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Analysis of Emotions


EMOTIONS, ANALYSIS OF. The analysis of emotions has two most important aspects. First, attempts are being made to determine the nature of emotion. Second, theoretical and ex perimental efforts are being undertaken to determine the ele mentary emotions and to analyze the more complex emotional states into such elements.

There is much dispute among leading authorities as to the nature of emotion. Five principal views are upheld and at present are under experimental investigation.

First, the James-Lange theory, with modifications, is defended by some psychologists (see Allport, Social Psychology). That theory maintains that all emotions consist ultimately of sensa tions. James emphasized sensations resulting from skeletal move ments caused by the exciting object, and sensations caused directly by the exciting object itself. Lange emphasized visceral sensations, caused by movements of the viscera resulting from perception of the exciting object. Some writers follow James' emphasis, some follow Lange's, and some give approximately equal weight to both types of sensation as components of emotion.

Three lines of experimental evidence weigh against acceptance of any version of the James-Lange theory. First, Lenander, Sherrington, Goltz, Cannon and others have produced much physiological evidence against the theory. Visceral sensations have been shown to be very sparse, with a small number of re ceptor organs for sensation located in the viscera. Dogs have been shown to retain their former emotions unimpaired and even to experience emotions never felt before, when nearly all visceral change has been prevented by appropriate spinal transection. On the other hand, when a sufficient portion of the central nervous system (brain) has been removed, only the emotion of rage per sists. Another line of evidence, advanced by Cannon and others, shows that visceral changes must be virtually identical during many different emotions. Second, experimenters (Maranon) have shown that administration of adrenalin, which produces the very visceral sensations said to compose emotion, does not in fact cause emotion in human subjects, unless the appropriate emo tional idea is also supplied by suggestion or previous experience. Third, psychological experiments (Blatz, Marston, Brunswick) indicate that the emotion occurs more quickly than the visceral changes, does not run parallel with the visceral changes, and can be distinguished introspectively from sensations which may or may not accompany it (Nate, Conklin and Dimmick, Titchener, Cornell Laboratory). The James-Lange theory, though still under experimental investigation, seems quite definitely dis proved.

Second, some behaviourists hold a view closely akin to Lange's theory but much more radical in that the bodily changes them selves, and not their sensations, are regarded as constituting the emotion. These behaviourists, of course, deny the existence of consciousness of any sort, their emotion theory being but a corollary of this general position. (For evidence on this issue see the article on CONSCIOUSNESS.) The behaviourists distinguish between emotional and other responses simply by defining all visceral changes as emotional. Therefore, the same evidence cited against the James-Lange theory likewise weighs against their con tention.

Third, those psychologists who still uphold the concept of instinct regard emotion as one aspect of the consciousness accompanying instinctive behaviour patterns. This view has been carried still further by regarding emotion as the "inner" or "subjective" or "self" aspect of all action. Another slightly different version holds that emotion occurs only when the basic instincts or "drives" are blocked by some obstacle in the environ ment, or are thwarted by malfunctioning of the individual organ ism. The number of instincts, with corresponding emotions, varies considerably in different theories. McDougall gives 13 major and 7 minor instincts; Colvin 3o; Kirkpatrick 3o; James originally described 52 ; and Woodworth seems to accept about 11o. These large and varying numbers of ultimately different emotions accepted by the instinctivists appear to offer little hope of finding any common factor upon which all would agree as the true nature of emotion. Experimental proof of this view of emotion depends upon proof or disproof of instinct. Experiments in animal psychology are best adapted to this problem.

Fourth, the tenets of leading psycho-analysts assume a libido, with either one or two fundamental departments, sex, or sex and ego. This view is really very close to that of the instinctivists, as McDougall points out (Body and Mind) ; since both sex and ego can be thought of as little else than basic instincts with corre sponding and accompanying emotions. The physiological basis of the libido and its emotions is hazy, to say the least. Experimental testing of this view of the ultimate nature of emotion is there fore impossible. But social and group-analysis studies (Trigant Burrow) are seeking to amass evidence that the libido's dynamic drives and emotions underlie all human conduct.

Fifth, there are psychological and physiological theories which regard emotion and feeling as distinctive consciousness products of certain portions of the brain or nervous system (Cannon). A recent (1927) integrative theory of this type maintains that affection is motor consciousness generated by integration of nervous impulses in the motor centres, just as sensation is sensory consciousness generated by integration of impulses in the sensory centres (Marston). According to this view some affective aware ness must accompany all bodily action brought about by activity of the central nervous system. In this respect the theory agrees with the essential point of both the instinctive and psycho analytical views, and with James's original assertion that aware ness of bodily changes as they occur is the emotion. Some experi mental verification of this theory has been found, but adequate technique for a crucial test of the theory has not yet been per fected. It is, however, clearly subject to experimental proof or disproof.

The second important aspect of analysis of emotions concerns various attempts to discover primary or elementary emotions, from which all other emotions are built up. One view of this problem, maintained by some behaviouristic experimenters, holds that there is no such thing as a discreet, individual emotion, qualitatively distinct from all others, but that "general emotional ity" (Landis) only exists. This theory is based upon a failure to find distinctive emotional expressions in the form of invariable bodily changes for any of the emotions (fear, rage, etc.) experi mentally evoked, and thus presumes, without investigation, that fear, rage, etc., are ultimately simple emotion elements, and also that simple emotion elements must produce uniform bodily changes.

Other theories which postulate more or less specific primary emotions, or emotion elements, are those of the instinctivists and psychoanalysts, already discussed. The selection by the psycho analysts of love (sex) and appetite (ego-emotion) as emotion elements is based upon a great deal of clinical data ; but the con cepts of sex and ego thus arrived at clearly depict compound and not simple emotion elements.

Recent psychological findings suggest a definite neurological basis for love and appetite as the two basic compound emotions, and further present evidence for the existence of two simpler emotion elements in each compound (Marston). Appetite is com posed of compliance and dominance, and love is composed of inducement and submission. Fear results from over-compliance, rage from over-dominance, and other destructive emotions from conflicts and maladjustments between the four emotion ele ments.

Watson's findings with regard to emotion elements in young infants closely accord with those just given. Watson finds only three emotions in children, but one of those three, love, includes descriptions of both inducement and submission emotions. Wat son terms all compliance emotion fear, and all dominance rage. The classifications of emotion elements by Watson and Marston are in close agreement.

The only basis for emotional analysis of human beings in need of personality readjustment has been introspective reports, with reports of dreams and free associations therefrom. These have furnished an extremely indefinite and subjective basis for psycho analytical procedures, which have nevertheless accomplished sur prisingly effective practical results. When emotion elements are identified objectively, by observing the subject's behaviour, per sonality analysis and readjustment is placed upon a scientific basis, with promise of greater success.

Burrow, The Social Basis of Consciousness; O. Byrne, History of Theory and Research on Emotions; W. B. Cannon, Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage; W. M. Marston, "Motor Consciousness as a Basis for Emotion," J. Abn. & Soc. Psych. (Sept., 1927) ; J. B. Watson, Behaviourism. (W. M. M.)

emotion, theory, elements, changes, consciousness, visceral and sensations