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what is an emotion?

Oxford Eng Dictionary: ‘a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood/r’ships with others, instinctive/intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning/knowledge’
– Occurs in response to an event
– Also, subject experience – physical changes
– Indv diffs


stages of emotional processing


affective state


stimulus presentation


the expression of the emotions in man and animals (Darwin, 1972)

Suggested emotional expressions conserved across humans in diff cultures and of diff ages

Emotions evolved for adaptive value in dealing with fundamental life stats (aids survival)

Cross-species similarities in emotional expression (emotions evolved)

Emotions signify what the animal is likely to do next – if behavs beneficial they become effective means of communication and original function/associated action may be lost – opposing messages often signalled by opposing movements/postures

Animals convert emotion based on action about to take


basic emotions exist across cultures

(Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise)

Basic emotions innate neural and bodily states that are elicited rapidly and automatically in response to certain stimuli/stations

Should be universal, automatic and have discrete neural and/ bodily state associated with them


basic emotions exist across cultures - Ekman and Friesen (1971/2)

Spontaneous expressions

Tribesmen from Papua New Guinea posed emotions - shown to American undergrads – could identify expressions – never met – can be generalised


indv functions of emotions

Expressions change info taken in, e.g.:
- Widening of eyes in fear helps to detect threat
- Wrinkling of eyes and nose in disgust helps us avoid ingesting contaminating stimuli
- Senses more alert

Emotions adapt behaviour to help achieve goals


indv functions of emotions - Oatley and Johnson-Laird (1987)

Cognitive Theory of Emotion
- Emotions evolved to help indvs chances of survival by managing behaviour to meet one’s goals
- Specific emotions occur to adapt behaviour when progress on specific types of goals interrupted


basic emotions exist across cultures but there are culture-specific 'display rules'

Diffs in display of emotions that may be culturally bound

Gender diffs in emotion reg and expression believed to be rooted in bio and social/cultural factors


what sort of evidence would suggest that emotions are innate?

Blind people use same emotional expressions
- Expressions hard-wired into genes
- High degree of correlation

Babies expressions – crying and smiles
- Facial expressions develop in the womb


classification of emotions

Simple dual-system theories, e.g. Schneirla (1959) categorise emotions in terms of approach and withdrawal

Jeffrey Gray (1970/80s)
- Behavioural approach (reward) and inhibition (punishment) systems (distinct brain circuits)

Davidson’s ‘valence-asymmetry hypothesis’
- Left-sided prefrontal cortex = approach-related (pos) goals and right-sided PFC = goals requiring inhibition and withdrawal (neg)
- Left and right hem involved in diff emotions


circumplex model

(James Russell, 1980)

some neg emotions can be associated with approach responses so more complex models have been proposed, with 2 axes/dimensions – arousal and valence

Widespread support


the role of facial expressions of emotion

Lack of replication of embodying emotion study


emotion expression - Ekman et al. (1980)

Do facial expressions reflect emotional experience?

Ps watched movies (pos and neg)
- Self-reported subjective experience
- Facial expressions while watching movies videoed
- Coded using FACS – Facial Action Coding System

Ps who showed particular smile movement (‘action unit 12’) reported more happiness

Ps who showed more ‘neg’ facial movements reported more neg emotion


emotion expressions - Fridlund (1991)

Are facial expressions shaped by social context?
- Ps viewed ‘pleasant’ video
- 4 conditions:
1. Alone
2. Alone but believing friend nearby doing another task
3. Alone but believing friend also watching same tape
4. Watching tape with friend
- Smiling measured by EMG
- Smiling increased as settings became more social
- Not as function of self-reported emotion

Smiling affected by context (audience) more than by actual felt emotion?
- Argues facial expressions communicate motives, rather than emotion states


emotion expression - Hess et al. (1995)

Similar paradigm to Fridlund

- Also varied intensity of emotional stimuli
- Slightly funny v very funny
- And r’ship to other P
- Friend or stranger

- Skin conductance
- Self-reported emotions

- Intensity of smiling affected by sociality of context
- But also (more strongly) by funniness of film
- Social context and internal emotion state play a role
- But effects only emerge with friends
- Emotion expression influenced by emotion state, social context, and r’ship with audience


measuring emotional expressions - Ekman and friesen (1978)

Developed FACS

Other tools also developed

- Facial EMG measures subtle activity in corrugator (frown) and zygomatic (smile) muscles
- EMG pos correlated with emotion perception ability and shows gender diffs (fem > male)
- Measures muscle activity by detecting and amplifying tiny electrical impulses that are generated by muscle fibres when they contract


measuring emotional expressions - Kunecke et al. (2014)

Pos correlation between activity in corrugator and average emotion classification accuracy in response to angry and sad faces

Not sig in response to happy faces


emotions also social

Emotional expressions key form of interpersonal communication, so it’s imp to consider social functions of emotions


social functions of emotions

Wide eyes in fear = threat signal, white of eye helps to quickly direct attention to gaze location

Happy/angry = reinforcers (distinguished from 3 months old) – changing an infant’s behav (operant conditioning)

Sadness = elicits caregiving – increase affiliative bonds when support needed


James-Lange theory (1885)

Emotions = sets of bodily responses that occur in response to emotive stimuli

Diff patterns of bodily change code diff emotions

‘The bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and our feeling of the changes as they occur is the emotion’


facial expressions can be differentiated on the basis of evoked HR response - Critchley et al. (2005)

HR for correctly identified sad and angry faces > happy or disgusted faces

Expressions of disgust mis-identified as sadness/anger evoked HR changes more typical of sadness and anger than disgust, as predicted by the James-Lange model


Cannon-Bard theory (1920s)

Cannon argued against James because:
- Emotions occurred even if brain disconnected from viscera (internal organs)
- Bodily changes not emotion-specific
- Bodily changes too slow
- Stimulation of bodily change doesn’t  emotions

- Emotions occurred even if brain disconnected from viscera (less intense)
- Bodily changes not emotion-specific (they are partly)
- Bodily changes too slow
- Stimulation of bodily change doesn’t  emotions (i.e. CCK  panic)

Emotions depend on brain mechanisms


2-factor theory of emotion - Schachter and Singer (1962)

Gave (misinformed) Ps adrenaline injections; resulting arousal/emotions interpreted on basis of contextual cues (provided by stooges)

Emotion is function of both cog factors (appraisal) and phys arousal

‘People search immediate env for emotionally relevant cues to label and interpret unexplained phys arousal’


appraisal and emotion - Lazarus (1991)

Relational meaning
- Emotions not caused by events in env
- /by intra-psychic factors (i.e. within indv)
- But by person-env r’ships that can change over time and circumstances
- Emotion rooted in appraisal


appraisal for emotion - necessary? - Strack et al. (1988)

Hold pen in mouth or teeth exp

Some replication failures


the emotional brain

Limbic system – earliest suggested emotion networks in the brain

MacLean proposed limbic system integrates sensations from world with info from body to generate emotional experience


Papez neural circuit of emotion (1937)

Sensory messages concerning emotional stimuli that arrive at thalamus directed to both cortex (thinking) and hypothalamus (feeling)

Feelings occur when cingulate cortex integrates signals from hypothalamus with info from sensory cortex

Cingulate cortex projections to hippocampus and hypothalamus mediate top-down control of emotional responses


modern affective neuroscience

Brain imaging

Behavioural exps

Lesion studies

Electrophys recordings


amygdala - plays an imp role in emotion processing

Amygdala lesions in monkeys  changes in social behav (Kluver-Bucy syndrome): Hyper-orality, social disinhibition, absence of emotional motor and vocal (e.g. fear) reactions

Lesions in humans result in emotional blunting and reduced fear conditioning, impaired perception of facial expressions of fear

Electrical stimulation results in autonomic reactions associated with feelings of fear


Joseph LeDoux - 2 amygdala pathways (1986)

Quick and dirty’ subconscious route for fear stimuli to reach amygdala and subsequently affect behaviour via outputs to motor/phys structures – e.g. the sight of a snake on a dirt path with travel from the visual thalamus to the amygdala in a few thousandths of a s

Human amygdala contains cells that fire in response to facial expressions and may also react to objects of fear

Phys fear response triggered before person consciously aware of snake

Second slower pathways travels from thalamus to visual cortex and then to amygdala – stimulus analysed in detail and message relayed to amygdala

Abort signals if not needed