What Do Our Emotions Do For Us?



Emotions serve as arousal states that help organisms cope with reoccurring situations. Emotions have evolved from aiding our responses during difficult situations to helping convey our intentions to others. However, emotions are not entirely biological; they also involve learning. All emotions involve a state of mental and physical arousal focused on some event of importance to the individual. The "feeling" component of emotions comes from two sources: the brain sensing the body's state of arousal and memories of the body's state in similar situations from the past. Emotions have a survival value and have been reinforced through natural selection. Observational learning and genetics both play a role in determining an individual's emotions. Emotions create expressions, which aid in social interaction. Around the world, people can recognize and name seven "universal" facial expressions. They are able to read a person's emotion by the look on their face, which can allow you to know how to respond to their actions (an example of emotional intelligence which you will learn later in this chapter). Paul Ekman, the leading researcher in facial language, suggests that
the seven basic universal emotions are fear, anger, disgust, contempt, joy, sadness, and surprise. However, the expressions of these emotions are affected by display rules. For example, in America, a smile would usually mean happiness, while in places such as China, a smile may mean embarrassment. Also, in the Asian culture, children are taught to control emotional responses (especially negative ones) while American children are encouraged to express their feelings more openly. Regardless of the limits culture places on the expression of emotions, people's behaviors usually show their emotions to some degree. While Ekman claims that only seven emotions are considered universal, Robert Plutchik believed that there were ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍eight basic emotions; joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. ‍‍‍‍‍He arranged them all on the inner ring of what he called an "emotion wheel," where every two of the eight combine to form more complex emotions on an outer ring. For example, sadness and surprise would equal disappointment. Emotions may also differ between sexes; these differences may have been derived from both biology and culture. The biological basis of the differences in emotions between males and females explains why certain emotional disturbances occur more commonly in women and why men show a more heightened level of anger and physiological arousal. Emotion also differs between cultures, and this difference is greater than between the sexes. Nevertheless, cultural guidelines for emotional display and control also play a key role. In some cultures, boys might be reinforced for emotional displays of dominance/superiority and punished for emotional displays that show weakness. On the other hand, women might be encouraged to display emotions of vulnerability or weakness, such as a stereotypical "damsel in distress" would.

Where Do Our Emotions Come From?

Emotions operate on a visceral level (a natural, bodily response), and on a conscious level (an intentionally conceived response). The discovery of two distinct brain pathways for emotional arousal has clarified the connections among the many biological structures involved in emotion and has offered solutions to many of the long-standing issues in the psychology of emotion. The
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visceral level is the fast response system that operates mainly at an unconscious level and quickly screens incoming stimuli. In addition, it helps one respond rapidly to cues of potentially important events before they reach consciousness. This unconscious system is linked to implicit memory because it involves material that we are unaware of while affecting our behavior simultaneously. Learned emotional responses can be emphasized and learned fast through classical conditioning but can also be slow to forget. In contrast, the conscious level of emotional processing is closely linked to explicit memory. In this process, emotions are generated more slowly, but it delivers more complete information by attaching emotions to concepts and ideas. These two systems interact and give way to the feelings we associate with the feeling of intuition. In these circuits, different parts of the brain play major roles:
  • The limbic system serves as the control mechanism for the body's attack, defense, and retreat function. It is also known as the "fight-or-flight" response. When parts of the limbic system are electrically stimulated, dramatic changes in emotions are produced. Both emotion pathways rely on circuits in the brains limbic system.
    • The amygdala is the part of the limbic system that prepares to deal with threats. It occupies an important position in the processing of our emotions. It receives messages from both the visceral emotion processing pathway and the conscious emotion processing pathway.
  • Emotional reactions, including both anger and fear, are detected by the reticular formation, which works with the thalamus and amygdala to observe incoming information. When a threat is detected, the reticular formation is what sets off, automatic physiological arousal. In return, it may increase heart rate, tense muscles, and trigger sweat and/or a dry mouth.
  • The cerebral cortex is the main part of the brain involved in the conscious emotion pathway. It analyzes events and links them to memories and feelings. The different emotions attached to the events are split between the two cerebral hemispheres. In general, positive emotions are influenced by the left hemisphere and negative emotions are influenced by the right hemisphere. This idea is called lateralization of emotion.
  • The parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system controls pleasant emotions, like joy. In contrast, the sympathetic division controls more unpleasant emotions, such as anger.
  • Serotonin, adrenaline, and norepinephrine are the most important hormones associated with emotions and each of them work to prepare the body to react in emergency situations.

There have been many debates regarding emotions and motives. Early psychologists, such as William James, thought that the behavioral expression part of "emotion" is what causes our subjective feeling (e.g. We cry, therefore, we are sad). Danish psychologist Carl Lange agreed with this view, later named the James-Lange theory, which states that a stimulus causes an instinctive physical reaction, which in turn causes an emotional response. However, other psychologists felt that our physical responses occur too slowly to be the cause of our emotional feelings. The Cannon-Bard theory disagrees with the James-Lange theory and states that emotional feeling and physical responses occur simultaneously; one does not cause the other. Science has proven both theories to be partially correct. It has been confirmed that our physical state can influence our emotions. Certain emotions arise from portions of the brain that respond unconsciously to our physical state. However, emotions can be aroused by external cues. Some psychologists, such as Stanley Schachter, feel that our emotions arise from our internal physical state and the external situation in which we find ourselves; this idea is described as the two-factor theory. Frijda and Lazarus advocated the cognitive appraisal theory, suggesting that we make a conscious decision about how to feel based upon our assessment of the event. In primary appraisal, we look at how the event affects us, and in secondary appraisal, we look at how we deal with the event. The opponent process theory supports the idea that emotions have pairs (e.g. happy/sad) and that feeling one emotion will result in the other being repressed. In close relation, the Inverted U Function is used to explain the connection between arousal and performance. It helps to explain one way in which the emotion and cognition pathways are connected, suggesting the idea that either too much or too little arousal can impair performance. Some people may even have a biological need for high arousal; they're called Sensation Seekers.


How Much Control Do We Have Over Our Emotions?
Emotional responses may not always be consciously managed but we can learn to control them. Emotional control has an important role in our ability to interact with people. Emotional Intelligence is the aptitude to comprehend and regulate emotional responses. Someone with high emotional intelligence may be an expert at their own emotions and those of others, but they also have the ability to handle their negative feelings and restrain themselves from improper expression of their emotions. The "Marshmallow Test" discussed by psychologist Daniel Goleman showed that children who displayed the ability to resist the temptation of an immediate marshmallow and wait for a second marshmallow were better off later in life with academics, self-reliance, and relationships than their more impulsive counterparts. The children that took the marshmallow immediately, displayed more frustration and struggled later in life. Daniel Goleman suggested that impulse control is an important component of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence also acts as a variable, which can be utilized in understanding and predicting behavior. Though most people are not very good at detecting when someone lies or tells the truth, deception detection experts find that someone who is deliberately dishonest may "leak" uncontrolled nonverbal signals of deception. Observing patterns of a person's behavior and their deception cues are helpful in judging one's honesty. The polygraph, which is often called a "lie detector", uses physical cues, as opposed to the behavioral cues mentioned above, to determine if those tested are in a state of emotional arousal. Polygraphs don't actually detect lies, but simply monitor unconscious responses such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration to ascertain if the subject has a physical response to a line of questioning, which may indicate an emotional response as well. Although this is not always accurate, many times the interview will start off with a series of loaded questions to provoke obvious emotional reactions.


Motivation: What Makes Us Act As We Do?

Any process that starts, directs, or maintains any psychological or physical activity is a form of motivation. Motivation can be divided into motives and drives: motives refer to learned, internal urges, while drives are innate, biological mechanisms. Motivations can be intrinsic, originating from within an individual, or extrinsic, stemming from a desire to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Furthermore, someone may be motivated or driven by either conscious motivation, which is the desire to engage in an activity and being aware of the desire, or unconscious motivation which is the desire to engage in an activity but being unaware of the desire, depending on whether or not the individual realizes the motivation behind their actions. Also, motivation can be caused by other factors such as incentive motivation, stemming from the desire to accomplish a goal.
There is no particular theory that accounts for the entire spectrum of human motives and drives. However, several theories of motivation have been developed over the years, including:
  • Instinct theory, which states that behaviors are solely based off of innate factors, or instincts, that promote survival. This view is now obsolete because the term "instinct" lost its original, scientific meaning, because the term became a label for behavior, rather than an explanation for behavior, causing ethologists to replace this word with the concept of fixed-action patterns. Also, this theory failed to effectively explain behaviors and neglected the effects of learning.
  • Drive Theory, which maintains that biological needs produce drives in order to maintain homeostasis, a balanced biological condition. Through a process called drive reduction, organisms manage to reduce tensions caused by situations that threaten their survival. However, drive theory does not explain why organisms participate in actions, such as play, that only offer simple rewards, rather than provide for a biological need.
  • Cognitive Theory, developed by Julian Rotter, which develops the concept of the locus of control, or an individual's sense regarding the origins of their life influences. Some people have an internal locus of control, believing that they control the events in their lives, while others have an external locus of control, believing that the world influences the outcomes of their lives.
  • Freud's Psychodynamic Theory, which focuses on the unconscious mind, dubbed the id. Freud theorized that two basic desires resided in the id: eros, the desire for sex, and thanatos, the aggressive and destructive impulse. Freud believed that all actions arose from one of these urges, no matter whether a person was trying to satisfy them or, on the other hand, repress them. He also thought that, as humans matured from childhood to adulthood, desires become less conscious, and people develop more socially acceptable ways relieving the aforementioned urges. This theory was not meant to justify daily behaviors, though; it was actually developed to analyze mental disorders.
  • Maslow's Humanistic Theory, which upholds the notion that people act according to their most crucial needs. These needs are detailed in the hierarchy of needs, a structure that classifies motivations by importance. These needs, from most pressing to least, are as follows: biological needs, safety needs, attachment and affiliation needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. In order to achieve a "higher" need, individuals must first fulfill all "lower" basic needs. Although this theory is the only one to account for social interaction, it does not explain why a person might risk their safety by bungee jumping.



When extrinsic motivation replaces intrinsic motivation, overjustification has occurred. Overjustification is the process by which extrinsic rewards can sometimes displace internal motivation. An example of this is if you paid for something you like, and then you soon don't like it, that is overjustification. This process is especially evident in a study conducted on two groups of children, all of whom enjoyed drawing just for its own sake; when one group of children received extrinsic rewards in return for their art, they found the activity to be less fulfilling. On the other hand, the children who were not promised any rewards, therefore remaining intrinsically motivated, enthusiastically continued draw. Other studies, however, have shown that rewards can enhance performance, but only if the quality of the activity is deserving of recognition.


How Are Achievement, Hunger, and Sex Alike? Different?

Human motives are based on achievement, hunger, and sex, but there are many different ways to express emotion. They produce in the mix of biological, mental, behavioral, and social/culture which influences on them. These differ in many ways through nature and nurture. The desire to achieve is an important aspect of human motivation. According to the need for achievement (n Ach), everyone is driven by a psychological motive to attain various goals, regardless of potential difficulties they may face in the process. Its a psychological motive that accounts for a wide range of behaviors in our culture. Psychologists Henry Murray and David McClelland studied the strength of this need in many individuals through the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). However, different cultures display different understandings of achievement. Western societies, such as the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, strive for individual achievement; this view is known as individualism. Elsewhere, in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, collectivism prevails, which means that these cultures highly appreciate group loyalty and suppress individualism. Therefore, cultural influences must be carefully considered when analyzing an individual's motives.
In contrast to achievement motivation, hunger is an inevitable biological drive. To understand the complexities of hunger, psychologists use the multiple-systems approach, which examines the effects of the body's set point and sugar levels, as well as an individual's food preferences, physical activity, environment, and culture, on eating. Set point is your body being triggered and wanting food and water so it can survive and grow as a whole. Emotions and specific situations, such as a person's perception of "lunch time" or the Thanksgiving holiday, can also influence hunger. Whenever deposits stored in specialized fat cells fall below a certain level (or set point). These factors can encourage, or discourage, eating, even if the person does not actually need food to achieve homeostasis in their body. Eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia may arise from social pressures, cultural values, and genetics, further influencing eating habits.
Thirst, like hunger, will drive humans toward substances that will satisfy said need. Volumetric Thirst and osmotic thirst drive people to re-hydrate and replenish both their intracellular and extracellular fluids.
Pain, as opposed to hunger and thirst, will cause you to avoid or remove a stimulus, rather than seek one.
In comparison to hunger, sex is not a mandatory aspect of an individual's life, as humans can live their whole lives without it; however, sexual motivation does prove itself to be necessary for the survival of all species. The sexual response cycle shows that men and women have similar patterns of biological response to sexual situations, although both genetics and cognitions influence sexuality. While the biological purpose of sex is to leave as many offspring as possible, people can be aroused differently by learned sexual cues and sexual scripts. Just as scientists debate the origins of sexuality, so do they debate the origins of sexual orientation. Recent evidence from the examination of homosexuality among twins suggests that orientation may be affected by genetics, yet some scientists, such as Daryl Bem, contest that people are attracted to the sex they find to be most unlike them.



Behaviors can be influenced not just by biological motives, but by cognitive factors, as well. The importance of cognitions in association with motives can be examined by analyzing different types of conflicts and resolutions. There are four ways conflict classifications: approach-approach conflict (two good choices) such as going to the movies with friends or going to a party, approach-avoidance conflict (pro vs. con), avoidance-avoidance conflict (two bad things), and multiple approach-avoidance conflict (pros vs. cons). These circumstances influence the decisions people make in order to resolve conflicts.

How and Why Do We Experience Stress?




A human stress response to a perceived threat will activate thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and physiological arousal that promotes adaptation and survival under the circumstance.
Stress a physical and mental response to a threatening or challenging situation, like emotion, has four main parts: cognitive appraisal, physiological response, subjective feelings, and behavior. Stress is the physical and mental response to a challenging or threatening situation. It is provoked by a stressor, a stimulus that causes the reaction.
  • Primitive Stressors include starvation, exposure to external conditions for example extreme weather, and physical or mental attack. These are all subject to the fight-or-flight response (primitive) and our personal experiences with the stressor (learned).
  • Traumatic Stressors include such catastrophes as extreme natural disasters or human made tragedies (attacks and warfare). These are situations that may threaten people's safety and feelings such as agitation and vulnerability may occur. Cohen and Ahearn studied victims of traumatic stress and found that they pass through five stages of recovery after the event: 1. psychic numbness (shock and confusion), 2. automatic action (little awareness of their own actions), 3. communal effort (people pool resources), 4. letdown (the weight of the tragedy is felt, survivors feel alone and depleted of energy), and 5. recovery (extended period of time, survivors adapt to the changes caused by the event, and survivors seek to find out why things happened). After a traumatic event, survivors may experience post-traumatic stress disorder where they experience mental and physical responses that accompanied the trauma. Victims will often become distracted and go through extended periods of psychic numbness. They may also feel alienated from other people. Biologically, the victim's brain may become "trigger happy" and cause immediate, rash responses to mild stressors or simply surprising situations.

The physical stress response incorporates the same processes in the emotional response. Physiological arousal, such as sweating or increased heart rate, will occur first. In the case of a prize fighter who hears the bell, the arousal would have immediate onset but a limited duration; this is known as acute stress. In the case of jealousy however, the arousal may stay with the person for an extended period of time, gradually becoming more intense; this is known as chronic stress. Next, the person will experience behavioral reaction, often in the form of a fight-or-flight response, which is a preparation for struggle or escape. For example, avoiding completing an unexpected project over the weekend, that you'll eventually have to finish it and you've learned from past experiences that it's better to do it sooner than later. The last two steps involve the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the immune system. The ANS regulates internal organs. When a threat is perceived, the hypothalamus sends an emergency message to the ANS which sets the bodily reactions to stress (sweating, adrenalin secretion, pupil dilation, accelerated heart rate, slowed digestion). While the ANS is excited, the immune system is negatively affected. Its effectiveness decreases, posing health risks, especially if the body remains in the stressed state for extended periods time. Hans Selye dubbed the adaptive efforts of the body (after a stress response) the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). When used in quick bursts this is helpful, but when the stress is continued, Selye found that such problems as heart disease, asthma, headache, gastric ulcers, arthritis, and even death can occur. The link between emotions and the immune system is studied by the field of psychoimmunology.

The general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S.) occurs in three stages. In the first stage,
  1. Alarm reaction is when the body recognizes that there is a stress, sends out the alarm, and mobilizes the body's resources against the stressor. In this stage, many hormones are released to help provide the strength and speed needed to react to the stressor. For example this would be like the first day on the job and your boss decides to pick on you and constantly yell at you for things you have a hard time controlling or for something like reports that you need to do. This would cause your arousal and adrenaline to spike while your immune system's ability to keep you alive starts to go down.
  2. During the stage of resistance the body reverses what it has done. Hormone levels decrease, the adrenal glands return to their normal size (from their previously swollen state); the body is returning to homeostasis even if the stressor is not going away. Selye found that in this stage, when the body is winding down, if another stressor was introduced (to an animal subject) the animal would soon die. Animals are not capable of adapting to a second stressor immediately after their response to the first. As far as an example of this stage would be after a couple of weeks you stop caring and act like its normal and at this point you are mos vulnerable illness as your internal activity levels off at a low setting and your immune system has trouble fighting off the ewwwy stuff
  3. For the stage of exhaustion the body again produces the stress response but this time it is more intense, trying to overcompensate for the resurging hormone activity. In this stage, the body may overload and die if the stressor is not quickly removed. This stage is you dying so not much more to example for this one. Remember kids don't stress out then again why would you listen to me.

When neither fight nor flight are viable options, the person or animal might withdraw or freeze, seeking avoidance of unwanted contact or, in the case of predator-prey, hoping that the predator will not hear or see them. Another option for coping with stress is the tend-and-befriend model, proposed by Shelley Taylor. It is a biological response that a female, instead, will often tend for her young and befriend people in the community who can help care for her young or provide her with support. This model deals primarily with females because females, as mothers, are focused on caring for their young, making fighting or running away not very good options. The instinct of women to protect and nurture. This method of dealing with stress is most effective in keeping a community together and more secure.

People who are frequently or continuously stressed are likely to get sick due to the immunosuppression that results. When the body experiences stress the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system communicate with the brain by way of cytokines, chemical messengers, which produce the fever and listlessness that is common to being sick, as well as feelings of depression or other negative emotions. The brain tells the body to lower energy output, which causes these symptoms.

Learned helplessness is a state of mind in which the subject give up trying to avoid the stressor, and can make a large impact in our lives. In many cases, learned helplessness can lead to depression and other negative feelings. In one study, researchers found that nursing homes with more freedom experienced 10% less deaths than those that had a set schedule, and were therefore given less freedom. This proves learned helplessness has a negative effect on people.

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