Philosophy of Emotions

22 Jan 2013

Using Aristotle’s system of causal explanation, the 16th-century British philosopher John Rainolds defined emotion as follows: the efficient cause of emotions is God, who implanted them; the material cause is good and evil human things; the formal cause is a commotion of the soul, impelled by the sight of things; and the final cause is seeking good and fleeing evil. The American philosopher L.D. Green’s commentary on Rainolds’ thesis indicates that Rainolds was not faithful to Aristotle’s own discussions of emotion.

One thing that Aristotle did advocate was moderation of emotions, allowing them to have an effect only at the right time and in the right manner. Rainolds noted that the Aristotelian thinker Cicero saw emotions as beneficial–fear making humans careful, compassion and sadness leading to mercy, and anger whetting courage. These thoughts about emotion are similar to those of some modern theorists.

For Rainolds, the emotions are the active, energizing aspects of human nature. Although the intellect exercises control over emotions, intellect can have no impact without emotion. Rainolds was specifically concerned with the effects of emotion on rhetoric, but he saw rhetoric as a principal means of influencing human behaviour and affairs. He believed that the passions [emotions] must be excited, not for the harm they do but for the good, not so they twist the straight but that they straighten the crooked; so they ward off vice, iniquity, and disgrace; so that they defend virtue, justice, and probity.

Benedict de Spinoza in the 17th century described emotions in much the same way as Rainolds did, but he discussed them in relation to action rather than to language. He saw emotions as bodily changes that result in the amplification or attenuation of action and as processes that can facilitate or impede action. For Spinoza, emotion also included the ideas, or mental representations, of the bodily changes in emotion.

Blaise Pascal and David Hume reversed Rainolds’ position by assuming the primacy of emotion in human behaviour. Hume said that reason is the slave of the passions (emotions), and Pascal observed in Pensées that “the heart has reasons that reason does not know.” Although Hume believed that passions (emotions) rule reason or intellect, he thought the dominant passion should be moral sentiment. Some contemporary psychologists trace morality to empathy and empathy to discrete emotions including sadness, sorrow, compassion, and guilt.

Since Rainolds lectured on emotions at Oxford, philosophers have considered many questions related to emotions: Are they active or passive? Can they be explained by neurophysiological processes and reduced to material phenomena? Are they rational or nonrational? Are they voluntary or involuntary? Characterizing or categorizing emotions according to these dichotomies has resulted in yet other classifications or distinctions.

Ultimately, emotion concepts resist definition by way of dichotomous distinctions. Emotions are generally active and tend to generate action and cognition, but extreme fear may cause behavioral freezing and mental rigidity. Emotion can be explained on one level in terms of neurochemical processes and on another level in terms of phenomenology. Emotions are rational in the sense that they serve adaptive functions and make sense in terms of the individual’s perception of the situation. They are nonrational in the sense that they can exist in the brain at the neurochemical level and in consciousness as unlabeled feelings that may be independent of cognitive-rational processes. Emotions are voluntary in that their expression in older children and adults is subject to considerable modification and control via cognition and action, and willful regulation of expression may result in regulation of emotion experience. Emotions are involuntary in that an effective stimulus elicits them automatically, without deliberation and conscious choice. Nowhere is this more evident than in infants and young children, who have little capacity to modulate or inhibit emotion by means of cognitive processes.

One contemporary American philosopher, Amélie O. Rorty, espouses a three-part causal history for emotions, which includes (1) the formative events in a person’s past, including the development of habits of thought, (2) sociocultural factors, and (3) genetically determined sensitivities and patterns of response. These are essentially the same factors that are recognized by psychologists, who frequently reduce the list to two: (1) experience as mediated by culture and learning and (2) genetic determinants that unfold with ontogenetic development. The first of these two causal factors indicates that individual differences in interpretations of an event or situation lead to different emotions in different persons. (see also Index: human genetics)

Some philosophers are concerned with the question of the rationality of emotion as judged on the basis of causes and consequences. One resolution is in terms of appropriateness: an emotion is appropriate if the reasons for it are adequate, regardless of the reasons against it. There may be a sense, however, in which emotions are intrinsically nonrational because they can come into a person’s consciousness without that person having considered all of the relevant reasons for them. In the final analysis, caution should be used in judging the rationality of emotions.

Another contemporary philosopher, James Hillman, has been notably effective in using classical philosophical principles to explain emotions. He has delineated 12 ways that emotion has been conceptualized in philosophy and psychology. These include conceptions of emotion as a distinct entity or trait, an accompaniment of instinct, energy for thought and action, a neurophysiological mechanism and process, mental representation, signal, conflict, disorder, and creative organization. This philosopher found each of these conceptions incomplete or incorrect and returned to Aristotle’s system of four causes in an effort to integrate the information from each of the foregoing approaches to defining and studying emotions.

For Hillman, the efficient cause of emotion, described psychologically, consists of conscious or unconscious mental representations (perceptions, images, or thoughts) and conflicts between physiological or psychological systems or between a person and the environment. The efficient cause described physiologically includes genetic endowment and the neurochemical and hormonal processes involved in emotion activation. Hillman stated that the material cause of emotion is energy. He argued that matter, the ultimate source of energy, is relative and that emotion, as the psychological aspect of general energy, is going on all the time and is a two-way bridge uniting subject and object.

In considering the formal cause, one may see emotion as a pattern of neurophysiological and expressive behaviours and subject-object relations. Hillman concluded that, in a formal sense, emotion is a total pattern of the soul:

Emotion is the soul as a complex whole, involving constitution, gross physiology, facial expression in its social context as well as actions aimed at the environment.

The final cause, or purpose, of emotion, according to Hillman, can be thought of in terms of what it achieves: survival (energy release, homeostatic regulation, and action on the stimulus and environment), signification (qualification of experience, expression, communication, and values), and improvement (emergence of energy into consciousness, facilitation of creative activity, and strengthening of the organization of self and behaviour). Hillman integrated these various descriptions of final cause in the concept of change. Emotion occurs in order to actualize change; “emotion itself is change.”


In 1872, emotion studies received a boost in scientific status when Charles Darwin published his seminal treatise The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Twelve years later, the American philosopher and psychologist William James, one of the pioneers of psychology in the United States, published what was to become a famous and controversial theory of emotions. In it James proposed that an arousing stimulus (such as a poignant memory or a physical threat) triggers internal physiological processes as well as external expressive and motor actions and that the feeling of these physiological and behavioral processes constitutes the emotion. Thus, people are happy because they smile, sad because they cry, angry because they frown, and afraid because they run from danger.

A few years later the Danish physician Carl Lange published a more constricted theory, maintaining that emotion is a function of the perception of changes in the visceral organs innervated by the autonomic nervous system. Although there were distinctively individual components in the theories of James and Lange, the theories became linked in the minds of psychologists and the combination became known as the James-Lange theory.

The James-Lange theory was seriously challenged by the American physiologist Walter B. Cannon, who showed that, among other things, animals whose viscera were separated from the central nervous system still displayed emotion expression. Cannon contended that bodily changes were similar for most kinds of emotions, whereas the James-Lange theory implied a different bodily pattern of response for different emotions. The James-Lange theory has remained a more or less permanent fixture in behavioral science nevertheless, and most psychology textbooks summarize the theory and Cannon’s criticisms of it. Some theories of emotion are classified as neo-Jamesian, and most theories can be identified or classified on the basis of their similarities and differences with the landmark James-Lange theory.

Psychological theories of emotion can be grouped into two broad categories–biosocial and constructivist. Although this system of categorization is an oversimplification, it provides a way for the student of emotion to get a perspective on a particular theory. A contemporary textbook, for example, describes 20 psychological theories of emotion, and there are many others that it does not consider.

Many of the differences between the two categories of emotion theory stem from different assumptions regarding the relative importance of genetics and life experiences. Biosocial theories assume that emotions are rooted in biological makeup and that genes are significant determinants of the threshold and characteristic intensity level of each basic emotion. In this view, emotional life is a function of the interaction of genetic tendencies and the evaluative systems, beliefs, and roles acquired through experience. Constructivist theories assume that genetic factors are inconsequential and that emotions are cognitively constructed and derived from experience, especially from social learning. The constructivists’ crucible for emotions is formed by the interactions of the person with the environment, especially the social environment. Thus, according to the constructivists, emotions are a function of appraisals, or evaluations, of the world of culture, and of what is learned.


Darwin included emotions, in particular emotion expressions, in his studies of evolution. He considered continuity or similarity of expression in animals and human beings as further evidence of human evolution from lower forms. His finding that certain emotion expressions are innate and universal was seen as evidence of the “unity of the several races.” Thus, the expressions, or the language of the emotions, provide a means of communication among all human beings, regardless of culture or ethnic origin.

In his work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin made an explicit value judgment regarding the significance of emotion expressions:

The movements of expression in the face and body, whatever their origin may have been, are in themselves of much importance for our welfare. They serve as the first means of communication between the mother and infant; she smiles approval, and thus encourages her child on the right path, or frowns disapproval. We readily perceive sympathy in others by their expression; our sufferings are thus mitigated and our pleasures increased; and mutual good feeling is thus strengthened. The movements of expression give vividness and energy to our spoken words. They reveal the thoughts and intentions of others more truly than do words, which may be falsified.

From his studies of emotion expressions, Darwin concluded that some emotion expressions were due to the “constitution of the nervous system,” or our biological endowment. The implication is that these expressive movements are part of human nature and have played a role in survival and adaptation. Darwin thought other expressions were derived from actions that originally served biologically adaptive functions (e.g., preparation for biting became the bared teeth of the anger expression). Although he noted that expressive movements may no longer serve biological functions, he made it quite clear that they serve critical social and communicative functions.


From the very beginning of scientific psychology, there were voices that spoke of the significance of emotions for human life. James believed that “individuality is founded in feeling” and that only through feeling is it possible “directly to perceive how events happen, and how work is actually done.” The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung recognized emotion as the primal force in life:

But on the other hand, emotion is the moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.

Psychologists did not rally to the Darwinian thesis on the evolutionary-adaptive functions of emotions in significant numbers until the 1960s. Several influential volumes following this theme were published in the 1960s and ’70s. For example, the American psychologist Robert Plutchik echoed Darwinian principles in several of the postulates of his theory: emotions are present at all levels of animal life, and they serve an adaptive role in relation to survival issues posed by the environment.

The American psychologist Silvin Tomkins believed that the emotions constitute the primary motivational system for human beings. He held that even physiological drives such as hunger and sex obtain their power from emotions and that the energizing effects of emotion are necessary to sustain drive-related actions. In this way, he argued that emotions are essential to survival and adaptation.

Other theorists and researchers that follow the Darwinian principles of the survival value and adaptive value of emotions have emphasized their role in human development and in the development of social bonds, particularly mother-infant or parent-child attachment. These researchers have shown that even the very young infant has a repertoire of emotion expressions translatable into messages calling for nourishment and affection, both essential ingredients of healthy development. The distress expression is the infant’s all-out cry for help, the sadness expression an appeal for empathy, and the smile an invitation to stimulating face-to-face interactions.

Contemporary approaches to emotion

Contemporary psychologists are concerned with the activation, or causes, of emotion, its structure, or components, and its functions or consequences. Each of these aspects can be considered from both a biosocial and a constructivist view. On the whole, biosocial theories have been relatively more concerned with the neurophysiological aspects of emotions and their roles as motivators and organizers of cognition and action. Constructivists have been relatively more concerned with explaining the causes of emotion at the experiential level and cognition-emotion relations in terms of cognitive-linguistic processes.


The question of precisely how an emotion is triggered has been one of the most captivating and controversial topics in the field. To address the question properly, one must break it down into more precise parts. Emotion activation can be divided into three parts: neural processes, bodily (physiological) changes, and mental (cognitive) activity.

While it is easy for people to think of things that make them happy or sad, it is not yet possible to explain precisely how the feelings of joy and sadness occur. Neuroscience has produced far more information about the processes leading to the physiological responses and expressive behaviour of emotion than about those that generate the conscious experience of emotion.

Neural processes.

An emotion can be activated by causes and processes within the individual or by a combination of internal and external causes and processes. For example, within the individual, an infection can cause pain, and pain can activate anger.

The findings of neuroscience indicate that stimuli are evaluated for emotional significance when information from primary receptors (in the visual, tactual, auditory, or other sensory systems) travels along certain neural pathways to the limbic forebrain. Scientific data developed by Joseph E. LeDoux show that auditory fear conditioning involves the transmission of sound signals through the auditory pathway to the thalamus (which relays information) in the lower forebrain and thence to the dorsal amygdala (which evaluates information).

Evidence from neuroscience suggests that emotion activated by way of the thalamo-amygdala (subcortical) pathway results from rapid, minimal, automatic, evaluative processing. Emotion activated in this way need not involve the neocortex. Emotion activated by discrimination of stimulus features, thoughts, or memories requires that the information be relayed from the thalamus to the neocortex. Such a circuit is thought to be the neural basis for cognitive appraisal and evaluation of events.

This two-circuit model of the neural pathways in emotion activation has several important theoretical implications. The neurological evidence indicating that emotion can be activated via the thalamo-amygdala pathway is consistent with the behavioral evidence that very young infants respond emotionally to pain and that adults can develop preferences or make affective judgments in responding to objects before they demonstrate recognition memory for them. This suggests that in some instances humans may experience emotion before they reason why.

It might be expected that in early human development most emotion expressions derive from automatic, subcortical processing, with minimal cortical involvement. As cognitive capacities increase with maturation and learning, the neocortex and the cortico-amygdala pathway become more and more involved. By the time children acquire language and the capacity for long-term memory, they may process events in either or both pathways, with the subcortical pathway specializing in events requiring rapid response and the cortico-amygdala pathway providing evaluative information necessary for cognitive judgment and more complex coping strategies.

Physiological processes.

Many theorists agree that feedback from physiological activity contributes to emotion activation. There is disagreement over the kind of feedback that is important. Some think that it is a visceral feedback–coming from the activity of the smooth-muscle organs such as the heart and stomach, which are innervated by the autonomic nervous system. Others believe that it is feedback from the voluntary, striated muscles, especially of the face, which are innervated by the somatic nervous system.

Cognitive processes.

Constructivist theorists and researchers have been concerned with the causes of emotion at the cognitive-experiential level and with the relations between cognitive processes and emotion. This research has focused on two topics: the relations between appraisals, or evaluations, and emotions and the relations between causal attributions and emotions.

Magda B. Arnold was the first contemporary psychologist to propose that all emotions are a function of one’s cognitive appraisal of the stimulus or situation. She maintained that before a stimulus can elicit emotion it has to be appraised as good or bad by the perceiver. She described the appraisal that arouses emotion as concrete, immediate, undeliberate, and not the result of reflection. Her position was adopted and elaborated by others, some of whom assumed that cognitive activity, whether in the form of primitive evaluative perception or symbolic processes, is a necessary precondition of emotion. Biosocial and constructivist theorists agree that cognition is an important determinant of emotion and that emotion-cognition relations merit continued research.

Research by the American psychologists Phoebe C. Ellsworth and Craig A. Smith on the relations between appraisals and specific emotions show that people tend to appraise situations in terms of elements such as pleasantness, anticipated effort, certainty, responsibility, control, legitimacy, and perceived obstacle. Researchers have found that each discrete emotion tends to be associated with a distinctive combination of appraisals. For example, a perceived obstacle (barrier to a goal) that is due to someone else’s responsibility is associated with anger, a perceived obstacle that is the person’s own responsibility is associated with guilt, and a perceived obstacle characterized by uncertainty is associated with fear. This study was based on subjects’ retrospective accounts of emotion-eliciting situations, and therefore the data cannot confirm the view that appraisal causes emotion. However, the assumption that emotion and appraisal are causally related seems reasonable.

Another approach to explaining the causes of emotions is that of attribution theory. The central idea of this theory, according to the American psychologist Bernard Weiner, is that the perceptions of the causes of events can be characterized in three principal ways which affect many emotional experiences. The perceived causes of events (e.g., success and failure) are characterized by their locus (internal or external to the person), stability (a trait of the person or a temporary condition), and controllability (under the person’s control or not).

Research has shown that different patterns of causal attribution are associated with different emotions, including anger, guilt, shame, and the more complex phenomena of pity, pride, gratitude, and hopelessness. Pity is attributed to the perception of uncontrollable and stable causes–people feel pity for a person who has an affliction due to a genetic defect or accident. Anger is attributed to external and controllable events–people feel anger when an affront or injury is caused by someone’s lack of concern or thoughtlessness. Guilt is attributed to the perception of internal and controllable causes–people feel guilt for wrongdoing they could have avoided. Children aged five to 12 understand the emotional consequences of revealing the causes of their actions; they know that their teachers might be angry at their failure if they have not tried hard enough and that teachers might feel pity for students who lack the ability to learn efficiently and perform well.

Psychologists researching cognitive activation have studied the relations between the ways people cope with stressful encounters and the emotions they experience after their efforts to resolve the problems. In one study emotions were assessed by asking subjects to indicate the extent to which they experienced emotions on four scales: worried/fearful, disgusted/angry, confident, and pleased/happy. Coping was assessed by subjective ratings on eight scales: confrontive coping (“stood my ground and fought”), distancing (“didn’t let it get to me”), self-control (“tried to keep my feelings to myself”), seeking social support (“talked to someone”), accepting responsibility (“criticized myself”), escape-avoidance (“wished the situation would go away”), planful problem solving (“changed or grew as a person”), and positive reappraisal. Four of these ways of coping were associated with the quality of emotion that followed the effort to cope. Planful problem solving and positive reappraisal tended to increase happiness and confidence and to decrease disgust and anger. Obversely, the subjects reported that confrontation and distancing techniques increased their disgust and anger and decreased their happiness and confidence. Because these data were retrospective, there can be no firm conclusion that a particular way of coping causes a particular emotion experience. Nevertheless, the observed relations among ways of coping and subsequent emotion experiences are reasonable and in line with theoretical expectations.

The controversy as to whether some cognitive process is a necessary antecedent of emotion may hinge on the definition of terms, particularly the definition of cognition. If cognition is defined so broadly that it includes all levels or types of information processing, then cognition may confidently be said to precede emotion activation. If those mental processes that do not involve mental representation based on learning or experience are excluded from the concept of cognition, then cognition so defined does not necessarily precede the three-week-old infant’s smile to the high-pitched human voice, the two-month-old’s anger expression to pain, or the formation of the affective preferences (likes or dislikes) in adults.

Multimodal theory.

Evidence suggests that a satisfactory model of emotion activation must be multimodal. Emotions can, as indicated above, be activated by such precognitive processes as physiological states, motor mimicry (imitation of another’s movements), and sensory processes and by numerous cognitive processes, including comparison, matching, appraisal, categorization, imagery, memory, attribution, and anticipation. Further, all emotion activation processes are influenced by a variety of internal and external factors.


In the discussion of the structure of emotions it is not always possible to ignore the function of emotions, which is discussed in the following section. The separation, however, is conducive to sorting out the complex field of emotions.

Both biosocial and constructivist theories of emotions acknowledge that an emotion is a complex phenomenon. They generally agree that an emotion includes physiological functions, expressive behaviour, and subjective experience and that each of these components is based on activity in the brain and nervous system. As noted above, some theorists, particularly those of the constructivist persuasion, hold that an emotion also involves cognition, an appraisal or cognitive-evaluative process that triggers the emotion and determines or contributes to the subjective experience of the emotion.

The physiological component.

The physiological component of emotion has been a lively topic of research since Cannon challenged the James-Lange theory by showing that feedback from the viscera has little effect on emotional expression in animals. Cannon’s studies and criticisms were regarded by many as too narrow, failing to, among other things, consider the possible role of feedback from striated muscle systems of the face and body.

Role of the nervous system.

Since the popularization of the James-Lange theory of emotion, the physiological component of emotion has been traditionally identified as activity in the autonomic nervous system and the visceral organs (e.g., the heart and lungs) that it innervates. However, some contemporary theorists hold that the neural basis of emotions resides in the central nervous system and that the autonomic nervous system is recruited by emotion to fulfill certain functions related to sustaining and regulating emotion experience and emotion-related behaviour. Several findings from neuroscience support this idea. Neuroanatomical studies have shown that the central nervous system structures involved in emotion activation can exert direct influences on the autonomic nervous system. For example, efferents from the amygdala to the hypothalamus may influence activity in the autonomic nervous system that is involved in defensive reactions. Further, there are connections between pathways innervating facial expression and the autonomic nervous system. Studies have shown that patterns of activity in this system vary with the type of emotion being expressed.

Roles of the brain hemispheres.

There is some evidence that the two hemispheres of the brain are related differently to emotion processes. Early evidence suggested that the right (or dominant) hemisphere may be more adept than the left at discriminating among emotional expressions. Later research using electroencephalography elaborated this initial conclusion, suggesting that the right hemisphere may be more involved in processing negative emotions and the left hemisphere more involved in processing positive emotions.

The expressive component.

The expressive component of emotion includes facial, vocal, postural, and gestural activity. Expressive behaviour is mediated by phylogenetically old structures of the brain, which is consistent with the notion that they served survival functions in the course of evolution.

Involvement of brain structures.

Emotion expressions involve limbic forebrain structures and aspects of the peripheral nervous system. The facial and trigeminal nerves and receptors in facial muscles and skin are required in expressing emotion and in facilitating sensory feedback from expressive movements.

Early studies of the neural basis of emotion expression showed that aggressive behaviour can be elicited from a cat after its neocortex has been removed and suggested that the hypothalamus is a critical subcortical structure mediating aggression. Later research indicated that, rather than the hypothalamus, the central gray region of the midbrain and the substantia nigra may be the key structures mediating aggressive behaviour in animals.

Neural pathways of facial expression.

Of the various types of expressive behaviour, facial expression has received the most attention. In human beings and in many nonhuman primates, patterns of facial movements constitute the chief means of displaying emotion-specific signals. Whereas research has provided much information on the neural basis of emotional behaviours (e.g., aggression) in animals, little is known about the brain structures that control facial expression.

The peripheral pathways of facial emotion expression consist of the seventh and fifth cranial nerves. The seventh, or facial, nerve is the efferent (outward) pathway; it conveys motor messages from the brain to facial muscles. The fifth, or trigeminal, nerve is the afferent (inward) pathway that provides sensory data from movements of facial muscles and skin. According to some theorists, it is the trigeminal nerve that transmits the facial feedback which contributes to the activation and regulation of emotion experience. The impulses for this sensory feedback originate when movement stimulates the mechanoreceptors in facial skin. The skin is richly supplied with such receptors, and the many branches of the trigeminal nerve detect and convey the sensory impulses to the brain.

The innateness and universality of emotion expressions.

More than a century ago Darwin’s observations and correspondence with friends living in different parts of the world led him to conclude that certain emotion expressions are innate and universal, part of the basic structure of emotions. Contemporary cross-cultural and developmental research has given strong support to Darwin’s conclusion, showing that people in literate and preliterate cultures have a common understanding of the expressions of joy, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, and fear. Other studies have suggested that the expressions of interest and shyness and the feelings of shame and guilt may also be innate and universal.

The experiential component.

There is general agreement that various stimuli and neural processes leading to an emotion result not only in physiological reactions and expressive behaviour but also in subjective experience. Some biosocial theorists restrict the definition of an emotion experience to a feeling state and argue that it can be activated independently of cognition. Constructivist theorists view the experiential component of emotion as having a cognitive aspect. The issue regarding the relation between emotion feeling states and cognition remains unresolved, but it is widely agreed that emotion feeling states and cognitive processes are typically highly interactive.

Emotion experiences, the actual feelings of joy, sadness, anger, shame, fear, and the like, do not lend themselves to objective measurement. All research on emotion experience ultimately depends on self-reports, which are imprecise. There are few instances where feelings and words are perfectly matched. Yet, most students of emotions, whether philosopher or neuroscientist, ultimately want to explain emotion experience.

The physiological structure of emotion experience.

Little is known about the neural basis of emotion experience. Critical reviews have shown that there is little evidence to support the position that activity in the autonomic nervous system provides the physiological basis for emotion experience. However, there is some evidence to support the hypothesis that sensory feedback from facial expression contributes to emotion experience.

Cognitive models of emotion experience have influenced conceptions of the underlying neural processes. Explanations of emotions in terms of appraisal and attributional processes led some researchers to suggest that conscious experiences of emotions derive from the cognitive processes that underlie language. This led to the hypothesis that emotion experiences involve interactions between limbic forebrain areas and the areas of the neocortex that mediate language and language-based cognitive systems. However, this view does not take into account the possibility that emotions occur in preverbal infants and may be mediated in adults by unconscious or nonlinguistic mental processes, such as imagery.

Action tendencies in emotion experiences.

Both constructivist and biosocial theorists have emphasized that emotions include action tendencies. The experience, or feeling, of a given emotion generates a tendency to act in a certain way. For example, in anger the tendency is to attack and in fear to flee. Whether a person actually attacks in anger or flees in fear depends on the individual’s methods of emotion regulation and the circumstances.

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22 Jan 2013, and is filled under Emotions.



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