Introduction to Emotion

What you’ll learn to do: explain theories of emotion and how we express and recognize emotion

Four sculptures of a man showing four different expressions: fear, anger, contempt, and disgust.

As we move through our daily lives, we experience a variety of emotions (which we often call “feelings”). Emotions are subjective states of being that, physiologically speaking, involve physiological arousal, psychological appraisal and cognitive processes, subjective experiences, and expressive behavior. Emotions are often the driving force behind motivation (whether positive or negative) and are expressed and communicated through a wide range of behaviors, such as tone of voice and body language.

Our psychological appraisal of a situation is informed by our experiences, background, and culture. Therefore, different people may have different emotional experiences of similar situations. However, the ability to produce and recognize emotional facial expressions seems to be universal. That said, cultures differ in how often and under what circumstances it is “okay” to express various emotions, as well as how various expressions of emotions are interpreted.

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast the the Cannon-Bard, James-Lange, Schachter-Singer two-factor, and other theories of emotion
  • Describe the role that limbic structures play in emotional processing
  • Classify and explain how emotions are recognized and expressed

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