Appreciating Life Emotion
The Emotion of Appreciating Life is the foundation for making the most of your Life.

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The emotion of Appreciating Life is the foundation for making the most of your Life.

An emotion is a mental and physiological state associated with a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Emotions are subjective experiences, often associated with mood, temperament, personality, and disposition. The English word 'emotion' is derived from the French word émouvoir. This is based on the Latin emovere, where e- (variant of ex-) means 'out' and movere means 'move'. The related term "motivation" is also derived from movere.

No definitive taxonomy of emotions exists, though numerous taxonomies have been proposed. Some categorizations include:

  • 'Cognitive' versus 'non-cognitive' emotions
  • Instinctual emotions (from the amygdala), versus cognitive emotions (from the prefrontal cortex).
  • Basic versus complex: where base emotions lead to more complex ones.
  • Categorization based on duration: Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (e.g. surprise) where others can last years (e.g. love).
A related distinction is between the emotion and the results of the emotion, principally behaviors and emotional expressions. People often behave in certain ways as a direct result of their emotional state, such as crying, fighting or fleeing. Yet again, if one can have the emotion without the corresponding behavior then we may consider the behavior not to be essential to the emotion. The James-Lange theory posits that emotional experience is largely due to the experience of bodily changes. The functionalist approach to emotions (e.g. Nico Frijda) holds that emotions have evolved for a particular function, such as to keep the subject safe.

Basic and complex categories, where some are modified in some way to form complex emotions (e.g. Paul Ekman). In one model, the complex emotions could arise from cultural conditioning or association combined with the basic emotions. Alternatively, analogous to the way primary colors combine, primary emotions could blend to form the full spectrum of human emotional experience. For example interpersonal anger and disgust could blend to form contempt.

Robert Plutchik proposed a three-dimensional "circumplex model" which describes the relations among emotions. This model is similar to a color wheel. The vertical dimension represents intensity, and the circle represents degrees of similarity among the emotions. He posited eight primary emotion dimensions arranged as four pairs of opposites. Some have also argued for the existence of meta-emotions which are emotions about emotions., "Meta-emotions".

Another important means of distinguishing emotions concerns their occurrence in time. Some emotions occur over a period of seconds (e.g. surprise) where others can last years (e.g. love). The latter could be regarded as a long term tendency to have an emotion regarding a certain object rather than an emotion proper (though this is disputed). A distinction is then made between emotion episodes and emotional dispositions. Dispositions are also comparable to character traits, where someone may be said to be generally disposed to experience certain emotions, though about different objects. For example an irritable person is generally disposed to feel irritation more easily or quickly than others do. Finally, some theorists (e.g. Klaus Scherer, 2005) place emotions within a more general category of 'affective states' where affective states can also include emotion-related phenomena such as pleasure and pain, motivational states (e.g. hunger or curiosity), moods, dispositions and traits.

Theories of Emotion:

Theories about emotions stretch back at least as far as the Ancient Greek Stoics, as well as Plato and Aristotle. We also see sophisticated theories in the works of philosophers such as René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza and David Hume. Later theories of emotions tend to be informed by advances in empirical research. Often theories are not mutually exclusive and many researchers incorporate multiple perspectives in their work.

James-Lange theory:

William James, in the article 'What is an Emotion?' (Mind, 9, 1884: 188-205), argued that emotional experience is largely due to the experience of bodily changes. The Danish psychologist Carl Lange also proposed a similar theory at around the same time, so this position is known as the James-Lange theory. This theory and its derivatives state that a changed situation leads to a changed bodily state. As James says 'the perception of bodily changes as they occur IS the emotion.' James further claims that 'we feel sad because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and neither we cry, strike, nor tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be.'

This theory is supported by experiments in which by manipulating the bodily state, a desired emotion is induced.[4] Such experiments also have therapeutic implications (e.g. in laughter therapy, dance therapy). The James-Lange theory is often misunderstood because it seems counter-intuitive. Most people believe that emotions give rise to emotion-specific actions: i.e. "I'm crying because I'm sad," or "I ran away because I was scared." The James-Lange theory, conversely, asserts that first we react to a situation (running away and crying happen before the emotion), and then we interpret our actions into an emotional response. In this way, emotions serve to explain and organize our own actions to us.

Neurobiological Theories of Emotion:

Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain. If distinguished from reactive responses of reptiles, emotions would then be mammalian elaborations of general vertebrate arousal patterns, in which neurochemicals (e.g., dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) step-up or step-down the brain's activity level, as visible in body movements, gestures, and postures. In mammals, primates, and human beings, feelings are displayed as emotion cues.

For example, the human emotion of love is proposed to have evolved from paleocircuits of the mammalian brain (specifically, modules of the cingulate gyrus) which facilitate the care, feeding, and grooming of offspring. Paleocircuits are neural platforms for bodily expression configured millions of years before the advent of cortical circuits for speech. They consist of pre-configured pathways or networks of nerve cells in the forebrain, brain stem and spinal cord. They evolved prior to the earliest mammalian ancestors, as far back as the jawless fish, to control motor function.

Presumably, before the mammalian brain, life in the non-verbal world was automatic, preconscious, and predictable. The motor centers of reptiles react to sensory cues of vision, sound, touch, chemical, gravity, and motion with pre-set body movements and programmed postures. With the arrival of night-active mammals, circa 180 million years ago, smell replaced vision as the dominant sense, and a different way of responding arose from the olfactory sense, which is proposed to have developed into mammalian emotion and emotional memory. In the Jurassic Period, the mammalian brain invested heavily in olfaction to succeed at night as reptiles slept — one explanation for why olfactory lobes in mammalian brains are proportionally larger than in the reptiles. These odor pathways gradually formed the neural blueprint for what was later to become our limbic brain.

Emotions are thought to be related to activity in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behavior, and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Broca (1878), Papez (1937), and MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the center of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. More recent research has shown that some of these limbic structures are not as directly related to emotion as others are, while some non-limbic structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance.

Prefrontal Cortex and Emotion:

There is ample evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is activated by stimuli that cause positive approach.[5] If attractive stimuli can selectively activate a region of the brain, then logically the converse should hold, that selective activation of that region of the brain should cause a stimulus to be judged more positively. This was demonstrated for moderately attractive visual stimuli[6] and replicated and extended to include negative stimuli.

Two neurobiological models of emotion in the prefrontal cortex made opposing predictions. The Valence Model predicted that anger, a negative emotion, would activate the right prefrontal cortex. The Direction Model predicted that anger, an approach emotion, would activate the left prefrontal cortex. The second model was supported.

This still left open the question of whether the opposite of approach in the prefrontal cortex is better described as moving away (Direction Model), as unmoving but with strength and resistance (Movement Model), or as unmoving with passive yielding (Action Tendency Model). Support for the Action Tendency Model (passivity related to right prefrontal activity) comes from research on shyness and research on behavioral inhibition. Research that tested the competing hypotheses generated by all four models also supported the Action Tendency Model.

Homeostatic Emotion:

Another neurological approached distinguished between two classes of emotion. "Classical emotions" include lust, anger and fear, and they are feeling responses to environmental stimuli, which motivate us to, in these examples, respectively, copulate/fight/flee. "Homeostatic emotions" are feeling responses to internal body states, which modulate our behavior. Thirst, hunger, feeling hot or cold (core temperature), feeling sleep deprived, salt hunger and air hunger are all examples of homeostatic emotion; each is an alarm from a body system saying "Things aren't right down here. Drink/eat/move into the shade/put on something warm/sleep/lick salty rocks/breathe." We begin to feel a homeostatic emotion when one of these systems drifts out of balance, and the feeling prompts us to do what is necessary to restore that system to balance. Pain is a homeostatic emotion telling us "Things aren't right here. Withdraw and protect."

Cognitive theories of Emotion:

There are some theories on emotions arguing that cognitive activity in the form of judgements, evaluations, or thoughts is necessary in order for an emotion to occur. This, argued by Richard Lazarus, is necessary to capture the fact that emotions are about something or have intentionality. Such cognitive activity may be conscious or unconscious and may or may not take the form of conceptual processing. An influential theory here is that of Lazarus. A prominent philosophical exponent is Robert C. Solomon (e.g. The Passions, Emotions and the Meaning of Life, 1993). The theory proposed by Nico Frijda where appraisal leads to action tendencies is another example. It has also been suggested that emotions (affect heuristics, feelings and gut-feeling reactions) are often used as shortcuts to process information and influence behaviour.

Perceptual theory of Emotion:

A recent hybrid of the somatic and cognitive theories of emotion is the perceptual theory. This theory is neo-Jamesian in arguing that bodily responses are central to emotions, yet it emphasises the meaningfulness of emotions or the idea that emotions are about something, as is recognised by cognitive theories. The novel claim of this theory is that conceptually based cognition is unnecessary for such meaning. Rather the bodily changes themselves perceive the meaningful content of the emotion because of being causally triggered by certain situations. In this respect, emotions are held to be analogous to faculties such as vision or touch, which provide information about the relation between the subject and the world in various ways. A sophisticated defense of this view is found in philosopher Jesse Prinz's book Gut Reactions and psychologist James Laird's book Feelings.

Affective Events Theory of Emotion:

This a communication-based theory developed by Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano (1996), that looks at the causes, structures, and consequences of emotional experience (especially in work contexts.) This theory suggests that emotions are influenced and caused by events which in turn influence attitudes and behaviors. This theoretical frame also emphasizes time in that human beings experience what they call emotion episodes - a “series of emotional states extended over time and organized around an underlying theme”. This theory has been utilized by numerous researchers to better understand emotion from a communicative lens, and was reviewed further by Howard M. Weiss and Daniel J. Beal in their article, Reflections on Affective Events Theory published in Research on Emotion in Organizations in 2005.

Disciplinary approaches:

Many different disciplines have produced work on the emotions. Human sciences study the role of emotions in mental processes, disorders, and neural mechanisms. In psychiatry, emotions are examined as part of the discipline's study and treatment of mental disorders in humans. Psychology examines emotions from a scientific perspective by treating them as mental processes and behavior and they explore the underlying physiological and neurological processes. In neuroscience sub-fields such as affective neuroscience, scientists study the neural mechanisms of emotion by combining neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood. In linguistics, the expression of emotion may change to the meaning of sounds. In education, the role of emotions in relation to learning are examined.

Social sciences often examine emotion for the role that it plays in human culture and social interactions. In sociology, emotions are examined for the role they play in human society, social patterns and interactions, and culture. In anthropology, the study of humanity, scholars use ethnography to undertake contextual analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of a range of human activities; some anthropology studies examine the role of emotions in human activities. In the field of communication sciences, critical organizational scholars have examined the role of emotions in organizations, from the perspectives of managers, employees, and even customers. A focus on emotions in organizations can be credited to Arlie Russell Hochschild's concept of emotional labor. The University of Queensland hosts EmoNet, an email distribution list representing a network of academics that facilitates scholarly discussion of all matters relating to the study of emotion in organizational settings. The list was established in January, 1997 and has over 700 members from across the globe.

In economics, the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, emotions are analyzed in some sub-fields of microeconomics, in order to assess the role of emotions on purchase decision-making and risk perception. In criminology, a social science approach to the study of crime, scholars often draw on behavioral sciences, sociology, and psychology; emotions are examined in criminology issues such as anomie theory and studies of "toughness", aggressive behavior, and hooliganism. In law, which underpins civil obedience, politics, economics and society, evidence about people's emotions is often raised in tort law claims for compensation and in criminal law prosecutions against alleged lawbreakers (as evidence of the defendant's state of mind during trials, sentencing, and parole hearings). In political science, emotions are examined in a number of sub-fields, such as the analysis of voter decision-making.

In philosophy, emotions are studied in sub-fields such as ethics, the philosophy of art (e.g., sensory-emotional values, and matters of taste and sentiment), and the philosophy of music. In history, scholars examine documents and other sources to interpret and analyze past activities; speculation on the emotional state of the authors of historical documents is one of the tools of interpretation. In literature and film-making, the expression of emotion is the cornerstone of genres such as drama, melodrama, and romance. In communication studies, scholars study the role that emotion plays in the dissemination of ideas and messages. Emotion is also studied in non-human animals in ethology, a branch of zoology which focuses on the scientific study of animal behavior. Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with strong ties to ecology and evolution. Ethologists often study one type of behavior (e.g. aggression) in a number of unrelated animals.


We try to regulate our emotions to fit in with the norms of the situation, based on many – sometimes conflicting – demands upon us which originate from various entities studied by sociology on a micro level – such as social roles and 'feeling rules' the everyday social interactions and situations are shaped by – and, on a macro level, by social institutions, discourses, ideologies etc. For example, (post-)modern marriage is, on one hand, based on the emotion of love and on the other hand the very emotion is to be worked on and regulated by it. The sociology of emotions also focuses on general attitude changes in a population. Emotional appeals are commonly found in advertising, health campaigns and political messages. Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaign advertising emphasizing the fear of terrorism.


  1. Emotional Competency discussion of emotion
  2. See Philip Fisher (1999) Wonder, The Rainbow and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences for an introduction
  3. See for instance Antonio Damasio (2005) Looking for Spinoza.
  4. Merckelbach, H., & van Oppen, P. (1989). Effects of gaze manipulation on subjective evaluation of neutral and phobia-relevant stimuli: A comment on Drake's (1987) 'Effects of gaze manipulation on aesthetic judgments: Hemisphere priming of affect.' Acta Psychologica, 70, 147-151.
  5. Harmon-Jones, E., Vaughn-Scott, K., Mohr, S., Sigelman, J., & Harmon-Jones, C. (2004). The effect of manipulated sympathy and anger on left and right frontal cortical activity. Emotion, 4, 95-101.
  6. Schmidt, L. A. (1999). Frontal brain electrical activity in shyness and sociability. Psychological Science, 10, 316-320.
  7. Garavan, H., Ross, T. J., & Stein, E. A. (1999). Right hemispheric dominance of inhibitory control: An event-related functional MRI study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96, 8301-8306.
  8. - the free encyclopedia

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