Emotion in animals is pretty simple: a subjective physiological reaction to “something” in the environment. What we call “emotion” is activation of the familiar “fight, flight or freeze response” that results from sensory stimulation, and is usually attuned to “danger”.
Emotion is a word: a noun, which designates an object that can be “named” – but the physical phenomenon is not an object: the naming of “emotions” is a socio-cultural activity. Nature never created an “emotion thing” that resides somewhere inside a human or animal; like other animals, we have a brain and nervous system which interacts with the environment, ostensibly for our benefit – to promote survival. Humans created the social “idea monstrosity” that claims to be “the truth” about how Homo sapiens works. Emotions are presented as parts “inside of you” – their location has been argued over forever! The heart, brain, gut, mysterious fluids, etc. have been given the attribution as the “seat” of emotion. Most “social” views of emotion are negative: weird and destructive animal inheritances that must be controlled, not surprisingly, by society!
Peculiar dogma plagues our concepts and application of “emotion rules” – notions which are purely cultural and do not “transfer” from Western psychology to “all humans”. Psychology demands the conceit that ALL HUMANS are mere replicas of “normal humans” who happen to be white males; underneath all the obvious “human diversity” of size, form, skin color, hair types, skull dimensions, manners, behaviors and individual preferences is a “white male” prototype. “Evolution” is deemed to be a “mistake” – all humans were meant to be white males in thought, behavior and belief; inferior mistakes ought to at least “mimic” their superiors.
This promotion of a bizarre “evolutionary” fantasy sounds ridiculous when plainly stated; a farce, a narrative born of childish arrogance, a sociopathic “plan” for world domination, and yet this Western psychological addiction to imaginary superiority is supported, promoted and fed by American Psychology – in theory, policy and practice.
As usual, we must go back to basics to untangle the mess surrounding “emotions” and the “off-topic” arguments over good and evil, positive and negative, male and female, race and class, biology and religion, authority and expertise and supernatural origins, which are indulged as serious consequences of human beliefs (not facts) of what we call “emotions” – fact, myth and propaganda.
From Gerrig, Richard J. & Philip G. Zimbardo (a self-diagnosed psychopath, BTW) . Psychology And Life, 16th ed. Published by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 2002 by Pearson Education.
Emotion: A complex pattern of changes, including physiological arousal, feelings, cognitive processes, and behavioral reactions, made in response to a situation perceived to be personally significant. (Wow! Considerable “mumbo-jumbo” ahead)
Emotional intelligence: Type of intelligence defined as the abilities to perceive, appraise, and express emotions accurately and appropriately, to use emotions to facilitate thinking, to understand and analyze emotions, to use emotional knowledge effectively, and to regulate one’s emotions to promote both emotional and intellectual growth. (See? Mumbo-jumbo of the ‘throw in every Psych-concept cliché you can think of’ type)
Paul Thagard Ph.D./ What Are Emotions? / April 15, 2010
Happiness is a brain process
Philosophers and psychologists have long debated the nature of emotions such as happiness. Are they states of supernatural souls, cognitive judgments about goal satisfaction, or perceptions of physiological changes? Advances in neuroscience suggest how brains generate emotions through a combination of cognitive appraisal and bodily perception.
Suppose that something really good happens to you today: you win the lottery, your child gets admitted to Harvard, or someone you’ve been interested in asks you out. Naturally, you feel happy, but what does this happiness amount to? On the traditional dualist view of a person, you consist of both a body and a soul, and it is the soul that experiences mental states such as happiness. This view has the appealing implication that you can even feel happiness after your body is gone, if your soul continues to exist in a pleasant location such as heaven. Unfortunately, there is no good evidence for the existence of the soul and immortality, so the dualist view of emotions and the mind in general can be dismissed as wishful thinking or motivated inference. (Not so fast: this “duality” remains the hard-core belief of the “majority” of people in the U.S. And, as we shall see, in American Psychology.)
There are currently two main scientific ways of explaining the nature of emotions. According to the cognitive appraisal theory emotions are judgments about the extent that the current situation meets your goals. Happiness is the evaluation that your goals are being satisfied, as when winning the lottery solves your financial problems and being asked out holds the promise of satisfying your romantic needs. Similarly, sadness is the evaluation that your goals are not being satisfied, and anger is the judgment aimed at whatever is blocking the accomplishment of your goals. (BTW, this is not a scientific theory – it is a social narrative)
Alternatively, William James and others have argued that emotions are perceptions of changes in your body such as heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and hormone levels. (A reasonable proposition based in physiology) On this view, happiness is a kind of physiological perception, not a judgment, and other emotions such as sadness and anger are mental reactions (why is “mental” used here? That “ghostly” duality again!) to different kinds of physiological stages. The problem with this account is that bodily states do not seem to be nearly as finely tuned as the many different kinds of emotional states.Yet there is undoubtedly some connection between emotions and physiological changes. (OMG! This is a rambling misconception of a “supernatural origin of emotions” and refutation of physical reality as the foundation for valid hypotheses about thought and behavior in humans. This brilliantly demonstrates the serious mistake of believing that words are “actual objects” that precede and supersede physical reality. This is word magic – the belief that words have the power to create reality – Abracadabra!)
Understanding how the brain works shows that these theories of emotion – cognitive appraisal and physiological perception – can be combined into a unified account of emotions. (are you ready for some fabulous psych nonsense?) The brain is a parallel processor, doing many things at once. Visual and other kinds of perception are the result of both inputs from the senses and top-down interpretations based on past knowledge. Similarly, the brain can perform emotions by interactively combining both high-level judgments about goal satisfactions and low-level perceptions of bodily changes. The judgments are performed by the prefrontal cortex which interacts with the amygdala and insula that process information about physiological states. Hence happiness can be a brain process that simultaneously makes appraisals and perceives the body. For details about how this might work, see the EMOCON model of emotional consciousness (link is external).
Before we proceed to, Major Theories of Emotion,
(I desperately need a break)
let’s peruse a few “general” definitions of emotion.
Word origin of ’emotion’: from old French esmovoir to excite, from Latin ēmovēre to disturb, from movēre to move (this is the same, regardless of the specific definition)
Note how many “non-physical” reference words are included
Thanks to FARLEX ONLINE, which collects stuff for you, in one place.
a state of arousal characterized by alteration of feeling tone and by physiologic behavioral changes. The external manifestation of emotion is called affect; a pervasive and sustained emotional state, mood. adj., adj emo´tional. The physical form of emotion may be outward and evident to others, as in crying, laughing, blushing, or a variety of facial expressions. However, emotion is not always reflected in one’s appearance and actions even though psychic changes (duality again) are taking place. Joy, grief, fear, and anger are examples of emotions.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
A strong feeling, aroused mental state, or intense state of drive or unrest, which may be directed toward a definite object and is evidenced in both behavior and in psychological changes, with accompanying autonomic nervous system manifestations.
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
a strong feeling state, arising subjectively and directed toward a specific object, with physiological, somatic, and behavioral components.
Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a feeling: the emotions of joy, sorrow, and anger.
2. Such mental states or the qualities that are associated with them, especially in contrast to reason: a decision based on emotion rather than logic. (That duality again, when “reason” and emotion are not opposed in human behavior, but work together)!
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
1 the outward expression or display of mood or feeling states.
2 the affective aspect of consciousness as compared with volition and cognition. Physiological alterations often occur with a marked change of emotion regardless of whether the feelings are conscious or unconscious, expressed or unexpressed. See also emotional need, emotional response. (“Conceptual clichés” again)
Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 9th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.
Psychology A mood, affect or feeling of any kind–eg, anger, excitement, fear, grief, joy, hatred, love. See Negative emotion, Positive emotion, Toxic emotion. (Yeah, a list of emotion words is not a definition; neither is a social “judgement” about “good and evil”)
Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Any state of arousal in response to external events or memories of such events that affect, or threaten to affect, personal advantage. Emotion is never purely mental (emotion is physical, actually) but is always associated with bodily changes such as the secretion of ADRENALINE and cortisol and their effects. The limbic system and the hypothalamus of the brain are the mediators of emotional expression and feeling. The external expression of emotional content is known as ‘affect’. Repressed emotions are associated with psychosomatic disease. The most important, in this context, are anger, a sense of dependency, and fear. (Oh dear, the unscientific social narratives never end – emotions are the “bringers” of pestilence and punishment.)
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
a short-term positive or negative affective state. Typically differentiated from mood in that an emotion is of shorter duration and evoked in response to a specific event, such as anger. (So odd! Anger is the ’emotion’ – reaction; there seems to be a universal neurotypical inability to discern cause and effect!)
Dictionary of Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine by Churchill Livingstone © 2008 Elsevier Limited. All rights reserved.
a complex feeling or state (affect) accompanied by characteristic motor and glandular activities; feelings; mood.
Mosby’s Dental Dictionary, 2nd edition. © 2008 Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
aroused state involving intense feeling, autonomic activation and related behavior. Animals have emotions insofar as they are motivated to behave by what they perceive and much of the reaction is learned rather than intuitive (instinctive) (Hmm … the categorical division animal / human is maintained, but with animal emotion being “lower in status” – a mere reaction – which is true in humans also. The reactions are based on rewarding and adversive properties of stimuli from the external environment. The center for the control of emotional behavior is the limbic system of the brain.
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 3 ed. © 2007 Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.