Emotions Theorieslaws Of

term emotion derives from the Latin emovere, meaning to excite, to move, to agitate, or to stir up. Historically, the term emotion has defied exact definition, even though it is widely used as if implicit agreement existed, and most textbook authors employ it as the title of a chapter, allowing the material presented to be a substitute for a precise definition. Despite the long history of the concept of emotion, which goes back to the early Greek philosophers, as well as to Descartes' analysis of emotions into six passions of the soul (i.e., wonder, love, hate, desire, joy, sadness), there had been little discussion of emotion as theory. Modern interest in theories of emotion began with the writings of the American philosopher/psychologist William James (18421910), and there are currently a number of specific theoretical orientations toward emotion (see cross-referenced terms below). Current usage of the term emotion falls into two categories: the identification of several subjectively experienced states (e.g., fear, anger, love, surprise, disgust), and the reference to a field of scientific research that examines the physiological, behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors underlying the subjective aspects of emotion (cf., the Easterbrook hypothesis - the speculation that emotional arousal narrows one's focus of attention; Easterbrook, 1959; and the excitation transfer theory - holds that residual arousal from one setting may be attributed mistakenly to a subsequent emotional setting and, consequently, increasing the emotional response; also, cf., generalization principles; and the isopathic principle, also called the homeopathic principle, which states that a symptom may be relieved by the simple expression of the emotion that has been repressed, such as the mitigation of guilt - caused by hate - via an overt demonstration of hate). The definitions of terms in the second category amount to minitheories of emotion, where there seems to be consensus on at least four generally important factors for study: (1) instigating stimuli - both exogenous (external stimuli such as environmental events) and endogenous (internal stimuli such as images or thoughts); (2) physiological correlates - general biological systems (such as central and autonomic nervous system events) and specific action patterns (such as hypotha-lamic-thalamic interactions, that yield theories of emotion such as Papez's theory - named after the American psychologist J. W. Papez (1883-1958), and MacLean's theory - named after the American psychologist P. D. MacLean (1913- ); (3) cognitive appraisal - individualistic or personal significance of potential and actual emotional events (such as exhibiting fear reactions to caged lions at a zoo); and (4) motivational aspects - the organismic arousal associated with emotions is consistently associated with the activation involved in motivation (such as becoming angry for some reason and then displacing aggression onto an innocent bystander). In general, emotional states have other characteristics that distinguish them from allied concepts in the history of psychology. For example, emotions are acute (i.e., they are momentary conditions of high intensity), which sets them apart from sentiments (i.e., general complex dispositions toward action), feelings (i.e., general sensing or experiencing of events in the world such as happiness or well-being), and organized behaviors (i.e., nonerratic, non-chaotic, well-integrated, and controlled behavioral responses to the environment). Also, in general, emotions tend not to be cyclical or regular (aside from psychopathological conditions such as the affective disorders, which show inappropriate, chronic expression of an emo tional state), but seem in "normally" functioning individuals to be dependent on specific situations and are tied to one's particular personal perception and meaning. The difficulty in studying emotions is due to a number of causes and problems, prominent among which is the pervasive tendency by investigators to separate emotion from cognition or rational thought processes (cf., the aha experience/effect - an emotional response that occurs, typically, at the moment of sudden insight, generally following a long and tedious process of problem-solving; in psychotherapy, it is the sudden insight one has into one's unconscious motives). The physiological and psychological processes involved in emotion are most likely interrelated, and separation by theorists of emotion from these other aspects of experience may not be productive; rather, integration of the psychological and physiological realms in the study of emotions is a desideratum. It is interesting to note that recently, in only 30 years from 1954 to 1984, it is estimated that there have been at least 20 new theories of emotions advanced by psychologists. D. Coon provides a synthesis (contemporary model of emotions) of the main factors of several of the most popular theories of emotions in psychology. In this model, the following feedback sequence occurs in an emotional episode: an emotional stimulus triggers a cognitive appraisal of the situation, which then gives rise to arousal, behavior, facial/postural expressions, and emotional feelings. Arousal, behavior, and expressions then add to emotional feelings. Emotional feelings influence appraisal, which further affects arousal, behavior, expressions, and feelings. Sound circular? Some few writers argue that the study of emotions has achieved the status of lawful phenomena where the laws of emotion may now be cited. For example, N. H. Frijda describes the following set of laws of emotion: law of situational meaning; law of concern; law of reality; laws of change, habituation, and comparative feeling; law of hedonic asymmetry; law of conservatism of emotional momentum; law of closure; and the laws of care for consequence, of lightest load, and of greatest gain. Time will tell, perhaps, which of these laws of emotion, if any, will be acknowledged and honored by psychologists.


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