, a person who is jogging has an increased heartbeat and he is breathing faster, but it isn‘t an emotion.
Finally, our internal organs produce a relatively limited range of sensations. Although some types of physiological changes are associated with specific emotion, it is difficult to imagine that all emotions could be the result of

f a unique visceral change.

The Cannon–Bard theory.
This theory rejects the view that physiological arousal alone leads to the perception of emotion. It assumes that both physiological arousal and the emotional experience are produced simultaneously by the same nerve stimulus, which they suggested emanates from the thalamus in the brain.
The theory states that after we perceive an emotion–producing stimulus, the thalamus is the initial site of the emotional response. Then it sends a signal to the autonomic nervous system, thereby producing a visceral response. At the same time, the thalamus also communicates a message to the cerebral cortex regarding the nature of the emotion being experienced. So it isn‘t necessary for different emotions to have unique physiological patterns associated with them – as long as the message sent to the cerebral cortex differs according to the specific emotion.
However, more recent research has led to some important modifications of the theory. It is now known that the hypothalamus and the limbic system, not the thalamus, play a major role in emotional experience. Moreover, the simultaneous occurence of the physiological arousal and emotional experience has yet to be demonstrated conclusively.

The Schachter–Singer theory.
It states that we identify emotions by observing environment and comparing ourselves with others. In one study participants were told that they would receive an injection of a vitamin. In reality, they were given epinephrine, a drug that causes an increase in physiological arousal. The members were divided into two groups. In one condition a confederate of the experimenter acted angry and hostile, and in other he behaved as if he were very happy.
The purpose was to determine how the participants would react emotionally to the confederate‘s behavior. When they were asked to describe their own emotions, the participants exposed to the angry confederate reported that they felt angry, while those exposed to the happy confederate reported feeling happy.
The results of this experiment supported a cognitive view of emotions, in which emotions are determined jointly by a relatively nonspecific kind of physiological arousal and the labeling of that arousal on the basis cues from the environment. It is clear that arousal can magnify, and be mistaken for, many emotions.

Contemporary perspectives on the neurological underpinnings of emotions.
Evidence is growing that specific patterns of biological arousal are associated with individual emotions. Researchers have found that specific emotions produce activation of very different parts of the brain. For example, happiness was related to a decrease in activity in certain areas of the cerebral cortex, whereas sadness was associated with increases in activity in particular portions of the cortex.
The amygdala is also important in the experience of emotions. It provides a link between the perception of an emotion–producing stimulus and the recall of that stimulus later. Because neural pathways connect the amygdala, the visual cortex, and the hippocampus, some scientists guess that emotion–related stimuli can be processed and responded to almost instantaneously.

Nonverbal behavior and the expression of emotions.
To know what people are experiencing we can by focusing attention on their nonverbal behavior (facial expressions, eye contact, body movements, tone of voice, etc.). So let‘s examine facial expressions‘ role in the experience of emotions.
Facial–affect program states that each primary emotion produces a unique set of muscular movements, forming the kinds of expressions. But there are some cultural differences in emotional expression. So it‘s easier to recognize emotions displayed by a member of our national, ethnic or regional group.
The use of different display rules provides another reason for these cultural differences. Display rules are the guidelines that govern the appropriateness of showing emotion nonverbally. They are learned during childhood and we all have plenty of practice, so, for example, we all can paste a smile on our faces when we receive an unwanted gift.
These display rules leaded to facial–feedback hypothesis. It states that facial expressions can reveal emotions. Emotional expression provides muscular feedback to the brain that helps produce an emotion congruent with that expression. Some theoriticians have gone even further, suggesting that facial expressions are necessary for an emotion to be experienced. So if you want to feel happy, try smiling. 

To sum up, there are lots of theories of emotion. As we now know emotions are close to motivation, cognition, neuroscience, and a host of related areas in psychology. Emotions are such complex phenomena that no single theory has been able to explain fully all the facets of emotional experience.

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