Debates on Emotions II

Ekman (1994), influenced by Darwin (1872/1997) and his mentor Tomkins
(1962/2008), classified the characteristics of basic emotions, which distinguish
them from one another and other affective phenomena as follows: (1) Distinctive
universal signals (facial expression); (2) Presence in other primates; (3)
Distinctive physiology (such as a specific ANS reaction for each emotion); (4)
Distinctive universal antecedents – there are certain stimuli, preprogrammed
evolutionarily, that will elicit each of these basic emotions. This does not deny
the importance of learning in emotional responsiveness since learning
contributes to the establishment of a connection between a stimulus and an
emotion; (5) Coherence of response system (i.e. coherence between a given
emotion, its facial expression, an ANS pattern and CNS activity; (6) Quick onset
– emotions can begin within milliseconds of the presentation of an emotionally
provoking stimulus; (7) Brief duration – usually in seconds rather than minutes
or hours. This distinguishes emotions from moods; (8) Automatic appraisal
mechanism; (9) Unbidden occurrence – emotional responses occur automatically
to a given stimulus; they happen to us, they are not chosen by us; (10)
Distinctive subjective experience; and (11) Distinctive thoughts, memories

Bechara, Damasio & Damasio (2000), asserted that the brain structures
associated with the emotional states have all been independently associated with
bodily responses. He also refers to drives and motivations, pain and pleasure as
triggers or constituents of emotions but not as emotions in the proper sense. The
same distinction is made by Panksepp (1998) between proper emotions and
drives who does not consider hunger, thirst, and disgust to be emotions. From an
evolutionary point of view, “basic emotions” are “rapid acting, failsafe devices
that produce behavioral, physiological and cognitive responses tailored to certain
critical features of the environment.” (Griffiths, 1997:240)
Emotions of happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, anger, and fear, have
been claimed to be universal in respect of human population. (Ekman, 1994;
Izard, 1995) Ellsworth (1991) argues that these expressions have been theorists’
major “evidence” for holistic emotion programs that could not be broken down
into smaller units. Even though universal prototypical patterns have been found
for these “basic emotions”, there is no evidence that the facial expressions are
the indicators of emotions in spontaneous interactions. There are several
problems in linking facial expressions with emotion-antecedent appraisal. The
main problem is that there is no known mechanism of linking them. Besides, the
dynamically changing emotional expressions are not easily linked to a static
verbal label. In addition, the implicit and explicit social norms impose a
powerful role of regulation and expression control that renders the study of such
expressions rather difficult. Moreover, facial expressions are not necessarily an
indicator of emotional experience since they can serve several different
functions. (Kaiser & Wehrle, 2001)

‘Basic emotions’ are considered as having evolved for their adaptive value
in dealing with fundamental life tasks. Among these tasks, Lazarus (1991)
mentions facing danger, processing towards attaining goals, experiencing
irrevocable loss, “common adaptation tasks as these are appraised and
configured into core relational themes”. Stein & Trabasso (1992) consider that
the main task is the attainment of a goal. Attaining it, happiness is the result;
failure induces sadness; anger results by loosing it, while expectation of failure
leads to fear. For Tooby & Cosmides (1990) the appraisal of a current event is
influenced by our past experiences and are adaptive situations that recurred
innumerable times in our evolutionary history.

Ortony & Turner (1990), Scherer (1992) and Kaiser and Scherer (1998)
criticized the concept of “basic emotions” as fixed biological programs. They
argue that there are classes of appraisals independent of “basic emotions”. In
connection with this, Scherer (1984) suggests that there are a large number of
highly differentiated emotional states, which are not exhausted by assuming the
“basic emotions”. Facial expressions are not seen as “readout” of motor
programs but rather as indicators of mental states and evaluation processes.
Smith and Scott (1997) and Roseman (1984) argue that the link between the
facial and appraisal dimension is based on the relation between facial expression
and basic emotion. Unlike Ekman, they claim that single components of facial
patterns do have a meaning and this meaning can be explained as manifestations
of specific appraisal outcomes.

In spite of the disagreement, authors do agree that raising the eyebrows and
raising the eyelids are associated with appraisal dimensions related to attentional
activity, novelty, and unexpectedness. Moreover, there is consensus that
corrugator activity (frown) encodes not only unpleasantness but more
specifically perceived goal obstacles and the presence of goal discrepancies.
(Kaiser & Wehrle, 2001)

Dana SUGU & Amita CHATTERJEE (2010). Flashback: Reshuffling Emotions International Journal on Humanistic Ideology, 3 (1), 109-133

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