Definition: Subjectively experienced positive or negative states of consciousness

Download 34.5 Kb.
Size34.5 Kb.
DEFINITION: Subjectively experienced positive or negative states of consciousness

Are emotions built-in or learned through culture?

This is one of the biggest questions with regard to emotions. The bottom line is that we are biologically prepared to experience certain emotions, but culture tells us what events trigger emotion, and how much emotion we should express.
1. Cultures affect the expression or inhibition of emotions

e.g., In Japanese culture discourages public displays of emotion because the expression of too much emotion might be considered a disgrace to others in one’s group.

2. The events that instigate emotions depend on one’s culture

e.g., in the southern part of the U.S., there is what’s called the culture of honor. In this part of the U.S. if someone insults your honor it is grounds for aggression toward that person, whereas, in other parts of the U.S. such as the north, such acts might bring on shame.


Without any cultural learning, infants experience a variety of emotions. By the age of 6 weeks, they share similar facial expressions for specific emotions.


Also show a variety of emotions without any cultural experiences.


There is high cross cultural similarity in peoples’ use of facial expressions to convey different emotions, suggesting that it is not learned. For example, tribes in New Gineau who have had no prior contact with westerners are able to correctly identify facial expressions for emotions as accurately as westerners (Ekman et al., 1972).

There are at least 6 common emotions: joy, anger, sadness, surprise, disgust, & fear


Facial EMG —put electrodes on face & measure muscle movements

Corrugator Muscle (above eyebrow) is contracted when angry Furrowed eyebrows

Zygomatic Muscle (on the cheek) gets moved when we smile Smiling

Try doing both at same time- we can do it, but it feels funny because we are not made to be angry and smile at the same time- two contradicting emotions.

James Laird’s research

He found that making certain facial expressions can create or intensify emotions. He did studies where he asked people to hold a pen in their mouth while being exposed to certain stimuli (videos, reading stories, looking at pictures, etc.). He found that holding a pen in mouth increased peoples’ enjoyment of the stimuli- probably because holding a pen activates the zygomatic muscle for smiling. When this muscle is activated, the body gives your brain feedback that you must be happy.

James Laird got his idea from William James…


William James was a prominent historical figure in psychology who made the observation that first there is a bodily response which leads to emotional experiences. James studied the case of a woman who became paralyzed from the neck down after a terrible horse riding accident. When she was in the hospital her friends would come to see here, but she would rarely show any intense emotions good or bad- emotion seemed to be muted after the event. James reasoned that maybe the bodies reaction to events is what influences the emotion. Because she was paralyzed she couldn’t get as much bodily feedback to tell her what she was feeling.

Thus, James came to the conclusion that…
Emotion-----> bodily changes Bodily changes-----> emotion

(this one is wrong) (this one is right)
Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect. . . the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble

William James (1890)

A guy named Dan Schachter came along about a hundred years later and said that James was partially right. Bodily changes are necessary but not sufficient to create emotion. Schachter said that there must be a cognitive interpretation of the situation, and this interpretation influences the kind of emotional experience people have. He suggested the following formula…

Emotion = physiological arousal + a cognition (label)

Schachter & Singer (1960’s)

To test this idea, Schachter & Singer did a study where they told people they were testing the effects of a vitamin. To this end, they gave some people a shot of epinephrine, but told them it was a vitamin shot. Epinephrine is a drug that causes one to experience physiological arousal. They gave another group of people a shot of saline solution (no arousal group). Among the people that were given a shot of epinephrine, some were told nothing about the side effects of the vitamin shot (no information group), others were given accurate information (informed group), and others were told that the vitamin would make them mellow (misinformed). Then they told the participants to wait in a waiting room for a while. While in the waiting room a confederate (a person pretending to be a subject in the study) started doing humorous things to make them laugh. Then the experimenter measured the participants’ mood (how happy they were). Participants who were in the no arousal group (saline solution) reported being a little happy. Participants in the informed group felt no change in mood (because they had an accurate label for their arousal, the vitamin shot)—these people could not attribute their arousal to the funny guy & being in a good mood because they knew it came from the vitamin shot. The people who were in the no information and misinformation groups reported the most positive mood because they had no label for their arousal-- their arousal could be labeled as humor in response to the funny guy. Schachter & Singer replicated these findings using a confederate who acted angry, showing that they could create other emotions using this same procedure. Thus, emotion is physiological arousal + some kind of label or cue in the environment to tell us what we are feeling.

Dutton & Aron--- Field research

Suspension Bridge study…
This was a field experiment that demonstrated the same basic finding as Schachter & Singer. They had an attractive female experimenter give a survey to men on a very high, unstable bridge (high fear arousal group) or on a low, sturdy bridge (low fear arousal group). After given them the survey, she gave them her number and said to call her in one week if they want to know the results of the study. Thus, the Dependent variable in the study was the # of call backs in each condition. Call backs were operationally defined as sexual interest in the female experimenter. They found that when interviewed on the scary bridge, the girl got more call backs & men wrote with more sexual imagery in their surveys. Thus, arousal from the scary bridge was misattributed to sexual attraction to the girl, which influenced the men’s emotional response.

(a derivative of Schachter’s theory)

Basically, Zillman says that when we work out or do something to get aroused, our level of arousal goes up fast but when the triggering event or work-out session is over our arousal level dissipates slowly because there are still hormones and adrenaline rushing through our bloodstream. However, our awareness that we are aroused goes down rapidly after we finish working out or after the triggering event is over. Thus, at the point where arousal is still high, but our awareness of this arousal declines is when we are most likely to attribute this arousal to a different source.
For example, your boss yells at you before you leave work so you get aroused. Then you forget about it on the way home & think you aren’t aroused any more (but actually you are). Thus, when you get home and step in dogs poop on the front lawn you get so mad at dog you want to drop kick fido across the lawn because arousal triggered from work is misattributed to fido.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2019
send message

    Main page