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The word emotion includes a wide range of observable behaviors, expressed feelings, and changes in the body state. This diversity in intended meanings of the word emotion make it hard to study. For many of us emotions are very personal states, difficult to define or to identify except in the most obvious instances. Moreover, many aspects of emotion seem unconscious to us. Even simple emotional states appear to be much more complicated than states as hunger and thirst. "The word emotion includes a broad repertoire of perceptions, expressions of feelings and bodily changes." To clarify the concept of emotions, three definitions of various aspects of emotions can be distinguished: 1. Emotion is a feeling that is private and subjective. Humans can report an extraordinary range of states, which they can feel or experience. Some reports are accompanied by obvious signs of enjoyment or distress, but often these reports have no overt indicators. In many cases, the emotions we note in ourselves seem to be blends of different states. 2. Emotion is a state of psychological arousal an expression or display of distinctive somatic and autonomic responses. This emphasis suggests, that emotional states can be defined by particular constellations of bodily responses. Specifically, these responses involve autonomously innervated visceral organs, like the heart or stomach. This second aspect of emotion allows us to examine emotions in both animals and human beings. 3. Emotions are actions commonly "deemed", such as defending or attacking in response to a threat. This aspect of emotion is especially relevant to Darwin's point of view of the functional roles of emotion. He said that emotions had an important survival role because they generated actions to dangerous situations.
Expression and Perception of Emotions
Our emotions have a great impact on others when we express them in ways that can be perceived by others. When we percieve the emotional responses of other people, we respond in appropriate ways, perhaps with an emotional expression of our own. We often seize upon instances of emotional expression in others to form our ideas of their personality.
We percieve emotion in others from many sources. The voice is one channel of emotional expression. Screams denote fear or excitement, groans denote pain or unhappiness, sobs denote sorrow, and laughter denotes enjoyment. A tremor or break in the voice may mean great sorrow; a loud, high-pitched, sharp voice usually means anger. Of course, what is actually being said is also an important cue to the emotion being experienced by other people. While what is said and the way in which it is said are major factors in the perception of emotion, movements of the body are also used as cues in interpreting other people’s emotions. Important among these non-verbal cues are facial expressions. In the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin said that there is an innate, or inborn, basis for the facial expression of certain emotions, and now we are reasonably sure he was right. Not only facial expressions, but context- the situation in which an emotion occurs- gives us information for judging what emotion is being expressed. Of course, people are most accurate in their judgements when the facial expression are both present and convey complemantary information. Since this is typical of everyday life, we usually are good at judging emotions. Sometimes, however, the facial expression and the context give us conflicting cues. In this case, experiments have shown that we tend to rely more on the facial expression or other non-verbal behavior than on the context in making our judgment. Although we are often quite accurate at deducting emotion from facial expressions and other cues, several complications should be mentioned. One is that learning can modify the expression of even the primary emotions. People may learn to suppress the expression of an emotion. And learning plays a major role in the expression of the more subtle emotions, such as awe or jealousy. People learn to express these emotions in different ways. SO unless we know a person’s idiosyncrasies, it may be difficult for us to know exactly what emotion that person is experiencing. A second factor complicating the perception of emotions is that a person often expresses several emotions at one time; these blends of emotions are hard to judge.
Physiology of Emotion
Internal, physical reactions to emotion occur when your autonomic nervous system is called into action. Depending on the emotion and its intensity, the body's energy distribution either increases or decreases. When anger or fear is experienced, the pulse quickens and shortness of breath and trembling may take place, while emotions such as heartache, grief, and regret may cause bodily functions to slow down significantly. When this takes place, you fall into a depression, resulting in excessive sleeping and physical weakness.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system (ANS or visceral nervous system) is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as a control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness, and controls visceral functions.The ANS affects heart rate, digestion, respiration rate, salivation, perspiration, diameter of the pupils, micturition (urination), and sexual arousal. Whereas most of its actions are involuntary, some, such as breathing, work in tandem with the conscious mind. The Autonomic system consists of many nerves leading from the brain and spinal cord out to the smooth muscles of the various organs of both the interior and exterior of the body. The autonomic nervous system has two parts. One part, the sympathetic system, is active during aroused states and prepares the body for extensive action by increasing the heart rate, raising the blood pressure, increasing blood sugar levels, and raising the levels of certain hormones in the blood. Observations indicate that it is this part of the autonomic nervous system that is active in many strong emotions, especially fear and anger. In emotion, the sympathetic system causes the discharge of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine . Nerve impulses in the sympathetic system which reach the inner part of the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys, trigger the secretion of these hormones, which then go in to the blood and circulate around the body. Epinephrine affects many structures of the body. In the liver, it helps mobilize glucose (blood sugar) into the blood and thus makes energy available to the brain and muscles. Epinephrine also causes the heart to beat harder. Thus epinephrine duplicates and strengthens many of the actions of the sympathetic system on various internal organs. In the skeletal muscles, epinephrine helps mobilize sugar resources so that the muscles can use them more rapidly. The major effect of norepinephrine is to constrict peripheral blood vessels and so raise blood pressure.
The other part of autonomic nervous system, called the parasympathetic system, tends to be active when we are calm and relaxed. In contrast with the sympathetic system, the parasympathetic system does many things that help build up and conserve the body’s stores of energy. Many of the effects of parasympathetic system activity are opposite the effects of sympathetic system activity.
In active, aroused emotional states, sympathetic activity predominates; in calmer states, parasympathetic activity is dominant.But both sytems can be active in many emotional states; the pattern of bodily activity characteristic of the emotion is a blend of parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. In anger, for instance, the heart rate increases (a sympathetic effect), as does stomach activity (a parasympathetic effect).
Patterns of Bodily Response in Emotion
Activity occurs in the body’s hormonal system and in both the autonomic and somatic parts of the peripheral nervous system during emotional states. The somatic nervous system is that part of the peripheral nervous system which activates the stripes muscles of the body- the arm, leg and breathing muscles, for instance. Thus, the changes in breathing, muscle tension, and posture seen in emotion are brought about by activity of the somatic nervous system. To illustrate the patterns of bodily changes which accompany emotion, consider the emotions of the fear and anger. The bodily changes that accompany these emotions are largely due to increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system; this activity helps the body deal with threatening situations, and therefore the pattern of activity in these emotions is known as the emergency reaction or flight-or-fight response. In contrast to the emergency reaction in fear and anger are the bodily reactions in calm, meditative emotional states. These reactions make up what is called the relaxation response. The pattern of bodily responses during relaxation includes decreased activity in both the sympathetic and somatic nervous system, together with increased parasympathetic activity. As far as sympathetic and somatic activity are concerned, the relaxation response is almost the opposite of the emergency reaction.
The Brain And Emotion
The brain is involved in the perception and evaluation of situations that give rise to emotion. If a situation results in an emotional state, the brain controls the somatic and autonomic patterns of activity characteristic of the emotion; in other words, it controls the physiological expression of the emotion. Of course, the brain is also involved in directing the behavior driven by the emotional state and is necessary for the emotional feelings we have. A number of structures in the core of the brain are directly involved in regulating and coordinating the activity patterns characteristic of the stronger emotions, especially fear, anger, and pleasure. These core parts of the brain include the hypothalamus and a complex group of structures known as the limbic system. The structures of this system form a ring, or a border, around the brain stem as it enters the forebrain. Its been found that damage to some of the structures of the limbic system produces great changes in the emotional behavior of animals, making tame animals wild or wild animals tame. Stimulation of certain parts of the limbic system and the hypothalamus produces behavioral patterns very much like those in naturally occurring emotions. In addition, electrical simulation of portions of the limbic system and hypothalamus, as well as other brain regions, is rewarding to animals and pleasurable for human beings.
Arousal is a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli. Many emotions have an arousal component. When we are emotional, we often feel excited. Some theorists have argued that all emotion is just the degree to which a person or animal is stirred up. Indicators of Arousal- The electroencephalogram (EEG) tells us something about the state of arousal. The EEG is a record of changing electrical activity of millions of nerve cells, all functioning at the same time in the brain. With suitable amplification, this electrical amplification can be recorded by electrodes attached to the head. The electrical activity of the cerebral cortex of the brain waxes and wanes spontaneously to give a wave like record, and this is why the EEG is popularly said to “record brain waves”. When a person is aroused or excited, the EEG consists of high-frequency, lowvoltage [amplitude] waves. As an individual becomes more relaxed, the frequency of the EEG tends to decrease, while the voltage of the waves tends to increase.
To make somewhat finer distinctions among degrees of arousal, a number of other measure might be used: heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and depth, pupil size, and skin conductance, for example. Another indication of arousal in both humans and lower animals is the orienting reaction – an organism’s orientation to a new stimulus or to a stimulus change. The exact nature of the orienting reaction depends on the stimulus, the species of the organism, its age, its present state of arousal, and other factors. Arousal and Performance – Since arousal energizes behavior, one might think that the more aroused people are, the better their performance will be on all sorts of tasks. This is true upto a point. However, in complicated tasks, very intense arousal may impair performance. This occurs when a person must discriminate among cues or do appropriate things at different times. Formally stated, the principle is that performance is an inverted U-shaped function of level of arousal when cues must be discriminated.
As shown in the figure, the ability to response to cues is low, but not entirely lacking, in the low-arousal state of sleep. The ability increases with rising arousal up to an optimal level. Thereafter, as the person becomes more intensely disturbed [aroused], performance declines. In other words, highly aroused or anxious people are not so likely to perform well on complex tasks as are people with a lower level of arousal that is more nearly optimum.