In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Meaning and Definitions of Emotions 2. Characteristics of Emotions 3. Kinds 4. Importance 5. Theories.
Meaning and Definitions of Emotions:
Emotion plays a major role in influencing our behaviour. Life would be dreary without feelings like joy and sorrow, excitement and disappointment, love and fear, hope and dismay. Emotion adds colour and spice to life.
Emotions are feelings such as happiness, disappointment and sorrow that generally have both physiological and cognitive elements that influence behaviour. The word emotion is derived from the Latin word ‘Emover’ which means to stir up’ or to excite’. Emotion can be understood as an agitated or excited state of our mind and body.
1. Charles G Morris:
“Emotion is a complete effective experience that involves diffuse physiological changes and can be expressed overtly in characteristic behaviour patterns”.
2. Crow and Crow:
“Emotion is an affective experience that accompanies generalized linear adjustment and mental and physiological stirred up states in the individual and that shows itself in his overt behaviour”.
“Emotion is a ‘Moved or ‘stirred up’ state of an organism. It is a stirred up feeling, that is the way it appears to the individual himself. It is a disturbed muscular and glandular activities, that is the way it appears to an external observer”.
Emotion is an affective experience that one undergoes during an instinctive excitement. For example, when a child perceives a bull coming towards him (cognition) he experiences an affective experience in the form of the arousal of accompanied emotion of fear and consequently tries to run away. McDougall discovered 14 basic instincts and concluded that each and every emotion, whatever it may be is the product of some instinctive behaviour.
These instincts, with their associated emotions, are listed as follows:
On the basis of these definitions, emotions can be understood as some sort of feelings or affective experiences which are characterized by some physiological changes that generally lead them to perform some or the other types of behavioural acts.
Characteristics of Emotions:
Some of the important characteristics of emotions are as follows:
1. Emotional experiences are associated with some instincts:
Every emotional experience is associated with one or the other innate instinct. An emotion is aroused under the influence of an instinctive excitement. One can experience emotion of anger only after riding on the instinctive waves of pugnacity or combat.
2. Emotions are the product of perception:
Perception of a proper stimulus (object or situation) is needed to start an emotional experience. The organic changes within the body (favourable or unfavourable) then, may intensify the emotional experience.
3. Emotions bring physiological changes:
Every emotional experience involves many physical and physiological changes in the organism. Some of the changes which express themselves as overt behaviour are easily observable. For example, the heart beating, reddened eyes, flushed cheeks, choke in the voice, or an attack on an emotion aroused stimulus.
In addition to these easily observable changes, there are internal physiological changes, e.g. changes in the circulation of blood, impact on the digestive system and changes in the functioning of some glands like adrenal glands.
4. The core of an emotion is feeling:
Actually every emotional experience, whatever it may be involves feelings—a sense of response aroused in the heart. Feeling and emotions—both are affective experiences. There is only the difference of degrees. After perceiving a thing or a situation, pleasure or displeasure feelings can be aroused. There may be some intensity or degree of strength in these feelings.
Some Other Characteristics of Emotions:
1. Emotions are prevalent in every living organism.
2. They are present at all stages of development and can be aroused in young as well as in old.
3. One emotion can give rise to a number of similar emotions.
4. Emotions are individualistic, and they differ from person to person.
5. Emotions rise abruptly but subside slowly. An emotion once aroused, tends to persist and leaves behind an emotional need.
6. Some emotions can be aroused by a number of different stimuli, objects or situations.
7. There is a negative connection between the upsurge of emotions and intelligence. Reasoning and sharp intellect can check sudden upsurge of emotions. Also under emotional experiences, the reasoning and thinking powers are decreased.
8. Emotions have the quality of displacement. The anger aroused on account of one stimulus gets transferred to another situation. The anger resulting from being rebuked by the boss gets transferred to beat the children at home.
Kinds of Emotions:
Emotions have both positive as well as negative effects.
1. Negative emotions:
Unpleasant emotions like fear, anger and jealousy which are harmful to the individual’s development are termed as negative emotions.
2. Positive emotions:
The pleasant emotions like affection (love), amusement, curiosity and happiness which are very helpful and essential for normal development are termed as positive emotions.
By their nature of being both positive and negative, it should not be assumed that all the positive emotions are always good; and the negative emotions are bad. While weighing their impact, other factors like frequency and intensity, nature of situations and the stimuli aroused should also be considered. Excess of everything is bad.
Emotions with too much of intensity and frequency, whether positive or negative, bring harmful effects. But the so-called negative emotions are essential for human welfare. The emotion of fear prepares an individual to face the danger ahead. The child who has no emotions of fear is sure to get affected because it does not learn to save itself against a possible danger.
Importance of Emotions:
Emotions occupy a very important position in a person’s life, as they motivate many in their job endeavors. A person in love makes sacrifices for the object of his love. The love of their offspring spurs the parents to great sacrifices.
Emotions have a stimulating effect, for example, a person who is in a happy state of mind invariably makes others also happy and sees happiness around him. Similarly, a person who is angry makes others angry. Thus emotion is contagious. Emotions also play a crucial role in creative and artistic activities.
The ability to understand and interpret the emotional states of others is very important in our social life. It is clear that emotions play a major role in our behaviour and in understanding other’s behaviour. Sometimes, emotions are beneficial and at other times they are harmful.
It depends on the intensities and duration of emotion. When emotion becomes intense, whether pleasant or unpleasant, they usually result in some description of thought or behaviour. So also when emotions are prolonged or excessive they do harm because of the sustained physiological changes that accompany them.
Theories of Emotions:
(a) James-Lange theory of emotion:
One of the earliest theories of emotion was started by the American Psychologist William James as “we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble” this theory presented in the late 19th century by James and the Spanish psychologist Carl Lange. This theory proposes the following events in emotional states.
Perceiving an emotion inducing event or situation.
(b) Cannon-Bard theory of emotions:
In response to the difficulties seen in the James-Lange theory, Walter Cannon and later Philip Bard suggested an alternative view. Their theory assumes that both physiological arousal and the emotional experience are produced simultaneously by the same nerve impulse, which cannon and Bard said it starts in the brain from thalamus.
According to the theory, after an emotion inducing stimulus is perceived the thalamus initiates the emotional response. In turn, the thalamus sends a signal to the automatic nervous system thereby producing a physiological response. At the same time the thalamus communicates a message to the cerebral cortex regarding the nature of the emotion being expressed.
In contrast, the James-Lange theory holds that bodily reactions are not the base of felt emotions. This theory has led to a lot of research but now we understand that it is the hypothalamus and the limbic system and not the thalamus that plays a major role in emotional experience, also that the physiological and emotional responses occur at the same time has yet to be conclusively demonstrated.
Perceiving an emotion inducing an event or situation.
(c) Schachter-Singer theory of emotion:
This theory maintains that the emotion we feel is due to our interpretation of an arousal or stirred up. Bodily state of emotion arousal is much the same for most of the emotions we feel that even if there are physiological differences in the body’s pattern of responses, people cannot perceive them.
Since the bodily changes are ambiguous, the theory says any number of emotions can be felt from stirred up bodily condition. People are said to have different subjective felt emotions because of difference in the way they interpret and label a particular state of arousal. We experience the emotion that seems appropriate to the situation in which we find ourselves.
Perceiving an emotion inducing event to situation.
The sequence of events in the production of emotional feeling according to this theory:
a. Perception of a potential emotion producing situation.
b. An aroused bodily state which results from this perception and which is ambiguous.
c. Interpretation and labelling of the bodily states so that it fits the perceived situation.
Schachter and Singer devised an experiment to test this theory. In the study, subjects were told that they would receive an injection of a vitamin called suproxin. In reality, they were given epinephrine, a drug that causes an increase in physiological arousal including higher heart rate, respiration rates and a reduced facies, responses that typically occur during strong emotional reaction. Although one group of subjects was informed of the actual effects of drugs, another was not informed.
Subject in both the groups was then individually placed where an assistant of the experimenter acted in one or two ways. In one condition he acted angry and hostile that he would refuse to answer the personal questions on a questionnaire that the experimenter has asked him to complete. In the other condition his behaviour was quite the opposite. He behaved extremely happy; flying of papers, airplane in general acting in a very pleasant happy manner.
The purpose of the experiment was to determine how the subjects would react emotionally to the assistant’s behaviour. When they were asked to describe their own emotional state at the end of the experiments.
Subjects who had been told of the effects of the drugs were un-effected by the behaviour of the assistant. They thought their psychological arousal was due to the drug, and therefore, did not have the need to find reasons for their arousal. Hence they reported experiencing no emotion.
On the other hand, subject who had not been told of the drugs real effects was influenced by the assistant’s behaviour. The subjects exposed to the angry assistant reported that they felt angry. While those exposed to happy assistant felt happy. The result suggests that uniform subjects turned to the environment and the behaviour of others of expectations of the physiological arousal they were permitted.
The result of the Schachter experiments support a cognitive view of emotion in which emotions are determined jointly by a relatively non-specific kind of psychological arousal and labelling of the arousal based on the cues from the environment.
(d) Cognitive appraisal theory of emotion:
This theory emphasizes the appraisal of information from several sources, since appraisal involves cognition or the processing of information from the environment, memory and the body, this theory is a cognitive one. The theory says that the emotions we feel result from appraisal of the environmental situation and within the body.
(e) Donald B Lindsley’s theory of activation:
The implications of the Cannon- Bard theory are suggesting that “emotions serve an emergency function by preparing the organism for appropriate action” led the way to the modern activation theory of emotion. The theory was actually propounded in 1951 by Donald B Lindsley.
In general, activation theory refers to the view that emotion represents a state of heightened arousal rather than a qualitatively unique type of psychological, physiological or behavioural process. Arousal is considered to lie on a wide continuum, ranging from a very low level such as deep sleep, to such extremely agitated states as rage or extreme anger.
Emotion-provoking stimuli activate the reticular activating system in the brain stem which in turn sends impulses both upward, towards the cortex and downward, towards the musculature. To evoke a significant emotional behaviour, the reticular system must be properly activated. However, the activating system tries to serve only a general function and the specific structures in the brain organize the input and determine the particular form of emotion to be expressed.