The Science of Emotion - emotion is biological

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Darwin, 1872
Emotions as adaptations. Facial expressions and body reactions prepare individual for action and serve as communicative signals.
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James-Lange, 1884
Emotions as bodily responses. There is emotion-specific activation in the body. The body changes support specific actions. The body changes produce the feeling.
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Cannon, 1927
Critiqued James-Lange (1884) - The body changes are too non-specific to account for the variety of emotional experiences. The body changes are too slow to account for emotions and can be found without the associated emotion being produced
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Mendes, 2010
Some sources of evidence - Emotion experience and bodily states Ability to sense bodily states (interoception) and physiological reactivity declines in older age, which may impair emotional experience. This is known as maturational dualism
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Ekman et al., 1983
Differences among negative emotions. Heart rate: lower in disgust; higher in fear, anger and sadness. Galvanic skin response (sweat): higher in disgust and fear. Finger temperature: higher in anger; lower in fear
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Autonomic nervous system specificity
Whether or not emotions are body responses depends on the evidence for emotion-specific ANS activity. Different scholars arrive at different conclusions (Friedman, 2010).
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Function of the autonomic nervous system
Control system that maintains internal conditions of the body (organs, glands, muscles etc.) in response to environmental events. Controls processes such as digestion, blood flow, temperature.
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Structure of the autonomic nervous system
ANS is part of peripheral nervous system. Has two main subsystems: sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
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Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS):
Helps with demanding actions by increasing heart rate, constricting arteries, and reducing digestion.
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Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS):
Helps restorative processes by decreasing heart rate, dilating arteries, and increasing digestion.
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Dynamic Systems View:
ANS has many pathways and many components so emotion specificity possible. Also, Thayer and Lane (2000)
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Thayer and Lane (2000)
proposed a neurovisceral model of emotion regulation that integrates neural systems with autonomic systems. Dynamic systems model involving feedback circuits, that enables the individual to adapt to their environment.
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Heart-rate variablity (HRV):
Variation in beat-to-beat interval. Produced by combined influence of SNS and PNS. PNS influences heart via vagal nerve. SNS dominates during stressful event and hence reduces variability. So greater variability seen as healthier in long-term.
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Heart-rate variability and emotion
Greater HRV at rest associated with ability to regulate negative emotions (Pu et al., 2010). Positive emotions generated through loving-kindness meditation found to increase HRV, via an increase in perceptions of social connections(Kok et al., 2013
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Porges’ Polyvagal Theory (1995) - background
Vagus is a family of neural pathways originating from different parts of brainstem. Dorsal nucleus (DMNX) path decreases heart rate. Nucleus ambiguus (NA) path influences HRV.
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Porges’ Polyvagal Theory (1995) - evolutionary development
Reptiles have DMNX path only.This produces immobilisation in response to novel stimuli.Mammals,in contrast,use NA path to repeatedly inhibit cardiac response,but this is withdrawn to deal with demands,&under duress DMNX path may produce "freezing"
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Porges’ Polyvagal Theory (1995) - explanation
NA has inputs from amygdala and facial nerve, so potentially influenced by emotions. May enable prosocial emotions in particular (e.g. soothing, compassion).
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Evidence concerning role of brain structures in generating, processing and regulating emotions comes from:
Electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings; Neuroimaging (fMRI, PET); Experiments (e.g., facial actions; electrical stimulation); Brain damage studies; Emotion disorders; and Combinations of these (e.g. neural activation in depressed patients).
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Papez (1937)
Papez Circuit. extended Cannon-Bard's (1928) proposal concerning role of thalamus in producing emotion.He identified a neural circuit in which sensory input to the thalamus splits into two parts
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Papez (1937) - two parts
an upstream “thought” pathway to the cingulate cortex, and a downstream “feeling” pathway which loops back to the cingulate.
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Maclean (1952)
MacLean’s limbic system. proposed that the limbic system generates emotion experience by integrating sensations from the external world and the body.
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Panksepp (1998)
extended MacLean's limbic system (1952) by proposing that each emotion has its own limbic system circuit that readies an individual for a particular kind of action.
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LeDoux (1993) identified amygdala as the critical structure in the limbic system for emotion.
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LeDoux, 1993
Amygdala displays emotional learning of stimuli
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Levesque et al., 2003; Lane et al., 1997)
The amygdala responds to emotionally intense stimuli
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Breiter et al., 1996; Phillips et al., 1997
Amygdala Appears to have a key role in processing social signals of emotion, especially fear in faces.
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Davidson et al., 2003
Shows heightened activation in some affective disorders, for example depression
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Anderson & Phelps, 2000
Does not seem to be involved in experience of emotions (only in evaluating them).
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Ochsner et al., 2002 - cortex in emotion regulation - method
pp's view photos, two-thirds were evocative of negative emotion&one-third relatively neutral in content. For the negative photos, on half of the trials pp's were asked to reappraise the photo so that it would no longer produce a negative response.
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Ochsner et al., 2002 - cortex in emotion regulation - results
This reappraisal condition led to greater activation in the dorsal&ventral regions of the left lateral prefrontal cortex&the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex.
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Rolls, 1997
Cortex in emotion -The orbitofrontal cortex is involved in reward learning
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Wicker et al., 2003
Cortex in emotion-Self-awareness.Insular cortex appears to be important in the experience of emotion, including aspects such as embodiment, anticipation, recognition and empathy. Insular activated in response to own disgust or seeing someone else's
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Mills (1912)
Lateralisation - Single system model: Right-hemisphere hypothesis. Proposes that right-hemisphere has specialised role in processing emotions. May be restricted to perception and expression of emotions.
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Davidson, 1984 - lateralisation - dual system models - known as valence hypothesis
Right hemisphere associated with withdrawal or inhibition, and hence negative emotions such as disgust and fear. Left hemisphere associated with approach or activation, and hence positive emotions such as happiness.anger too (Harmon-Jones et al. 2010
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Manovich, Ferrari, & Bruno, 2017 - lateralisation - background
Earlier research had found that artists prefer poses showing left cheeks when composing a portrait, but right cheeks when composing self-portraits. Accords with right hemisphere hypothesis that we may be more expressive on the left side.
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Manovich, Ferrari, & Bruno, 2017 - lateralisation - method
Study used database of instagram selfies from 6 world cities
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Manovich, Ferrari, & Bruno, 2017 - lateralisation - found
Found left cheek bias as expected. But negative emotions expressed more strongly on left cheek, and trend for positive emotions to be expressed more strongly on right cheek. Consistent with valence hypothesis.
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Manovich, Ferrari, & Bruno, 2017 - lateralisation - also found
The study also found that: females expressed positive emotions more strongly; negative emotions expressed more strongly in mirror selfies; selfies from London had lowest intensity emotions.
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Brain Basis of Emotion: Where Does That Leave Us? eight of evidence suggests that:
Emotion functions are not isolated in single anatomical structures within the brain.
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Lindquist et al., 2012 - background
There is little evidence that discrete emotions are isolated in distinct brain regions.
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Lindquist et al., 2012 - explanation
meta-analysis-found support for psychological constructionist approach-interacting brain regions which are involved in basic psychological functions(emotional&non-em)are activated during emotion experience&perception for wide range of discrete emotio
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How do the emotional messages get transmitted?
Neurotransmitters/neuromodulators, hormones.
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Panksepp, 1998
A reason as to why chemical effects in the brain are important for understanding emotions is that separate emotional systems seem to use specific chemical messengers, so systems are distinguished chemically, as well as anatomically.
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Examples of neurotransmitters
serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA
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Low levels of serotonin are related to depression. Antidepressants like Prozac inhibit reuptake
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Knutson et al., 1998
Serotonin - Pp's no psychiatric problems. Double blind. Gave some pp's serotonin reuptake inhibitors and others placebo. Played puzzle game. Those who received serotonin reuptake inhibitor reduced negative affect and indices of hostility
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Mayberg et al., 1999
Pp's reading about sad event-brain activation increased compared to neutral mood in cingulate.Compared to other depressed pp's who were given serotonin reuptake inhibitor decreased activity in cingulate region. Showed reverse of cingulate changes-sad
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Depue & Collins, 1999
Dopamine is associated with goal-related motivation and rewards
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Ochsner et al. (2009) - background
To investigate the involvement of bottom-up and top-down processes in generating emotions. conducted an fMRI study in which participants either looked at unpleasant images (bottom-up) or they reappraised neutral images as unpleasant (top-down).
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Ochsner et al. (2009) - found
Bottom-up activated left&right amygdala;top-down only activated the left amygdala.Bottom-up conditioner activated areas for perceiving stimuli;top-down activated areas for interpreting stimuli.
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Ochsner et al. (2009) - experience of affect
Experience of affect correlated with amygdala activation during bottom-up, but correlated with medial prefrontal areas during top-down.
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Ochsner et al. (2009) - conclusions
So, emotions may arise from different combinations of bottom-up and top-down processes; and Treatment could be directed at whether an emotional problem is primarily bottom-up or top-down.
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McRae and colleagues (2008) - background
Investigate whether there is a gender difference in emotion regulation
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McRae and colleagues (2008) - method
conducted fMRI study-pp's had to stop themselves from feeling distressed in response to unpleasant images.In other words,pp's had to use reappraisal(i.e., think about things differently),which is thought to be a top-down process
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McRae and colleagues (2008) - findings
No gender difference in reactivity to stimuli. Regulation decreased the negative emotion experience for both men and women. But men showed less activation in prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and ventral striatum (reward area)
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McRae and colleagues (2008) - concluded that
Concluded that men may use less effort in cognitive emotion regulation OR women recruit more positive emotions.
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Wicker et al., 2003
Found that an area of the brain called the insula was activated when a participant saw another person's facial expression of disgust and also when the participant experienced disgust.
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Decety (2010)
A review that suggests there is insufficient evidence at present for the suggestion that mirror neuron systems may be responsible for interpersonal emotion processes, such as empathy
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Decety & Jackson, 2006
In response to mirror neurons being linked to empathy-Brain areas that distinguish between self&others(e.g-temporo-parietal junction)are also active during empathy.Empathy-complex process that is likely to involve a range of distributed brain regions
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Havas et al., 2010 - background
Much of our communication of emotion is done through our face. some people choose to enhance how they look cosmetically, e.g., using botox. As a result they may appear less emotionally expressive, however this may cause other problems
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Havas et al., 2010 - explanation
shown that injecting botox leads to slower processing of emotional language, because it can paralyse the muscles used for emotional expression. This may impair feedback from the face while language processing
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Havas et al., 2010 - conclusion
This may impair feedback from the face while language processing (i.e. we mentally act out emotional expressions when reading about emotions).
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Damasio (1994)
Damage to emotion centres can leave people with no “gut” feeling for what to do. Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis suggests that this gut feeling comes from retrieving the markers of bodily reactions to previous similar events.
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Bechara et al., 2000
decision-making-patients with ventromedial frontal damage showed they were more likely to choose risky gambles in a betting game than control group.The controls had an elevated galvanic skin response when confronted with a risky choice, & avoided it
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Shiv et al., 2005
However to Bechara et al., 2000. However, it has been shown that for some types of decision, this type of impairment can actually improve outcomes, because an emotional response can lead to loss aversion & hence a failure to consider the actual risk
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***Roberts & Pennebaker, 1995 - background***
Cannon (1929) critiquing James-Lange (1884) - Cannon argued that most of the time we are insensitive to autonomic responses. They are simply too inaccessible or dull to cause emotional experience. For example...
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***Roberts & Pennebaker, 1995 - findings***
Found that people are only moderately attuned to their heart rate activity.
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***Damasio et al., 2000 - background***
Investigated the importance of the limbic system in experiencing emotions.
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***Damasio et al., 2000 - method - Pp's-asked to recall&re-experience incidents where they experienced sadness,happiness,anger&fear***
Researchers checked that pp's did actually experience these emotions.Also measured pp's changes of heart rate&galvanic skin response accompanying the experiential changes.
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***Damasio et al., 2000 - found***
Using positron emission tomography,found that brain regions where activation increased when people recalled particular emotions were mainly sub-cortical.Contrastingly,neural activity in the cortex tended to decrease when pp's experienced emotions
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James-Lange, 1884


Emotions as bodily responses. There is emotion-specific activation in the body. The body changes support specific actions. The body changes produce the feeling.

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Cannon, 1927


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Mendes, 2010


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Ekman et al., 1983


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