Emotion is the complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical (internal) and environmental (external) influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood, temperament, personality and disposition, and motivation. Motivations direct and energize behavior, while emotions provide the affective component to motivation, positive or negative.
- "Cognitive" versus "non-cognitive" emotions
- Instinctual emotions (from the amygdala), versus cognitive emotions (from the prefrontal cortex).
- Categorization based on duration: Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (for example, surprise), whereas others can last years (for example, love).
A related distinction is between the emotion and the results of the emotion, principally behaviors and emotional expressions. People often behave in certain ways as a direct result of their emotional state, such as crying, fighting or fleeing. If one can have the emotion without the corresponding behavior, then we may consider the behavior not to be essential to the emotion.The James–Lange theory posits that emotional experience is largely due to the experience of bodily changes. The "functionalist" approach to emotions (for example, Nico Frijda and Freitas-Magalhaes) holds that emotions have evolved for a particular function, such as to keep the subject safe.
Theories about emotions stretch back at least as far as the stoics of ancient Greece, as well as Plato and Aristotle. We also see sophisticated theories in the works of philosophers such as René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza and David Hume. Later theories of emotions tend to be informed by advances in empirical research. Often theories are not mutually exclusive and many researchers incorporate multiple perspectives (theories) in their work.
Somatic theories of emotion claim that bodily responses rather than judgements are essential to emotions. The first modern version of such theories comes from William James in the 1880s. The theory lost favor in the 20th century, but has regained popularity more recently due largely to theorists such as John Cacioppo, António Damásio, Joseph E. LeDoux and Robert Zajonc who are able to appeal to neurological evidence.
William James, in the article "What is an Emotion?", argued that emotional experience is largely due to the experience of bodily changes. The Danish psychologist Carl Lange also proposed a similar theory at around the same time, so this position is known as the James–Lange theory. This theory and its derivatives state that a changed situation leads to a changed bodily state. As James says "the perception of bodily changes as they occur is the emotion." James further claims that "we feel sad because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and neither we cry, strike, nor tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be."
This theory is supported by experiments in which by manipulating the bodily state, a desired emotion is induced. Such experiments also have therapeutic implications (for example, in laughter therapy, dance therapy). Some people may believe that emotions give rise to emotion-specific actions: e.g. "I'm crying because I'm sad," or "I ran away because I was scared." The James–Lange theory, conversely, asserts that first we react to a situation (running away and crying happen before the emotion), and then we interpret our actions into an emotional response. In this way, emotions serve to explain and organize our own actions to us.
The James–Lange theory has now been all but abandoned by most scholars.
Tim Dalgleish (2004) states the following:
The James–Lange theory has remained influential. Its main contribution is the emphasis it places on the embodiment of emotions, especially the argument that changes in the bodily concomitants of emotions can alter their experienced intensity. Most contemporary neuroscientists would endorse a modified James–Lange view in which bodily feedback modulates the experience of emotion." (p. 583)
The issue with the James–Lange theory is that of causation (bodily states causing emotions and being a priori), not that of the bodily influences on emotional experience (which can be argued is still quite prevalent today in biofeedback studies and embodiment theory).
Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain. If distinguished from reactive responses of reptiles, emotions would then be mammalian elaborations of general vertebrate arousal patterns, in which neurochemicals (for example, dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) step-up or step-down the brain's activity level, as visible in body movements, gestures, and postures.
For example, the emotion of love is proposed to be the expression of paleocircuits of the mammalian brain (specifically, modules of the cingulate gyrus) which facilitate the care, feeding, and grooming of offspring. Paleocircuits are neural platforms for bodily expression configured before the advent of cortical circuits for speech. They consist of pre-configured pathways or networks of nerve cells in the forebrain, brain stem and spinal cord.
The motor centers of reptiles react to sensory cues of vision, sound, touch, chemical, gravity, and motion with pre-set body movements and programmed postures. With the arrival of night-active mammals, smell replaced vision as the dominant sense, and a different way of responding arose from the olfactory sense, which is proposed to have developed into mammalian emotion and emotional memory. The mammalian brain invested heavily in olfaction to succeed at night as reptiles slept—one explanation for why olfactory lobes in mammalian brains are proportionally larger than in the reptiles. These odor pathways gradually formed the neural blueprint for what was later to become our limbic brain.
Emotions are thought to be related to certain activities in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behavior, and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Broca (1878), Papez (1937), and MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the center of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. More recent research has shown that some of these limbic structures are not as directly related to emotion as others are, while some non-limbic structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance.
There is ample evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is activated by stimuli that cause positive approach. If attractive stimuli can selectively activate a region of the brain, then logically the converse should hold, that selective activation of that region of the brain should cause a stimulus to be judged more positively. This was demonstrated for moderately attractive visual stimuli and replicated and extended to include negative stimuli.
Two neurobiological models of emotion in the prefrontal cortex made opposing predictions. The Valence Model predicted that anger, a negative emotion, would activate the right prefrontal cortex. The Direction Model predicted that anger, an approach emotion, would activate the left prefrontal cortex. The second model was supported.
This still left open the question of whether the opposite of approach in the prefrontal cortex is better described as moving away (Direction Model), as unmoving but with strength and resistance (Movement Model), or as unmoving with passive yielding (Action Tendency Model). Support for the Action Tendency Model (passivity related to right prefrontal activity) comes from research on shyness and research on behavioral inhibition. Research that tested the competing hypotheses generated by all four models also supported the Action Tendency Model.Homeostatic/primordial emotion
Another neurological approach distinguishes two classes of emotion. "Classical" emotions including love, anger and fear, are evoked by appraisal of scenarios fed by environmental stimuli via distance receptors in the eyes, nose and ears. "Homeostatic" or "primordial" emotions are feelings such as pain, hunger, thirst and fatigue, evoked by internal body states, communicated to the central nervous system by interoceptors, which motivate behavior aimed at maintaining the internal milieu at its ideal state. These demanding sensations that capture conscious attention are coordinated from the lower or basal regions of the brain and impact diverse regions of the brain, including the frontal lobes.
Several theories argue that cognitive activity—in the form of judgments, evaluations, or thoughts—is necessary for an emotion to occur. This, argued by Richard Lazarus, is necessary to capture the fact that emotions are about something or have intentionality. Such cognitive activity may be conscious or unconscious and may or may not take the form of conceptual processing.
An influential theory here is that of Lazarus: emotion is a disturbance that occurs in the following order: 1.) Cognitive appraisal—The individual assesses the event cognitively, which cues the emotion. 2.) Physiological changes—The cognitive reaction starts biological changes such as increased heart rate or pituitary adrenal response. 3.) Action—The individual feels the emotion and chooses how to react. For example: Jenny sees a snake. 1.) Jenny cognitively assesses the snake in her presence, which triggers fear. 2.) Her heart begins to race faster. Adrenaline pumps through her blood stream. 3.) Jenny screams and runs away. Lazarus stressed that the quality and intensity of emotions are controlled through cognitive processes. These processes underlie coping strategies that form the emotional reaction by altering the relationship between the person and the environment.
George Mandler provided an extensive theoretical and empirical discussion of emotion as influenced by cognition, consciousness, and the autonomic nervous system in two books (Mind and Emotion, 1975, and Mind and Body: Psychology of Emotion and Stress, 1984)
There are some theories on emotions arguing that cognitive activity in the form of judgements, evaluations, or thoughts is necessary in order for an emotion to occur. A prominent philosophical exponent is Robert C. Solomon (for example, The Passions, Emotions and the Meaning of Life, 1993). The theory proposed by Nico Frijda where appraisal leads to action tendencies is another example.
It has also been suggested that emotions (affect heuristics, feelings and gut-feeling reactions) are often used as shortcuts to process information and influence behavior. The affect infusion model (AIM) is a theoretical model developed by Joseph Forgas in the early 1990s that attempts to explain how emotion and mood interact with one's ability to process information.
A recent hybrid of the somatic and cognitive theories of emotion is the perceptual theory. This theory is neo-Jamesian in arguing that bodily responses are central to emotions, yet it emphasizes the meaningfulness of emotions or the idea that emotions are about something, as is recognized by cognitive theories. The novel claim of this theory is that conceptually-based cognition is unnecessary for such meaning. Rather the bodily changes themselves perceive the meaningful content of the emotion because of being causally triggered by certain situations. In this respect, emotions are held to be analogous to faculties such as vision or touch, which provide information about the relation between the subject and the world in various ways. A sophisticated defense of this view is found in philosopher Jesse Prinz's book Gut Reactions and psychologist James Laird's book Feelings.
Affective events theory
This a communication-based theory developed by Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano (1996), that looks at the causes, structures, and consequences of emotional experience (especially in work contexts). This theory suggests that emotions are influenced and caused by events which in turn influence attitudes and behaviors. This theoretical frame also emphasizes time in that human beings experience what they call emotion episodes—a "series of emotional states extended over time and organized around an underlying theme." This theory has been utilized by numerous researchers to better understand emotion from a communicative lens, and was reviewed further by Howard M. Weiss and Daniel J. Beal in their article, "Reflections on Affective Events Theory" published in Research on Emotion in Organizations in 2005.
In the Cannon–Bard theory, Walter Bradford Cannon argued against the dominance of the James–Lange theory regarding the physiological aspects of emotions in the second edition of Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage. Where James argued that emotional behavior often precedes or defines the emotion, Cannon and Bard argued that the emotion arises first and then stimulates typical behavior.
Another cognitive theory is the Singer–Schachter theory. This is based on experiments purportedly showing that subjects can have different emotional reactions despite being placed into the same physiological state with an injection of adrenaline. Subjects were observed to express either anger or amusement depending on whether another person in the situation displayed that emotion. Hence, the combination of the appraisal of the situation (cognitive) and the participants' reception of adrenaline or a placebo together determined the response. This experiment has been criticized in Jesse Prinz's (2004) Gut Reactions.Component process model
A recent version of the cognitive theory regards emotions more broadly as the synchronization of many different bodily and cognitive components. Emotions are identified with the overall process whereby low-level cognitive appraisals, in particular the processing of relevance, trigger bodily reactions, behaviors, feelings, and actions.
 Disciplinary approaches
Many different disciplines have produced work on the emotions. Human sciences study the role of emotions in mental processes, disorders, and neural mechanisms. In psychiatry, emotions are examined as part of the discipline's study and treatment of mental disorders in humans. Nursing studies emotions as part of its approach to the provision of holistic health care to humans. Psychology examines emotions from a scientific perspective by treating them as mental processes and behavior and they explore the underlying physiological and neurological processes. In neuroscience sub-fields such as social neuroscience and affective neuroscience, scientists study the neural mechanisms of emotion by combining neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood. In linguistics, the expression of emotion may change to the meaning of sounds. In education, the role of emotions in relation to learning are examined.
Social sciences often examine emotion for the role that it plays in human culture and social interactions. In sociology, emotions are examined for the role they play in human society, social patterns and interactions, and culture. In anthropology, the study of humanity, scholars use ethnography to undertake contextual analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of a range of human activities; some anthropology studies examine the role of emotions in human activities. In the field of communication sciences, critical organizational scholars have examined the role of emotions in organizations, from the perspectives of managers, employees, and even customers. A focus on emotions in organizations can be credited to Arlie Russell Hochschild's concept of emotional labor. The University of Queensland hosts EmoNet, an e-mail distribution list representing a network of academics that facilitates scholarly discussion of all matters relating to the study of emotion in organizational settings. The list was established in January 1997 and has over 700 members from across the globe.
In economics, the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, emotions are analyzed in some sub-fields of microeconomics, in order to assess the role of emotions on purchase decision-making and risk perception. In criminology, a social science approach to the study of crime, scholars often draw on behavioral sciences, sociology, and psychology; emotions are examined in criminology issues su