Nature of emotion

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Transcript of Nature of emotion

Welcome to Psychology 102

Motivation & Emotion

Dr James NeillCentre for Applied PsychologyUniversity of Canberra2016

Image source

Nature of emotion

Image source: by: Vassil, Image license: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0, This lecture is based in part on instructor resource slides from Wiley.

Wednesday 21 September, 2016, 13:30-15:30, 12B27124-6665 Motivation and Emotion / GCentre for Applied PsychologyFaculty of HealthUniversity of CanberraBruce, ACT 2601, Australiaph: +61 2 6201

Nature of emotion:
Six perennial questions

Reading:Reeve (2015)
Ch 12(pp. 337-368)

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Outline Nature of emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 337-338)

What is an emotion?Key questions


Emotion & motivation

What causes an emotion?Two-systems view

Chicken-&-egg problem

What ends an emotion?

How many emotions?Biological perspective

Cognitive perspective

Reconciliation of #s

What good are emotions?Coping functions

Social functions

Why we have emotions

Can we control our emotions?Emotion regulation strategies

Difference between emotion & mood?Everyday mood

Positive affect

Key questions

Based on Reeve (2015, p. 339)

6. What is the diff. between emotion & mood?2. What causes an emotion?4. What good are the emotions?3. How many emotions are there?1. What is an emotion?5. Can we control our emotions?

More questions

5. How are the emotions of animals & humans similar and how do they vary?2. What are the consequences of emotions?4. How and why did emotions evolve?3. How can emotion be changed?1. How can emotion be measured?

What is an emotion?

FeelingsSubjective experience

Phenomenological awareness

Cognitive interpretation

Bodily arousalBodily preparation for action

Physiological activiation

Motor responses


Sense of purposeImpulse to action

Goal-directed motivational state

Functional aspect to coping

Significantlife event

Based on Reeve (2015, Figure 12.1 Four components of emotion, p. 340)

Social-expressiveSocial communication

Facial expression

Vocal expression

A distinct pattern of neural activity

Separation from a loved one, failure on an important task

Four components of sadness



Feeling of distress

Bodily arousalDecreased heart rate

Low energy level


Sense of purposeDesire to take action to overcome or reverse the separation or failure.

Based on Reeve (2015, Figure 12.2 Four components of sadness, p. 342)

Social-expressiveInner eyebrows raises

Corners of lips lowered

Lower lip pouting and trembling

Increased activation in medial prefrontal cortex

Definition of emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 340)

Emotions are short-lived, feeling-purposive-expressive-bodily responses that help us adapt to the opportunities and challenges we face during important life events.

Definition of emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 342)

Emotions are the synchronised brain-based systems that coordinate feeling, bodily response, purpose, and expression so as to ready the individual to adapt successfully to life circumstances.

Definition of emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 342)

Emotions are short-lived psychological-physiological phenomena that represent efficient modes of adaptation to changing environmental demands.
- Levenson (1994, p. 123)

Relationship between
motivation & emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, p. 343)

Emotions are one type of motive which energises and directs behaviour. Emotion as motivationEmotions serve as an ongoing readout to indicate how well or how poorly personal adaptation is going.Emotion as readoutEmotion as motivation some researchers argue that emotions constitute the primary motivational system

What causes an emotion?

Based on Reeve (2015, Figure 12.3, Causes of the emotion experience, p. 344)

Distinct pattern of neural activityCognitiveprocessesBiologicalprocessesFeelings

Sense of purpose

Bodily arousal



Also consider biological, psychoevolutionary, cognitive, developmental, psychoanalytical, social, sociological, cultural, and anthropological.

Biological and cognitive perspectives

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 344-346)

Biology lies at the causal core of emotion.
(e.g., neurotransmitters)Izard (1989)
- infants

Ekman (1992)
- emotions happen to us

Panksepp (1982, 1994)
- genetically-endowed neural circuits

Cognitive activity is a necessary prerequisite to emotion.Lazarus (1984, 1991a, 1991b)
- appraisal needed

Scherer (1994a, 1994b, 1997)
- specific appraisals (good/bad, cope, morality)

Weiner (1986)
- attribution

BiologyIzard 3-week old infants smile in response to a high pitched voice and a 2-month-old expresses anger in response to pain (other authors)Ekman emotions have rapid onsets, brief duration, and can occur automatically/involuntarilyPanksepp brain circuits provide the essential biological underpinnings for emotional experience e.g., brain-anger circuit, brain-fear circuit, brain-sadness circuit etc.:1. Emotional states are often difficult to verbalise2. Emotions can be induced via non-cognitive procedures e.g., electrical stimulation of brain or activity of facial musculature3. Emotions occur in infants and non-human animals

CognitionCognitive activity is a necessary prerequisit to emotionLazarus Without an understanding of personal relevance of an event's potential impact on PWB, there is no reason to respond emotionally; Stimuli appraised as irrelevent do not elicit emotions Cognitive appraisal sets the stage for emotionScherer specific appraisals matter for emotionWeiner Post-hoc attributions determine emotion

Two-systems view (Buck, 1984)

Based on Reeve (2015, Figure 12.4, Two systems view of emotion, p. 345)

Social, cultural learning history of the individual

Cortical structures and pathways

Evaluative, interpretive, & conscious evaluation of the meaning & personal significance of the stimulus eventEvolutionary, phylogenetic history of the species

Sub-cortical structures and pathways

Instantaneous, automatic, & unconscious reaction to sensory characteristics of the stimulus eventSignificantstimulus event

Parallel, interactive, & coordinated output to activate and regulate emotion

Innate systemLearnedsystemIn answer to question What causes an emotion?Buck: Two complementary systems, one innate, one learned

Two-systems view

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 344-345)

Levenson (1994)the two systems influence one another

Panksepp (1994)some emotions are primarily from the biological system (e.g., fear and anger), whilst

other emotions arise from experience, modeling and culture (e.g., gratitude and hope).

Feedback loop in emotion

Based on Reeve (2015, Figure 12.5 Feedback loop in emotion, p. 346)

Emotion is a chain of events that aggregate into a complex feedback system.


Preparation for action


Expressive displays

Overt behavioural activity



Can intervene at any point.

Cognition vs. biology debate:A chicken-&-egg problem (Plutchik, 1985)

How many emotions are there?

Based on Reeve (2009, pp. 308-312)

Biological perspectiveEmphasises a small # (2 to 10) of primary, universal emotions

Emotion is a bi-product of biology & evolution.

Downplays secondary or acquired emotions.

perspectiveSuggests that there are many, varied emotions which arise in response to different meaning structures

Acknowledges importance of the primary emotions, but stresses the complex (secondary, acquired) emotions

Biological perspective:8 research traditions in the biological study of emotion (see Table 12.1, Reeve (2015))

Cognitive perspective9 research traditions in the cognitive study of emotion (see Figure 11.7, Reeve (2015))

Reconciliation of the numbers issue

Based on Reeve (2015, pp. 350-351)

Emotion families

Each basic emotion represents a family of emotions that revolve around a particular theme (biologically rooted, but cognitively nuanced).Basic emotions

Basic emotions each have a subcortical brain circuit that is rooted in evolutionary adaptation to major life tasks and that has automatic connections with feelings, expressions, bodily preparations, and motivational action tendencies.

Similiar to criteria for intelligence?

Wheel of emotions

Basic emotions criteria

Based on Reeve (2015, p. 351)

Distinct facial expression

Distinct pattern of physiology

Automatic (unlearned) appraisal

Distinct antecedent cause

Inescapable (inevitable) activiation

Presence in other primates

Rapid onset