What Are Emotions?

  • Display of feelings
  • Relatively brief
  • Response to events having motivational relevance
  • Overall subjective concept

Six Basic Emotions

  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Surprise
  • Sadness 
  • Anger
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Emotions & Evolution


  • Universally expressed and recognised
  • If emotions are innate/biological then they will be recognised everywhere, regardless of culture
  • Blind people can still express the six basic emotions but cannot learn from others
  • Debate about whether emotions have evolved or are a psychological construct
  • Emotions without clear facial expressions, e.g. boredom or guilt are ambiguous
  • Evolutionary benefits to showing emotions, e.g. showing fear for a threat can help you to survive/overcome the threat

Families of Emotion

  • Basic emotions - evolved, universally expressed and understood (the six basic emotions)
  • Self-conscious emotions - e.g. shame, pride
  • Moral emotions - e.g. empathy

Zelenski & Larson - Which Emotions are Common?

  • Freud argues humans are naturally unhappy but it was found that Ps were 5x more often happy than sad
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Biology of Emotions: Amygdala


  • Located in temporal lobe, part of lymbic system
  • Important in the expression of conditioned emotional responses
  • Focal point between sensory systems and systems for behavioural, autonomic and hormonal components

Damage to the Amygdala

  • Linked to a lack of fear responses when presented with stimuli that should typically cause fear
  • Link of thalamus and amygdala - carries emotional content of conditioning; 'quick and dirty'
  • Link of thalamus to auditory/visual cortex to amygdala - carries sensory content of conditioning; further processing of the situation; e.g. initial fear that a long object could be a snake when in reality it's a stick
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Biology of Emotions: Orbitofrontal Cortex


  • Located in top of frontal lobes
  • Receives info from sensory systems and regions of the frontal lobes that control behaviour
  • Communicates with the limbic system

Damage to the OFC

  • Case of Phineas Gage - personality and emotional world changed after suffering damage to his frontal lobes
  • Damage to OFC impairs inhibitions and self-concern, and results in difficulties with social behaviour
  • Idea that connections between somatic states (e.g. sweaty palms) and an appreciation of them are missing - struggle to link bodily states with emotions
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Facial Feedback Hypothesis

Strack et al

  • Ps held pen in mouth in either sucking (preventing a smile) or teeth (smile) conditions
  • Ps read and rated cartoons
  • Found that teeth condition resulted in cartoons being rated as more funny compared to the sucking condition
  • Supports the idea that our facial expressions can influence our feelings

Effects of Botox

  • Botox on the brow paralyses muscles needed to frown
  • Preventing people from frowning impacts the emotion of anger, supporting facial feedback hypothesis
  • Slower to evoke the emotion of anger
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Theories of Emotion: James-Lange v Cannon Bard

James-Lange Theory

  • Do we cry then know we feel sad, or do we feel sad and then cry?
  • Behavioural link to emotion
  • Stimulus (e.g. growling dog) leads to perception/interpretation, triggering a unique pattern of autonomic arousal
  • This is a somatic state of the body that is unique to particular stimulus, e.g. heart beating faster/breathing hard when seeing a growling dog, which leads to the expression of a particular emotion

Cannon-Bard Theory

  • Counter to James-Lange theory
  • Emotional and physiological responses are separate but both happen in response to the stimulus
  • Same physiological reactions for different emotions, e.g. increased heartbeat and sweaty palms can be the same reaction for both feelings of fear and excitement
  • A stimulus triggers both an emotional and physiological response
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Theories of Emotion: Two Factor Theory

Schachter & Singer

  • Hybrid of James-Lange and Cannon-Bard
  • Emotions jointly determined by the perception of physiology and cognitive assessment of the situation
  • Ps given adrenaline shot - looked at how they interpret arousal in the context they were in
  • 3 conditions - Ps told that the adrenaline would have either: no effect; make them tremble and increase their heart rate (true); or that they would experience symptoms not associated with adrenaline, e.g. feeling numb 
  • Found that conditions 1 and 3 felt happy around happy confeds and angry around angry confeds
  • Found that the emotions of Ps in condition 2 were unaffected by the confed - correctly attributed arousal symptoms to emotion/injection

Misattribution of Arousal Paradigm - Dutton & Aron

  • Related to Schachter & Singer
  • Ps either crossed a wobbly or stable bridge, then asked to rate how attractive a particular person was
  • Found that Ps who crossed the wobbly bridge rated the person as more attractive than the stable bridge condition
  • This is because they were more aroused and misattriubuted the physiological arousal to physical attraction
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