PSYC18 2009 – Psychology of Emotion
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PSYC18 2009 – Psychology of Emotion. Professor: Gerald Cupchik Office: S634 Email: [email protected] Office Hours: Thursdays 10-11; 2-3 Phone: 416-287-7467. TA: Michelle Hilscher Office: S142C Email: [email protected] Office Hours: Thursdays 10-11 am. Course website:

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PSYC18 2009 – Psychology of Emotion

Professor: Gerald Cupchik

Office: S634

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours: Thursdays 10-11; 2-3

Phone: 416-287-7467

TA: Michelle Hilscher

Office: S142C

Email: [email protected]

Office Hours: Thursdays 10-11 am

Course website:


Oatley, Keltner & Jenkins (2006, 2nd Ed.) Understanding Emotions.

George Mandler’s Information Theory

Approach to Emotion (1962, 1975)

This approach emphasized the active role played by people in interpreting and understanding the world around them.

His information processing approach to emotion places an emphasis on the role of “meaning analysis and cognitive evaluation” that deals “both with events in the external world and with the organism’s own actions and behaviours”.

Like Schachter, Mandler focuses on “undifferentiated arousal”.

“Human beings apparently have difficulty in discriminating slight changes in physiological patterns.” It is determined by the meaning analysis that caused it given the individual’s values and environmental events. This arousal “which decays relatively slowly, will potentiate subsequent feeling states”.

George Mandler’s Information Theory

Approach to Emotion (1962, 1975)

“Discrepancy and interruption” of ongoing plans and actions signals important changes in the environment and is the most important cause of the arousal. This arousal prepares the organism physiologically to respond to the evoking events. It also signals consciousness for “troubleshooting” and “attention, alertness, and scanning of the environment” which entails interpretation, and analysis both of the stimulus and of one’s capacity to respond effectively to it.

So activity in the sympathetic nervous system initiates the search for causes. This reorienting of consciousness calls attention to important events in the environment. Emotion is bound up with the “troubleshooting” function of the mind because it stimulates the individual to reorient attention, plans, and activities in a conscious manner. Furthur, “interruption may lead to expressions of fear, anger, surprise, humor, or euphoria depending on factors other than the interruption itself”. In the end, this theory is about mental life and consciousness in general, and not just about emotion.

Magda Arnold (1960)


Past experience and goals are an important part of appraisal.

Appraisals are “sense judgments”. This phrase emphasizes their “direct, immediate, non-reflective, nonintellectual and automatic nature.”

They are judgments about the meaning of situations but are not in-depth cognitive judgments.

Emotions have a survival purpose and are impulses to action or a readiness to respond to the environment in a particular way (e.g., anger and urge to strike; fear and urge to flee).

Assess the object in terms of how it affects us personally in relation to harm or benefit… desirable or undesirable, valuable or harmful, so we are drawn toward or repelled by it.

Drive Reduction Model

Situation appraisal sets in motion physiological responses experienced as unpleasant tension. When action is complete, physiological response abates and tension is reduced.

So…Emotion is the “felt tendency towards anything appraised as good or beneficial or away from anything appraised as bad or harmful.”

1. Feelings are essential ingredients of emotion.

2. Physiological changes that accompany emotion provide a basis for felt experience and survival related purposes.

Recognize emotion by appraising the situation.


Nico Frijda (1984)

Situational meaning contains three kinds of awareness:

1. Situational meaning structure

2. Arousal

3. Action tendencies

1. Situational meaning structure

Relevance of event

Seriousness of event

Urgency of event


Nico Frijda (1984)

2. Arousal

Autonomic arousal… Schachter and Mandler

3. Action tendencies

“States of readiness to respond” associated with emotions including facial expression.

These tendencies “establish, maintain or disrupt a relationship with the environment”.

Emotions arise to solve problems that humans face in encounters with the environment.

Nico Frijda (1984)

Like Magda Arnold… Emotions are an “awareness of action tendencies - of desires to strike or to flee, to investigate or be with”.

“Different action tendencies are what characterize different emotions”.

Event coding - Appraisal - Significance evaluation - Action readiness - Action

Appraisal - compare coded event with concerns

Evaluation - diagnose what can be done about it

Richard Lazarus (1964)

Traumatic film

Control, Intellectualization, Denial, Trauma

Appraisal is affected by expectations and affects reactions.

Emotions are responses to perceived environments that “prepare and mobilize” us to cope in an adaptive manner.

Relational meaning… how event affects us…

How situation will affect us in terms of good or bad.

What person brings to the situation in terms of expectations, goals, and intentions.

Emotions arise out of personal meaning that people bring to the situation that are relevant to their goals and aspirations.

Primary appraisal - assess relevance of an event for a person’s well being (goals)

Secondary appraisal - deal with and evaluate coping response

  • Eponymy (Boring, 1963)

  • Definition: Naming a school, movement or paradigm after a person.

  • Three factors from Boring:

  • Narrow attention by readers that focuses on prominent figures or features associated with a school, movement, or paradigm.

  • People want heroes and so they focus on successful researchers in that way.

  • Ambitious researchers need goals, awards and honours to activate them. This motive can be related to the Action Model.

And one extra factor from Cupchik in view of Schachter’s success with Maranon’s original idea.

Theatrical eponymy – The association of a scholar with an experimental paradigm because of its dramatic qualities. See this in relation to the paradigm from Schachter and Singer (1962) in which the subject received an injection, with or without an explanation, and was exposed either to a euphoric (happy) or angry stooge in a dramatic scene.

Also related to this is the distinction between personalistic and naturalistic explanations for developments in science.

Personalistic explanations focus on the individual (Darwin, Newton, Freud, Einstein) as the great genius. The personality of the figure was behind his or her great discoveries.

Naturalistic explanations focus on the intellectual context in which certain ideas or problems were salient.

The German concept of Zeitgeist refers to the intellectual spiritof the times which might have influenced the scholar to develop what seemed like a new idea.

COGNITIVE APPROACHES to emotion… success with Maranon’s original idea.

Karl Pribram (1967, 1968)

1. He offers a memory based theory of emotion rather than a viscerally or arousal based theory.

2. He takes into account past experience and the present, emotion-evoking situation.

3. Emotion is related to the plans or projects rather than the level of activation.

4. Organized stability is the baseline from which disturbances or perturbations occurs. Input that is incongruent with the baseline produces a disturbance.

5. An important part of the baseline is continuing activity of the viscera regulated through the autonomic nervous system.

6. A mismatch between expectations and actual bodily changes in heart rate, sweating, butterflies, and so on, is sensed as a discrepancy.

Karl Pribram (1967, 1968) success with Maranon’s original idea.

7. So emotion is related to ongoing organization of plans, programs or dispositions.

“Emotion is a perturbation, an interruption, disruption of normal ongoing activity.”

Pribram extends the homeostatic model from intraorganic events to the total organism-environment relation.

8. Emotion is an e-motion, a process that takes the organism temporarily out of motion and effects control through the regulation of sensory inputs.

9. Central control through the regulation of peripheral inputs takes two forms:

(A) Inhibition of peripheral inputs while organism decides what to do.

(B) Facilitation of attention to critical inputs from the environment.

Oatley and Johnson-Laird success with Maranon’s original idea.

* They follow in the tradition of Mandler and Pribram by focusing on the interruption of goals.

* Emotions signal important events in the environment and prepare one cognitively and physiologically for activities that may involve changing one’s plans or goals and altering ongoing behaviour.


* Emotions emerge at significant junctures in plans.

* Emotion signals do this quickly and without the aid of consciousness.

* Emotions involve a readiness to respond in particular ways to particular stimuli.

  • Oatley and Johnson-Laird success with Maranon’s original idea.

  • * Emotions are triggered by stimuli that are relevant to goals – for example:

  • Anxiety when self-preservation is threatened.

  • Anger when plan being carried out is frustrated.

  • Happiness when a goal is achieved.

  • * Complex emotions are not combinations of simpler, basic

  • emotions. They have added propositional evaluation which is

  • Social and includes reference to models of the self.

  • * Emotion involves intrasystemiccommunication between modules in the system.

  • * Emotion involves intersystemiccommunication in the sense that many of our more complex emotions communicate information about mutual plans and goals of interdependent social actors.

  • Oatley and Johnson-Laird success with Maranon’s original idea.

  • So, emotions are mental states with coherent psychological functions. They have:

  • An action readiness component (like Frijda) based on an evaluation of something happening that affects the person’s concerns and the evaluation need not be conscious.

  • A phenomenological tone or felt quality.

  • Emotions are accompanied by:

  • A conscious preoccupation

  • (e.g., anger and thoughts of revenge)

  • (B) Bodily disturbance

  • (C) Expressive gesture in the face

Oatley and Johnson-Laird success with Maranon’s original idea.

Oatley imagines a heirarchy of modules in the brain that execute functions

and help us realize our goals. This is a computational model.


We are consciously aware of only the top level of the cognitive system

that contains a model of the system’s goals.

The Semantic Field of Emotion success with Maranon’s original idea.

0 – Generic emotions: emotions and feelings

1 – Basic emotions: happiness and elation

(They have intensity & duration)

2 – Emotional relations: love and hate

3 – Caused emotions: gladness and horror

4 – Causatives: irritate and reassure

5 – Emotional goals: desire and avarice

6 – Complex emotions: embarrassment and pity

Roseman’s Cognitive Structural Theory success with Maranon’s original idea.

For 14 emotions, 5 dimensions or ways of appraising events

(Like the VALUE X EXPECTANCY model we discussed earlier)

1. Situational State – Are the events one encounters in a particular situation consistent or inconsistent with one’s motives?

Consistency leads to positive emotions and inconsistency to negative emotions. (Like Arnold’s harmful-beneficial distinction).

2. Probability – How certain are you that a particular outcome will occur?

Uncertainty and fear or hope.

Certainty, joy, sadness, sadness or disgust.

Roseman’s Cognitive Structural Theory success with Maranon’s original idea.

3. Agency – Who is responsible for events in a particular situation?

Caused by self = GUILT

Caused by other = ANGER

Circumstances beyond one’s control = SADNESS

4. Motivational State – Do the events one encounters involve obtaining a reward or avoiding a punishment? (Appetitive vs. Aversive Motivation)

Obtain reward = JOY

Avoid punishment = RELIEF

5. Power – Perceive oneself as weak or strong in a particular situation.

Weak = FEAR


The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.

Jim Averill

Emotions are “products” of cultures. The ways that emotions are embodied in a culture’s social practices, including its language, participates in and partially constitutes the moralorder of the culture and serves to maintain it.

Averill sees emotions as a special kind of “social role”.

Emotions are a “socially constructed syndrome” that includes an individual’s appraisal of the situation which is interpretedas a passion rather than as an action.

Averill says that emotion is experienced as an action because we play an active role in creating situations that are then experienced emotionally.

He also says that emotion is experienced as a passion because when we experience emotions we often ignore our active role in having created them and feel overwhelmed and taken over by them. We feel like we have lost control.

  • The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.

  • Jim Averill

  • Syndrome = a set of events that occur together in a systematic fashion.

  • Components that tend to occur together:

  • Subjective Experiences – particular feeling qualities associated with emotions.

  • Expressive Reactions – facial expressions and bodily postures that accompany an emotion.

  • Patterns of Physiological Response – autonomic nervous system and other changes.

  • Coping Reactions – behaviour we engage in while we are emotional.

  • The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.

  • Jim Averill

  • NOTE:

  • Not every emotion is associated with all the components.

  • For example: Fear = Yes, Hope = No [Fear has a bodily and cognitive component; Hope has only a cognitive component.]

  • 2. Not every instance of a particular emotion need include all the components.

  • For example: Anger with or without a facial expression like a scowl.

  • There is no single response, or subset of responses, which is essential to an emotional syndrome.

  • Emotional syndromes are “polythetic” or not definable in terms of a limited number of characteristics.

The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.


A role is a socially prescribed set of responses to be followed by a person in a given situation.

Emotions as social roles – temporary enactment of a prescribed set of responses in which a person may be seen as following a set of rules that tell him or her the “proper” way to appraise a situation, how to behave in response to the appraisal, how to interpret his or her bodily reactions to the appraisal, and so on.

The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.


We learn from our society the sets of rules that implicitly govern our emotional performances.

This approach emerges from the social constructionist perspective of the 1970s which focused more on the social self than the personal self.

Emotions are associated with attitudes, beliefs, judgments, and desires reflecting the cultural values of particular communities.

So appraisals are not seen as innate responses to evolutionarily significant events.

Emotions reflect moral judgments about events in the world.

The Social Constructionist Perspective success with Maranon’s original idea.

As we know, emotions used to be referred to as “passions”, a word that implies the experience of passivity, as if emotions were alien forces which overcome and possess an individual.



Averill’s approach to emotion is primarily metaphorical. He sees emotions as ACTIONS rather than passions.

Emotional behaviour is engaged in to realize particular social and individual goals.

Emotions don’t just happen to us but they are things we do willfully.

The experience of emotions as passive passions is an interpretation or attribution we make about our own behaviour. We thereby disclaim responsibility for what we do when we are emotional.

According to Frijda, the experience of passivity is part of what it means to be emotional in our culture.

Social functions of emotions:

Fear can be seen as one of the means by which social norms are maintained in the regulation of social behaviour.

We can compare the emotional lexicons of different cultures to get a sense for which emotions are important in that culture. (e.g., absence of fear in a warrior culture)

The acquisition of a culturally appropriate lexicon by children is central to the socialization of emotion and is a major determinant of changes in children’s experiences of emotion.

Basic Emotions and Darwinian Survival what it means to be emotional in our culture.

Fear and a situation of danger.

Anger and the need for defense.

Love and the need for caring attention.

Complex Emotions and Social Construction

Shame, embarrassment, guilt and so on… more emphasis on situational interpretation.

  • The Aesthetics of Action Theory what it means to be emotional in our culture.: Reaction model of aesthetics.

  • The main idea is that cultural materials are chosen which embody particular qualities that modulate feeling dimensions like pain-pleasure and calm-excitement.

  • Want to manipulate a dimension of experience like pleasure or excitement.

  • Choose films, books, so on, which embody properties that will modulate these bodily states.

  • Romantic film or book and the need for sentimental positive feelings.

  • Horror or suspense movies and the need for excitement.

Experience oriented approaches to emotion: William James & Peripheralism

Now we begin the BIG TRANSITION from the Action Approach to a more Experience Oriented Approach that encompasses James’s PERIPHERALISM, PSYCHODYNAMICS, & PHENOMENOLOGY.

Let me review the transition we are about to make…

The first phase of the course focused on Action Theory which has been with us in various guises since the British Enlightenment of the 1700s. This theory shaped both our ideas about emotion and even extended to an explanation of how drama works.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment, like John Locke, emphasized a practical approach to life in which we attempt to realize goals and evaluate events in the environment in terms of how beneficial they are to us. Our experience of pleasure or pain is an index of whether or not we have succeeded.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment favoured a kind of Classical approach to art and drama which emphasized the manipulation of people’s emotion through the author’s control over action, place and time.

In the 1800s, the Darwinian perspective emphasized challenges posed by the physical and social worlds and this carried over into the early 1900s with McDougall’s emphasis on our “capacity to strive toward an end or ends, to seek goals, to sustain and renew activity adopted to secure consequences beneficial to the organism or the species.”

Walter Cannon, the great American physiologist, extended this idea with his Emergency Response theory, the mobilization of our Sympathetic Nervous System as part of Fear or Anger responses to threat or frustration.

Duffy and Schachter, among others, continued this tradition of separating a planful mind, on the one hand, from a body whose function was to provide energy and focus for the problem at hand.

It is crucial to remember that, among other things, this Action Theory approach involves a separation of mind and body. The mind does the planning and the body helps execution or can hinder it if the state of excitation becomes too great.

The EXPERIENCE APPROACH should be placed in the tradition of Romanticism which emphasized the role of imagination and interpretation both in everyday life and in relation to art, poetry and drama. Recall their focus on critical life episodes or scenes that reveal something special about the nature of our lived-world.

WILLIAM JAMES (1842-1910) and the Peripheral Approach:

EMOTION = The Experience of Bodily Changes

James’s basic principle was that the body is central to the generation and experience of emotion.

While Darwin was primarily concerned with the expression of emotion, James was interested in the experience of emotion.

  • Common sense leads us to say the following about the sequence of emotional events:

  • We PERCEIVE an emotion eliciting stimulus

  • We EXPERIENCE emotion

  • We EXPRESS it

  • For example:

  • We lose our fortune, are sorry and weep.

  • We are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike.

  • We meet a bear, are frightened and run.

James argued that this sequence is wrong… sequence of emotional events:


In other words:

1. We feel sorry because we cry.

2. We feel angry because we strike.

3. We feel afraid because we tremble.

These changes are automatic responses of the body and the experience of these changes is the emotion.

  • James listed three kinds of bodily changes: sequence of emotional events:

  • Expressive behaviour

  • Instrumental acts such as running away

  • Physiological “changes” in the heart & circulatory system

  • The modern interpretation is that:

  • “Bodily changes” = “Visceral changes”

The increase in sympathetic nervous system activity controls the functioning of the glands and other internal organs such as the heart and stomach. These changes are expressed as sweating, salivation, shedding tears, secreting digestive juices and stomach motility.

Implication: Different emotions are accompanied by recognizably different bodily states. James’s theory permits an almost infinite number of emotions because it associates individual emotions with specific physiological states. Each emotion would be characterized by a specific physiological package.

This indirectly leads to the idea that the voluntary arousal or

manifestation of bodily changes should produce emotions

(e.g., “put on a happy face”).

James was influenced by his own introspections:

1. “Unmotivated emotion” – attacks of anxiety, panic or fear in the absence of an appropriate cause.

Also, anxiety attacks could sometimes be alleviated by controlling one’s breathing and changing one’s posture.

2. Persons who could not experience any feelings from his or her body (corporeal anaesthesia).

Carl Lange (1834 – 1900) developed a similar theory… the bodily concomitants come first, followed by the experience of emotion.

James also distinguished between COARSE and SUBTLE emotions.

1. COARSE EMOTIONS are fixed action patterns and are wired-in.

2. SUBTLE EMOTIONS are learned or acquired (e.g., resentment). They can be moral, intellectual or aesthetic emotions and feelings.

Walter B. Cannon (1871 – 1945), the great American physiologist, offered a critique of William James’s theory which led to a rejection of his work for a period of time.

Cannon did his research on the physiology of digestion and disturbances of digestion which led him to reject James’s ideas about “autonomic specificity”.

The 1920s was a period in medical history when psychosomatic medicine was established as a separate discipline… for example in the area of stress.

Critiques physiologist, offered a critique of William James’s theory which led to a rejection of his work for a period of time.:

1. Total separation of the viscera from the CNS does not alter emotional behaviour.

2. The same visceral changes occur in very different emotional states and non-emotional states.

3. The viscera are relatively insensitive structures.

4. Visceral changes are too slow to be a source of emotional feeling.

5. Artificial induction of the visceral changes typical of strong emotion does not produce them. This is where he applied the data from Maranon’s study about the 79% who received an injection but did not experience an emotion.

The most important points are Number 2 and 3!




Cannon assumed that the cerebral cortex constantly inhibits emotional expressions that are integrated in the thalamus. Perception of an emotion evoking situation produces cortical disinhibition and frees the thalamic centres from their normal restraint. When disinhibition occurs, the emotional expression automatically appears. Incoming sensory impulses from the viscera and skeletal muscles arrive at the thalamus and are relayed to the cortex. This gives conscious experience an emotional quality. Cannon therefore argued that emotional reactions are coordinated at subcortical levels. This is an example of the Centralist Approach to emotion.

James had argued that there are no special brain centres for emotion. So James’s peripheral approach to emotion can be contrasted with the centralist approach in which cognition filters perception and selects behaviour.


“Awareness of one’s own facial expressions is the emotion.”

Floyd Allport (1890 - 1978) argued in 1924 in support of James’s idea that feedback from facial expressions could help differentiate emotions. Accordingly, afferent (incoming) feedback from the face differentiates anger from fear.

Sylvan Tomkins (1911-1991) maintained in the 1960s that feedback from facial muscles differentiates emotions. Accordingly, affect is primarily facial behaviour and secondarily it is bodily behaviour, outer skeletal and inner visceral activity.

On what basis does Tomkins maintain this position? James’s idea that feedback from facial expressions could help differentiate emotions. Accordingly, afferent (incoming) feedback from the face differentiates anger from fear.

1. A newborn exhibits greater responsiveness to facial and head stimulation than to bodily stimulation.

2. The rapid development of head movement, visual fixation and eye-hand coordination. Standing and walking appear later.

3. The greater density of afferent-efferent channels moving information between the face and the brain.

4. The facial muscles show greater resistance to habituation.

5. The face is the centre of affective expression.

Ekman and Friesen (1960s) also emphasized the high sending capacity of the face.

1. Greater number of discriminable stimulus patterns due to the relative anatomical independence of the brow-forehead, eyes-lid-bridge of nose and lower face including cheeks, nose, mouth, chin and jaw. (Science Centre)

2. Physical potential for rapid muscular change or “low transmission time” permits facial displays to evolve drastically over short periods of time. This relates to the concept of “micro-momentary affect displays” as brief as 1/50th of a second.

Primary Affect List: Happiness, interest, surprise, fear, anger, disgust and sadness

Summarizing: capacity of the face.

The face is the place for emotion!!

1. Afferent-efferent routes

2. Anatomical independence

3. Rapid muscular change