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The Science of Emotion: What People Believe, What the Evidence Shows, and Where to Go From Here Lisa Feldman Barrett As common sense has it, emotions are triggered automatically, happen to people, and cause them to act in specific and diagnostic ways. An offense triggers anger. A death triggers sadness. A gun triggers fear. As the pent-up energy of an emotion is discharged, the result is a largely inescapable set of stereotyped outputs that occur rapidly, involuntarily. People feel the heat of anger and attack, the despair of sadness and cry, or the dread of fear and freezeâor even run away. The given quality of a personâs own experience, and the way that emotion seems to control behavior without awareness, is usually taken as proof that emotions are automatic responses to things that happen in the world over which people have little control. Knowledge, ex- pectations, and beliefs seem to have little impact on emotion, although they can regulate a response once it has been triggered. As a consequence, people assume that emotions can overcome them, rapidly overriding whatever else they might have been doing, thinking, and feeling. Regulation, if it occurs at all, happens later, after the emotion has taken hold. Anger, sadness, and fear causes behavior, just as lightning causes thunder. This folk conception of emotionâwith varying degrees of elaboration and complexityâforms the basis of a consensual view that guides the scien- tific study of emotion. Despite the differences in their surface features, the most prominent models of emotion incorporate the intuition that emotions are automatic syndromes of behavior and bodily reactions. Those models This work was supported an NIMH Independent Scientist Research Award (K02 MH001981) to Lisa Feldman Barrett from the National Institute of Mental Health. 189
190 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS also share a common set of beliefs about the nature of emotion: emotions are categories with firm boundaries that can be observed in nature (i.e., in the brain or body) and are therefore recognized, not constructed, by the human mind. People know an instance of anger when they see it in the face, voice, or body of another person or feel it in themselves. In this paper I argue that despite the general importance of emotion in the science of the mind and the ever increasing pace of research on emotion, knowledge about emotion has accumulated more slowly than for other comparable concepts, such as memory or attention, because the acceptance of these commonsense assumptions are not warranted by the available empirical evidence. I then consider what moving beyond a com- monsense view might look like and what it would mean for the scientific study of emotion. A BRIEF HISTORY The Accepted History The received wisdom in psychology is that the science of emotion began with a golden age, with Darwinâs (1859/1965) publication of Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals, where he wrote that emotions cause stereotypic bodily expressions. Darwinâs book was followed by Jamesâ 1884 critique, What Is an Emotion?, in which James argued that bodily activity causes emotion, not the other way around. James, in turn, was criticized by Cannon in his 1927 paper, The James-Lange Theory of Emotions: A Criti- cal Examination and an Alternative Theory, in which Cannon argued that the body cannot cause emotion because visceral changes are too slow and too difficult to feel and that the same visceral changes occur in both emo- tional and nonemotional states. Psychology, the story goes, by then in the grip of behaviorism, sank into the dark ages and did not produce anything worthwhile on the topic of emotion for about 40 years, except for some important neurobiology papers by Papez (1937) and MacLean (1949). In the conventional story, a renaissance period then emerged in the 1960s, first with Magda Arnoldâs 1960 Emotion and Personality, fol- lowed by Tomkins 1962 and 1963 books on Affect-Imagery-Consciousness. Schachter and Singerâs 1962 paper, Cognitive, Social, and Physiological Determinants of an Emotional State, was also published around this time. According to many, these works rescued the scientific study of emotion from the abyss of behaviorism and launched the modern era of scientific research on emotion. Sylvan Tomkins became the inspiration for what has been called the âbasic emotionâ approach. Basic emotion models share the core assump- tion that there are certain biologically privileged kinds of emotion. Each
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 191 kind of emotion issue is thought to come from a dedicated neural program or circuit that arose through evolution and is hardwired into the human brain at birth. These circuits are homologous with those found in nonhu- man mammals, and they are responsible for the automatic syndrome of hormonal, muscular, and autonomic effects that constitutes the distinctive signature for that kind of emotional response. In essence, the basic emotion approach is a commonsense view of emotion. Arnold, along with Schachter and Singer, it is said, launched what is called the appraisal approach to emotion. The core assumption of appraisal models is that a personâs interpretation of an event or situation is necessary for an emotional response; emotions are not triggered merely by a stimu- lus in a reflexive or habitual way. In Arnoldâs terms, a meaning analysis is performed on the situation that is thought to evoke or triggers emotion. In Schachter and Singerâs terms, a meaning analysis is performed on a general state of arousal in the body to render it meaningful. The initial empirical evidence for the Schachter and Singer (1962) model was weak at the outset (Reisenzein, 1983), so that Arnoldâs version of appraisal theory became formative for the majority of appraisal models that followed (e.g., Scherer, 1984; Frijda, 1986; Roseman, Spindel, and Jose, 1990). Revising History From a certain vantage point, the conventional history is accurate. Tomkins, Arnold, and to a lesser extent, Schachter and Singer, did have an enormous influence on shaping modern scientific thinking about emotion. But the accepted history of the field has itself been shaped by common- sense, while the actual historical record is more complicated, and more interesting. For example: Darwin did not emphasize the functionality of emotion; he argued that the facial behaviors associated with internal emo- tional states (what he called âemotional expressionsâ) are often vestiges of the evolutionary past, like a tailbone or an appendix. The emphasis on functionality came later (Allport, 1924). William James may have inspired a century of research whose goal was to uncover the invariant autonomic nervous system (ANS) and behavioral patterns that corresponded to anger, sadness, fear, and several other emotions, but he did not, in fact, argue for one invariant biobehavioral pattern for each emotion category. âSurely there is no definite affection of anger in an entitative senseâ (James, 1894, p. 206). When James stated that distinct physiologic and behavioral pat- terns produced an emotional feeling, he meant a specific instance of emo- tion (e.g., an instance of anger) was distinct from other instances, as long as it feels distinct. Arnold explicitly relied on commonsense in crafting her model of emo- tion (Arnold, 1960, Ch. 1) and believed, following basic emotion models,
192 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS that anger, sadness, fear, and so on are different biological kinds that, in essence, are grounded in distinct behaviors. Arnoldâs particular brand of appraisal model and those she inspired have a lot more in common with basic emotion models than is commonly assumed (see Barrett, 2006a; Bar- rett, Mesquita, Ochsner, and Gross, 2007). Arnold wrote: For each emotion, there is a distinct pattern that remains more or less constant and is recognized as characteristic for that emotion. . . . Whether we are afraid of a bear, a snake, or a thunderstorm, our bodily sensations during these experiences are very much alike . . . there will always be a core that is similar from person to person and even from man to animal (Arnold, 1960, p. 179). Appraisals were imbued with the power to diagnose objects or situations as personally relevant and were given responsibility for triggering emotions that pre-exist within the individual. Most important, the dark ages in emotion science never really existed. From 1900 to the 1970s, many papers and books were published on the topic of emotion. However, they were rooted in assumptions by Wundt (1897) and had a decidedly non-commonsense flavor: emotions are psy- chological events that can be decomposed into more basic psychological elements (Brenner, 1974; Dashiell, 1928; Duffy, 1934, 1941; Hunt, 1941; Dunlap, 1932; Mandler, 1975; Ruckmick, 1936; Schachter, 1959; Titch- ener, 1909; Young, 1943). The common assumption in these works is that the human experience of emotion does not necessarily reveal the causal structure of emotion. Many of these works are grounded in the observation that empirical evidence had thus far failed to produce clear and consistent evidence for the biobehavioral distinctiveness of as the events that people colloquially call anger, sadness, and fear. The only universal element in any emotional situation is the use by all the subjects of a common term of report, i.e., âfear.â That is, while stimu- lus conditions and actual experiential content may vary from subject to subject, all decide upon the emotion and give it a common label, âfearâ (Hunt, 1941, p. 266). This observation has been echoed in several recent papers devoted to the topic (Barrett, 2006a; Ortony and Turner, 1990; Russell, 2003). The Empirical Record The Commonsense Model A comprehensive review of the entire evidentiary body of emotion re- search is well beyond the scope of this paper for both practical and logical
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 193 reasons. Practically speaking, several recent reviews of evidence in support of basic emotion (e.g., Ekman, 1992; Ekman, Campos, Davidson, and de Waal, 2003; Keltner and Ekman, 2000; Panksepp, 1998) and appraisal models (e.g., Scherer, Schorr, and Johnstone, 2001) already exist. My goal in this paper is to provide a complementary review that highlights and summarizes evidence that is potentially disconfirming of the commonsense view. A focus on disconfirming evidence is not only practical, it is logically preferable (Popper, 1959) because it will allow interested readers to evalu- ate whether the evidence is weak enough to be dismissed or strong enough to call the commonsense view into question. Bodily Activationâ Despite rigorous research efforts, the idea that cat- egories of emotion (e.g., anger, sadness, fear) are distinguished by distinct patterns of autonomic response remains debatable (for a review, see Barrett, 2006a). Although some studies have reported emotion-specific patterns of ANS and behavioral activation for at least some emotions (e.g., Ekman, Levenson, and Friesen, 1983; Levenson, Carstensen, Friesen, and Ekman, 1991; Levenson, Ekman, and Friesen, 1990; Mauss, Levenson, McCarter, Wilhelm, and Gross, 2005; Nyklicek, Thayer, and Van Doornen, 1997; Sinha, Lovallo, and Parsons, 1992; Stemmler, 1989; see Levenson, 1992), these are set against a backdrop of studies that suggest the claim of invari- ant emotion-specific ANS activity is unwarranted. Meta-analytic evidence indicates that there are few, if any, stable physiological patterns for catego- ries of emotion (Cacioppo, Berntson, Larsen, Poehlmann, and Ito, 2000). Face and Voiceâ The lack of emotion-related patterning that is ob- served in autonomic measurements can also be seen in almost all mea- surement modalities (Barrett, 2006a). There is an on-going, lively debate about whether perception-based studies of the face and voice (where one person judges emotion in the face or voice of another) give evidence of dis- crete emotion categories (see, e.g., Ekman, 1994; Elfenbein and Ambady, 2002; Izard, 1994; Russell, 1994, 1995; Keltner and Ekman, 2000; Rus- sell, Bachorowski, and Fernandez-Dols, 2003). It is important to consider, however, that studies of emotion perception (often called âemotion recog- nitionâ) commonly use posed facial configurations that depict caricatures of emotion. In contrast to a prototypical expression (an expression that is closest to the average set of features for a kind of emotion), a caricature departs from the central tendency of its category in a way that will make it maximally distinctive from other categories. For example, an anger pro- totype would depict the average set of facial movements that have been identified as naturally occurring in actual anger episodes; in contrast, an anger caricature depicts facial movements that are exaggerated to maxi- mally distinguish it from facial depictions of other emotion categories, such
194 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS as fear. In comparison with prototypes, caricatures are more accurately categorized as belonging to a concept when the concepts in question are highly interrelated (Goldstone, Steyvers, and Rogosky, 2003). Production-based studies of emotion in the face and voice (in which researchers measure facial muscle movements and vocal behaviors during emotionally evocative events) have thus far failed to provide clear evidence of signature patterns for particular categories of emotion. Recent sum- maries of the literature conclude that the bulk of evidence has failed to support the hypothesis that distinct patterns of facial muscle activity and vocal acoustics distinguish anger, sadness, fear, and so on (Cacioppo et al., 1997, 2000; Russell et al., 2003). This assessment is consistent with the evidence from infant (Camras, Lambrecht, and Michel, 1996; Camras et al., 2002; Hiatt, Compos, and Emde, 1979) and animal communication research (Seyfarth and Cheney, 2003): it has become clear that babies and animals rarely produce involuntary, reflexive displays of their emotional states. Taken together, this evidence suggests that facial movements and vocal signals do not necessarily âdisplayâ information about the senderâs emotional state (see Russell et al., 2003), even though people routinely perceive those behaviors as coordinated âexpressions.â Instrumental Behaviorsâ The evidence is also lacking for distinct be- havioral profiles for each category of emotion (for a review, see Barrett, 2006a). Behavioral responses, such as flight or fight, are specific, context- bound attempts to deal with a situation and so correspond to situational demands (Cacioppo et al., 2000; Lang, Bradley, and Cuthbert, 1990). If a fear-situation is defined by the presence of threat (e.g., a predator), then fear is associated with a range of different behaviors (from vigilance, to freezing, to flight, to attack), depending on the functional demands of the situation. In rats, for example, the threat (or defense) system is organized so that an animal will engage in different behaviors, depending on its psychological distance from a predator (e.g., Fanselow and Lester, 1988); this suggests that there is no one-to-one correspondence between a particular instru- mental behavior and a specific emotion. Similar behavior-situation links have been observed for systems that secure desired objects, like food (Tim- berlake, 1994) and sexual behavior (Akins, Domjan, and Gutierrez, 1994; Akins, 2000; see Bouton, 2005). Similarly, people can attack or withdraw or even smile in anger. Given that physiological activation provides support for behavioral demands (Obrist, 1981; Obrist et al., 1970), and the same feeling can be associated with a variety of behaviors, it seems unlikely that scientists will ever find emotion-specific autonomic patterning. Subjective Experienceâ Contrary to popular belief, it is far from clear that everyone necessarily experiences anger, sadness, fear, and so on, as
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 195 qualitatively different states. Despite early factor analytic evidence that self- reports produced discrete groupings of subjective experience (e.g., Borgatta, 1961; Nowlis, 1965; Izard, 1972), there is little consistent evidence that people, on average, routinely distinguish between feelings of anger, fear, sadness, and so on. Such reports of negative emotion experience tend to correlate so highly that they often fail capture any unique variance (e.g., Feldman, 1993; Watson and Clark, 1984; Watson and Tellegen, 1985). Even scales that are explicitly built to measure discrete emotions tend to suffer from high correlations between reports of like-valenced states (e.g., Boyle, 1986; Zuckerman and Lubin, 1985; Watson and Clark, 1994). As a result, many researchers measure broad dimensions of positive and negative activation (e.g., Watson, Clark, and Tellegen, 1988), pleasure-displeasure (valence), or feelings of activation or arousal (e.g., Barrett and Russell 1998; Mayer and Gaschke, 1988; Russell, Weiss, and Mendelsohn, 1989). Idiographic studies of emotion experience demonstrate that there is considerable individual variation in emotional granularityâthe extent to which people characterize their experiences in discrete emotional or in broadly affective terms (Barrett, 1998, 2004; Barrett, Gross et al., 2001; Feldman, 1995). Individuals high in granularity use the words âangry,â âsad,â and âafraidâ to represent distinct experiences; those low in granular- ity use the words to represent a more general state of feeling âunpleasant.â The same is generally true for pleasant emotional states, with those in high in granularity using the words âhappy,â âcalm,â and âexcitedâ to refer to distinct experiences, while those lower in granularity use these words to refer to a more general âpleasantâ affective state. Individuals who are granular for unpleasant emotions also tend to be granular for pleasant emo- tions, although the two are not perfectly correlated (Linquist and Barrett, in press). These differences are not fully accounted for by verbal intelligence or how well people understand the meaning of emotion words. Neural Circuitryâ Meta-analyses of neuroimaging studies of emotion have failed to provide evidence for consistent and specific brain circuitry that distinguishes anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and happiness (for reviews, see Barrett 2006a; Barrett and Wager, 2006). In general, the findings from these meta-analyses are very similar to the pattern of findings for the psychophysiological data on emotion: unique activation patterns for each category of emotion were generally less consistent than expected. Further- more, alternative explanations were not ruled out when consistency was observed. For example, the amygdala is widely believed to represent a core âfear systemâ in the brain, yet the meta-analyses found that no more than 60 percent of studies of fear reported increased activation in the amygdala. Moreover, stimulus features such as novelty (e.g., Wilson and Rolls, 1993; Wright, Martis et al., 2003) or uncertainty (Davis and Whalen, 2001; Kim,
196 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS Somerville et al., 2003; Whalen, Rauch et al., 1998) also activate the amyg- dala and were not ruled out as alternative explanations for the observed findings. Furthermore, simple perceptual cues (e.g., eye gaze) determine whether or not facial depictions of fear result in an increase in amygdala activation (Adams, Gordon et al., 2003), and individuals with amygdala damage can correctly classify facial depictions of fear when their attention is directed towards the eyes of a stimulus face (Adolphs, Gosselin et al., 2005). Taken together, the evidence suggests that the amygdala is not the brain locus of fear, although it seems to play an important role in affective processing. What the Evidence Shows Even as scientific studies of emotion do not provide clear evidence for the biological or behavioral distinction between emotion categories, they do give clear and consistent evidence for a distinction between positive and negative affective states. Objective measurements used in the study of emotion, such as peripheral nervous system activation (Bradley and Lang, 2000); Cacioppo et al., 1997, 2000), facial movements (Cacioppo et al., 1997, 2000; Messinger, 2002), vocal cues (Bachorowski, 1999), expressive behavior (Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999), and neural activations (Barrett and Wager, 2006) all give evidence of the intensity or hedonic quality (pleasantness or unpleasantness) of a personâs affective state. Furthermore, facial behaviors, reports of experience, and peripheral nervous system ac- tivity show strong correspondences for the affective properties of valence and intensity; effect sizes range from 0.76 to 0.90 (Lang, Greenwald et al., 1993), even when they do not show strong correspondences for anger, sad- ness, fear, and so on (for a review, see Barrett, 2006a). That is, affect, rather than emotion, seems to meet the criteria for a biologically verifiable state. âAffectâ is generally used to refer to any state that represents how an object or situation influences a person. The term âcore affectâ has been recently introduced to refer to a basic, psychologically primitive state that can be described by two psychological properties: hedonic valence (plea- sure/displeasure) and arousal (activation/sleepiness). It is also possible to describe core affect in terms of related properties, such as energetic arousal (wide awake/sleepy) and tense arousal (tense/calm) (Rafaeli and Revelle, 2006; Thayer, 1989), or as negative activation (anxiety to calm) and posi- tive activation (excitement to fatigue) (Watson and Tellegen, 1985). These terminology differences really amount to preferences in how one describes the same affective space, and the different dimensions can be mathemati- cally derived from one another (Russell and Barrett, 1999). Core affect has been characterized as the constant stream of transient alterations in an organismâs neurophysiological and somatovisceral states that represent
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 197 its immediate relationship to the flow of changing events (Barrett, 2006b; Russell, 2003; Russell and Barrett, 1999). In a sense, core affect is a neu- rophysiologic barometer of an individualâs relationship to an environment at a given time. To the extent that an object or event changes a personâs âinternal milieu,â it can be said to have affective meaning; these changes are what is meant when one says that a person has an affective reaction to an object or stimulus. They are the means by which information about the external world is translated into an internal code or representations (Nauta, 1971; Damasio, 1999; Ongur and Price, 2000). Core affect functions as a kind of âcore knowledgeâ (see Spelke, 2000), the hard wiring for which is present at birth (Bridges, 1932; Emde, Gains- bauer, and Harmon, 1976; Spitz, 1965; Sroufe, 1979) and is homologous in other mammalian species (Cardinal, Parkinson et al., 2002; Rolls, 1999; Schneirla, 1959). Core affect is universal to all humans (Russell, 1983; Wierzbicka, 1992; Scherer, 1997; Mesquita, 2003), is evident in all instru- ment-based measures of emotion (for a review, see Barrett, 2006b), and forms the core of emotion experience (Barrett et al., 2007; Russell, 2003). Core affect (i.e., the neurophysiological state) is available to consciousness, and it is experienced as feeling pleasant or unpleasant (valence) and, to a lesser extent, as activated or deactivated (arousal) (for a review, see Rus- sell and Barrett, 1999). If core affect is a neurophysiologic barometer that sums up an individualâs relationship to the environment at a given time, then self-reported feelings are the barometer readings. Feelings of core af- fect provide a common metric for comparing qualitatively different events (Cabanac, 2002). Core affect is a precondition for first-person experiences of the world, language fluency, and memory; it modulates sensory process- ing to influence what people actually see, and in doing it so forms the core of conscious experience (for a review, see Duncan and Barrett, 2007). A personâs core affective state is largely, although not exclusively, in- fluenced by a process that has been called evaluation (Bargh and Ferguson, 2000; Brendl and Higgins, 1995; Tesser and Martin, 1996), appraisal (Arnold, 1960) or primary appraisal (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984), or valuation (Barrett, 2006c). Valuation can be thought of as a simple form of meaning analysis in which something is judged as helpful or harmful in a given instance, producing some change in a personâs core affective state. Judgments about whether stimuli or events are helpful or harmful or rewarding or threatening (whether those judgments are fleeting and auto- matic or more deliberate and effortful) help to influence the valence prop- erty of core affect. There is consensus across a broad swath of psychological research that humans evaluate and that the process of valuation is a basic aspect of mammalian functioning. People continually and automatically evaluate situations and objects (Bargh and Ferguson, 2000, but see Storbeck and Robinson, 2004) for their relevance and valueâthat is, whether or not
198 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS object properties signify something important to well-being, leading to mo- ment-to-moment fluctuations in core affect. An object is valuable when it is important to survival (Davis and Whalen, 2001) or when it is relevant to immediate goals (Rogers 1959; Smith and Kirby, 2001). Valuation largely occurs outside of awareness and conscious control (for a recent review, see Moors and De Houwer, 2006). Summary Overall, the available evidence suggests that there is no clear objective way to measure the experience of emotion. Emotion categoriesâsuch as anger, sadness, and fearâhave thus far not clearly and consistently revealed themselves in the data on feelings, facial and vocal behaviors, peripheral nervous system responses, or instrumental behaviors. It has not yet been shown whether there are distinct brain markers for each emotion, but so far the available evidence does not encourage a commonsense view. How- ever, scientists are able to assess a personâs affective state (i.e., pleasure and displeasure) by indirect (see Berridge and Winkielman, 2003), experiential (Russell and Barrett, 1999), and objective means (in the face or body, e.g., Cacioppo et al., 2000). This affective state is a basic and core element in emotional responding. THE EMOTION PARADOX The evidence presented thus far frames a fundamental emotion paradox: people seem compelled by their own experiences to believe that emotions are biological categories given by nature, but objective, instrument-based measures of emotion provide evidence only of a personâs core affective state. How this dilemma is resolved depends on how seriously the evidence that is inconsistent with the commonsense view is treated. One way to resolve the emotion paradox is to assume that the data are flawed or otherwise not sufficient for testing the hypothesis that discrete emotions have distinct biobehavioral signatures. Social factors, such as display rules (cf. Ekman, 1972) or other regulation processes, might mask or inhibit prepotent responses that would otherwise be easy to measure. Response systems differ in their temporal dynamics, sensitivity, and reli- ability of measurement, and this might obscure the measurement of any patterns that exist (cf. Bradley and Lang, 2000). Moreover, laboratory stud- ies of emotion do not use emotion-eliciting stimuli that are strong enough to produce prototypical emotional responses and this may be why they are not observed (cf. Tassinary and Cacioppo, 1992).
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 199 In any of the research areas reviewed thus far, it is possible to find ad- ditional caveats to explain why the expected results have not been found. Self-reports are flawed, and experience may be epiphenomenal to emotion. Facial muscle measurements are too coarse-grained to capture complex sets of facial movements, and perceiver-based judgments of facial movements provide stronger evidence for the commonsense view. Most psychophysi- ological studies measure only a few output channels, providing a less than optimal test of the question of autonomic specificity. And neuroimaging investigations of emotion are just beginning, tend to confuse emotion perception with emotion induction, and do not give sufficient spatial reso- lution (not to mention the fact that people must lay immobilized inside a scanner). In sum, it is possible that distinct, natural kinds of emotions will reveal themselves in the brain and body if only scientists could find the right eliciting stimuli, have better measurement tools, or use more sophisticated and precise research designs. Although any of these explanations may be correct, an equally plau- sible explanation is that scientists have failed to observe stable and reliable biobehavioral patterns for each emotion because they are not there. If the commonsense view is held to the same empirical standard as other emo- tion models, then it is fair to say that the supporting evidence is equivocal at best. The evidence suggests the real possibility that there are no emo- tion mechanisms in the brain waiting to be discovered, producing a priori packets of outcomes in the body. Emotions may not be given to humans by nature, which raises the question of whether they are the appropriate categories to support a cumulative science. SUGGESTIONS FOR A NEW PARADIGM For the most part, the field of emotion has accepted the first solution to the emotion paradox by explaining away disconfirming evidence as the result of imprecise measures, flawed experimental designs, and so on. This solution comes with large price tag: some of the most fundamental ques- tions about human emotion remain unanswered, and the majority of the empirical findings related to emotion do not seem to produce cumulative knowledge in the procrustean process of trying to fit the data into discrete categories. To be sure, better research about emotion means conducting bet- ter studies with better research tools. But it may also require a fundamental change in the way that researchers ask and answer questions about emo- tion. In essence, progress may require crafting a new scientific paradigm for the study of emotion.
200 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS Asking Better Questions First and foremost, a better science of emotion means asking different sorts of questions. Instead of asking âIs âXâ a real emotion?,â one might ask âHow can science account for the richness and variability in emotional life?â Rather than asking why physiology, behavior, and experience fail to correlate when emotion is measured, scientists might ask what is important about the instances when they do correspond. Rather than asking about whether people are accurate in decoding the emotional displays of others, scientists might ask âWhat is the function of perceiving emotion in oth- ers?â and âWhat does it mean to get this perception ârightâ?â Rather than asking âHow do we evoke pure instances of emotion, uncontaminated by contextual influences or language?,â scientists might ask âDo context and language have an intrinsic role to play in shaping the form and function of an emotional response?â And finally, rather than asking âHow can scien- tists conduct better studies, with better methods and tools, to empirically locate the biobehavioral signatures for anger, sadness, and fear?,â perhaps scientists should think about why scientists typically theorize about and focus their empirical efforts on caricatured emotional episodes when they are, in the best scenarios, rare. The barriers to asking better questions are mainly psychological. The commonsense view is compelling. It fits with the way people talk about emotion everyday. A person says âYou made me angry,â as in âYou trig- gered my anger reflex.â Anger explains why someone yelled and perhaps even justifies it. This idea underlies, often implicitly, peopleâs construal of emotions in themselves and others. Experiences of anger, fear, etc., feel like they erupt or âhappen,â as the causal entityâthe emotionâhijacks a personâs mind and body. Sometimes people behave in ways that they would rather notâin ways that do not correspond to more reasoned responses that they identify as part of their human self. Denying a commonsense view of emotion means that people must ac- cept that their perceptions of the world are not a valid indicator of how the world works. Because people perceive anger in themselves and in oth- ers, they believe anger exists as an entity to be discovered somewhere in the brain or body. People believe that their experiences reveal reality. In evolutionary biology, this is called the âerror of arbitrary aggregationâ (Lewontin, 2000). In social psychology, we call it ânaÃ¯ve realism.â Abandoning a commonsense view would mean being free from a basic form of essentialism that captures well how people think about the events and objects in their everyday lives (Bloom, 2003). Peopleâs naÃ¯ve intuition that emotions have essences may be an example of psychological essential- ism (Medin and Ortony, 1989). People need not have even the foggiest idea what the essence of a category is to continue believing in it. It has been
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 201 argued that psychological essentialism is an adaptive and universal way of parsing the world (Gelman and Hirschfeld, 1999; see also Quine, 1977). But as Quine points out, psychological essentialism may produce a bias in how peopleâincluding scientistsâformulate ideas about the world. An Inductive Approach As a second step, a new paradigm for the scientific study of emotion might take a more inductive approach. Rather than beginning with an abstract, theoretical construct (e.g., anger) that researchers try to identify in human behavior, perhaps researchers could concentrate their empirical efforts on identifying which observable or measurable phenomena (e.g., car- diovascular changes, facial expressions, startle responses, EEG recordings, subjective experience, conscious thoughts) are implicated across instances of emoting and observe, rather than prescribe, their relationships in varying circumstances and time frames. If instances of emotion can be characterized by empirical coherences, then observations should eventually demonstrate reliable patterns of relationships among the necessary components of emo- tion. Alternatively, new constructs may emerge, and they may have little resemblance to folk or commonsense categories of emotion. The barriers to an inductive science of emotion are practical, technolog- ical, and ethical. First, no one scientist can be an expert in every scholarly domain that includes emotion, nor can he or she have expertise in every measurement method that is used. As a result, interdisciplinary approaches to the study of emotion are necessary, with scientists from different domains of expertise working together to craft a multidisciplinary measurement en- vironment. This means that scientists from different disciplines must craft a common scientific language. Second, there are technological challenges involved in an inductive approach to studying emotion, such as the ability to capture and integrate measurements of the face, the body, the brain, and experience, in real time. Third, there are ethical considerations, because it is generally considered unethical to expose people to stimuli that will lead to an intense or dramatic emotional episode. In most current research, emotion is induced in rather limited circumstances, such as having participants view pictures, watch movies, or relive prior experiences of emotion. Typically, participants are sitting still throughout an entire experiment. Creating more naturalistic laboratory environments in which participants can interact with one another and move around (e.g., using immersive virtual environments) or crafting devices to allow real-world capture of experiential, physiologi- cal, and social interaction data (e.g., context-sensitive experience-sampling) would be necessary for an inductive science of emotion.
202 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS A Specific Theoretical Framework: The Conceptual Act Model A third requirement for a new scientific paradigm for the study of emo- tion is a model with a clear and simple research agenda for understanding emotional responding that rivals the commonsense paradigm. One reason for the success of the commonsense model is that it is simple to state: emo- tions are packets of responses that result from mechanisms in the human brain and body that derive from the evolutionary past. It is this simplic- ity that has led to elegant and clear hypotheses that have guided emotion research for almost a century. There are several modern models that might serve to inspire a new paradigm grounded in the idea that emotions are not biologically given, however (e.g., Averill, 1980; Clore and Ortony, 2000; Mesquita, 2003; Ochsner and Barrett, 2001; Owren, Rendell, and Bachorowski, 2005; Rolls, 1999; Russell, 2003; Shweder, 1993, 1994; Smith and Ellsworth, 1985; Solomon, 2003). Although these models differ from one another in their surface features, they all assume, as did Wundt (1897), that emotions are events that are constructed from more basic psy- chological processes, and it is the processes themselves that are given. The goal of science should be to understand the more basic psychological and neurobiological processes involved in the construction of emotion The model that I have crafted takes its lead from the emotion paradox discussed above. If the clearest evidence for the distinctiveness of anger, sadness, and fear is in perception, then perhaps these categories exist in the perceiver. Specifically, I hypothesize that the experience of feeling an emo- tion, or the experience of seeing emotion in another person, occurs when conceptual knowledge about emotion is used to categorize a momentary state of core affect (Barrett, 2006b; Barrett et al., 2007). Categorizing is a fundamental cognitive activity. To categorize some- thing is to render it meaningful; it is to determine what something is, why it is, and what to do with it. Then, it becomes possible to make reasonable inferences about that thing, predict how to best to act on it, and communi- cate it to others. In the construction of emotion, the act of categorizing core affect performs a kind of figure-ground segregation (Barsalou, 1999, 2003), so that the experience of an emotion will stand out as a separate event from the ebb and flow of an ongoing core affect (the core affect is associated with the direction and urgency of initial behavioral responses). In doing so, people divide ongoing changes in core affect into meaningful experiences. Conceptualizing core affect renders it intentional (about something), lead- ing a person to experience the world in a particular way (consistent with the views of Ortony, Clore, and Collins (1988), Frijda (2006), and Smith and Ellsworth (1985). Conceptualizing also allows people to make reasonable inferences about what to do next and to communicate their experience to others in an efficient manner. The conceptual knowledge that is called forth
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 203 to categorize core affect is thought to be tailored to the immediate situa- tion, represented in sensory-motor cortices, acquired from prior experience, and supported by language. Categorizing the flux and flow of core affect into a discrete experience of emotion corresponds to the colloquial idea of âhaving an emotion.â When combined, core affect and conceptual knowledge about emotion produce a highly flexible system that can account for the full richness and range of experience that characterizes human emotional life, including the appearance of distinct biobehavioral profiles of emotional response when they occur. The ability to categorize confers some adaptive advantage, and so it is likely to have been evolutionarily preserved, even if the specific cat- egories are not. Many cultures may share the basic-level emotion concepts in Western culture, including anger, sadness, and fear, undoubtedly because these concepts are optimal tools for coping in the typical human environ- ment: living in large groups with complicated relational rules. Taken together, the basic propositions of the conceptual act model of emotion map a novel research agenda for the psychological construction of emotion with several distinctive features. First, it hypothesizes that the basic building blocks of emotional life are conceptual and affective, and so understanding each of the processes and how they constrain one another would be central to the study of emotion. The evolutionary legacy to the newborn is not a set of modular emotion circuits that are hardwired into the brain, but rather a set of mechanisms that compute core affect, as well as those that allow category learning. It is also possible to use this approach to examine how affective and conceptual changes configure to produce the effect of emotion on such diverse outcomes as economic decisions (Loew- enstein and Lerner, 2003), stereotyping (Bodenhausen and Moreno, 2000; DeSteno and Dasgupta, 2004), and moral reasoning (Haidt, 2001; Greene, Nystrom et al., 2004), as well as how each contributes to emotional change, as in the treatment of emotional disorders. Some treatments (such as phar- macotherapy) may be more effective at producing affective change; others (such as the emotion resocialization that is thought to occur in some forms of psychotherapy) might be more likely to produce conceptual change, leav- ing affective responding untouched (Quigley and Barrett, 1999). Second, the conceptual act model focuses on the need to understand the richness and diversity of emotional life in humans that was highlighted by William James. In doing so, the model will move the science of emotion away from its current focus on a small set of canonical forms that are seen rarely in everyday life. Specifically, it will lead scientists to expect, rather than to treat as error and explain away, variations in the form and func- tions of emotional responses. The conceptual act model not only helps to explain why some individuals are better able to distinguish between discrete emotional states than are others (i.e., why they differ in emotional granular-
204 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS ity), but it also predicts that any emotion will differ from one instance to the next, even in the same person. Third, the conceptual act model suggests an intrinsic role for language in perceiving emotions in the behaviors of other people (see Lindquist et al., 2006). It is consistent with the linguistic relativity hypothesis (Whorf, 1956), which states that language forms the basis of experience. In the case of emotion, language shapes core affective phenomena into the emotional reality that people experience. Language not only enters into the catego- rization process, but it also directs the development of knowledge about emotion categories in the first place. Language guides what nonlinguistic information is included in an emotion category as it is being constructed during the learning process. As a result, the conceptual act model provides a means for understanding the role of language in cultural, as well as in individual, differences in the experience of emotion. Fourth, the conceptual act model rescues the experience of emotion from obscurity. Some models treat experience as epiphenomenal to the scientific study of emotion (e.g., LeDoux, 1996); in the conceptual act model, it is given a central place in characterizing what emotions are and how they function in the economy of the mind and behavior. At its core, the conceptual act model of emotion assumes that emotions do not have an ontological status separate from peopleâs perception of them. Fifth, the conceptual act model suggests that conceptualizing core affect is a skill. Some people may be better than others at tailoring conceptual knowledge to meet the needs of situated action (Barsalou, 2003). This skill for wielding conceptual knowledge about emotion might be considered a core aspect of emotional intelligence. If conceptualizations of a given emo- tion category lead to the experience of emotion, then constructing such an experience is also a skill. Presumably, there is not one experience of anger, but many, and the one that emerges in a given instance depends on the content of the simulation. It is a skill to simulate the most appropriate or effective representation or even to know when to inhibit a simulated con- ceptualization that has been incidentally primed. Presumably, this skill can be both measured and trained. Finally, the conceptual act model leads to reflections on why scientists typically theorize about and focus their empirical efforts on prototypical emotional episodes, that is, what most people consider the clearest cases of emotion that necessarily have all of the component parts (Russell, 2003; Russell and Barrett, 1999), even though such episodes are quite rare and the nonprototypical cases are more frequent in our everyday lives. The answer may be that it is a natural consequence of the way that categories work. Emotion categories can be thought of as goal-directed categories that de- velop to guide action. The most typical member of a goal-directed category is that which maximizes goal achievement not that which is most frequently
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 205 encountered (Barsalou and Ross, 1986; Barsalou, 2003). As a result, the most typical instances of a category contain properties that represent the ideal form of the categoryâthat is, whatever is ideal for meeting the goal that the category is organized aroundânot those that most commonly ap- pear as instances of the category. Research Implications The research agenda motivated by the conceptual act model can be framed as two broad of domains of inquiry, each of which contains several different questions. Many of these would be relevant to research that may be of interest to the military; this section discusses several examples. To understand what emotions are and how they function in the econ- omy of the mind and behavior, it would be important to better understand the structure and function of core affect. There are a number of important questions that can be addressed in this regard. For example, what is the neurobiology of the core affect system and how does it influence other processes, such as attention to and sensory processing of threatening or rewarding objects? The classic amygdala-centric view of affective process- ing (largely derived from animal models) is incomplete, and the affective circuitry is better thought of as a distributed set of circuits that constrain one another and other aspects of cognitive processing in a deeply intrinsic fashion (Barrett et al., 2007; Duncan and Barrett, 2007). For example, there are neuroanatomical reasons to hypothesize that affective states not only influence how people interpret what they see, but also literally what they see (Duncan and Barrett, 2007). Some preliminary research suggests that affect can modulate processing in the ventral stream (the system involved in object perception and awareness) as far back as V1 (Stolarova, Keil, and Moratti, 2006). It would also be important to understand how people can better use their affective reactions as a source of information to make judg- ments in uncertain conditions. There is ample evidence that people can use their affective reactions as a source of information in both explicit (Schwarz and Clore, 1983) and implicit ways (Bechara, Damasio et al., 1994; Bechara et al., 1996, but see Dunn, Dalgleish, and Lawrence, 2006); however, it is also possible for people to misattribute their affective reactions (Payne et al., 2005) or to experience a âfalse alarmâ and see threat where none is present (Quigley and Barrett, 1999). A better understanding of when af- fect helps (and hurts) the perception of threat and reward in conditions of uncertainty seems warranted. Another important question involves how people learn about threat and reward. Humans are born with the ability to have pleasant and unpleasant reactions to certain âprepared stimuliââstimuli that evoke a response in the absence of previous experience with or exposure to them (for a discus-
206 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS sion, see Ãhman and Mineka, 2001)âbut for the most part, people have to learn whether objects in the world are helpful or harmful. An objectâs value is determined by its ability to change a personâs affective state. At least three questions seem important: What are the fast, rule-based and slow, associa- tive mechanisms by which such learning occurs (see Bliss-Moreau, Barrett, and Wright, 2007; De Houwer, Thomas, and Baeyens, 2001; De Houwer, Baeyens, and Field, 2005)? How malleable is such learning (see Bouton, 2005)? Are there individual differences in such learning (see Bliss-Moreau et al., 2006)? It would also be beneficial to study the processes involved in overcoming such learning in the moment. For example, it is well docu- mented that there are individual differences in the capacity to use controlled processing to overcome a prepotent or habitual response (Barrett, Tugade, and Engle, 2004). A second set of questions involve the conceptual processes that contrib- ute to the construction of emotion out of the more basic and primitive form of affective responding. For example, little is known about how language and conceptual knowledge for emotion lead people to see âangerâ or âfearâ in another person. Presumably, this distinction is important, because it will determine what sort of behavior the perceiver anticipates in the target per- son (e.g., aggression or withdrawal) and therefore what the perceiver does next. There is growing evidence from both social psychology and cognitive neuroscience research that language and conceptual information influence the perception of emotion in others. Biological measures of semantic pro- cessing (the N400 ERP signal and increased activity in the inferior frontal cortex) indicate that conceptual knowledge participates in emotion percep- tion as early as 200 milliseconds after the presentation of an emotional face (Balconi and Pozzoli, 2005; Nakamura et al., 1999; Streit et al., 1999, 2003). Furthermore, when words for emotion are temporarily taken off- line (using a behavioral paradigm called semantic satiation, which is the opposite of priming), judgments of emotions in the faces of other people are impaired (Lindquist, Barrett, Bliss-Moreau, and Russell, 2006), as is the ability to literally construct an image of a face as emotional (Gendron, Lindquist, Barrett, and Barsalou, 2006). The link between conceptual knowledge and emotion perception sug- gests that what people know about emotion will influence the emotions that they perceive in others (and in themselves). Yet scientists know very little about the content and structure of the conceptual system for emotion that plays a role in emotion perception. As children, people are socialized to learn the semantic, interpersonal, and behavioral scripts associated with specific emotion labels in their culture (Harris, 1993). Children as young as 2 readily label their emotional experiences (Bretherton, McNew, and Meeghly-Smith, 1981), but how they use such labels is another story (Widen and Russell, 2003). They rapidly learn the type of psychological events and
THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION 207 abstract situations that are associated with particular emotion labels (e.g., fear, sadness, happiness, anger, guilt; see, e.g., Harris et al., 1987), and they are also aware of the typical actions and expressions that are supposed to accompany a particular emotional state (Trabasso, Stein, and Johnson, 1981). However, there may be significant variation in terms of how those rudimentary concepts are elaborated on the basis of episodic experience later in life. When individuals do not learn from experience, their emotion knowledge may be more stereotypic and less sensitive to changing contexts. Those individuals who do learn from experience will have more complex emotion representations and will have a greater range of personal cues to activate those representations and produce discrete emotional experiences. Presumably, the more that knowledge about the situation in incorporated in understanding what anger (or fear or sadness) is and what to do about it, the more precisely tailored an emotional response will be to the situation, resulting in more effective behavior and decision making. It is not just what a person knows, but how he or she uses that knowl- edge that determines whether an emotion perception is adaptive and effec- tive. The conceptual act model suggests that functional emotional behavior will depend in part on the resources that people have to use the conceptual knowledge they possess, especially when emotion perception is occurring in stressful situations (i.e., under cognitive load). A number of studies show that knowledge structures that are activated outside of awareness can have a profound influence on peopleâs subsequent thoughts, feelings, and be- haviors (for a review, see Bargh and Chartrand, 1999). When the concept âoldâ is activated, college-aged participants walk slower (Bargh, Chen, and Burrows, 1996). When the concept âAfrican Americanâ is activated, European American participants act more aggressively (Bargh, Chen, and Burrows, 1996). These effects can be overcome with more controlled pro- cessing, but only when sufficient cognitive resources are available. A similar result may occur with emotion knowledge. As a result, it is reasonable to hypothesize that executive resources (such as working memory capacity) will influence the modularity of emotion perception and emotional action. A cognitive module is defined as a fast, domain-specific set of processes that have evolved to handle particular types of information. Modules are assumed to be encapsulated and impenetrable (activities and outputs can- not be influenced by other classes of information, such as expectations or beliefs), reflexive (they provide predetermined outputs when predetermined inputs are present), and unconscious (it is impossible to reflect on the op- erations of a module). Working memory capacity can produce a kind of âfunctional modularity,â however, when a system appears modular but only because of insufficient attention (rather than because of the archi- tecture of the brain; see Barrett, Tugade, and Engel, 2004). Individuals who are lower in working memory capacity, or in situations that require
208 HUMAN BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY CONTEXTS intensive attentional resources, may produce functionally modular or re- flex-like responses that will be less strategic and flexible, and therefore less functionally effective. Theoretical Implications The conceptual act model not only suggests novel and innovative av- enues of research for understanding what emotions are and how they func- tion, but it emphasizes several broader themes that are important when understanding social behavior. First, the model emphasizes the relativity of emotion perception. Context influences the emotions that are perceived in both ambiguous (Carroll and Russell 1996; Fernandez-Dols, Wallbott, and Sanchez, 1991) and in nonambiguous (Trope, 1986) circumstances. For ex- ample, people of non-Western cultures have a more difficult time than those in Western cultures in categorizing facial behaviors into Western categories (Elfenbein and Ambady, 2002). Although people categorize facial behaviors effortlessly and often without awareness, this does not constitute evidence that categorization is a matter of merely âdecodingâ innate information that is âencodedâ into the face. Second, the conceptual act model also has important psychological and philosophical implications for the relativity of social perception. If concep- tual knowledge of categories shapes the perception of social reality, and if learning shapes conceptual development, then learning may play a much larger role in shaping social reality than previously assumed. The malleable nature of category knowledge suggests that the construction of peopleâs social worlds may be vastly more culturally and individually determined than commonsense implies. Finally, the conceptual act model emphasizes the malleability of emo- tion perception. If conceptual knowledge intrinsically shapes the emotion that people see in others, then acquisition and elaboration of culturally bound emotion categories may influence peopleâs perceptual capacities. Knowing about a personâs culture will help to identify that personâs emo- tional state and therefore better predict his or her behavior. It may be that people can be taught to become better emotion perceivers and, hence, bet- ter communicators. In this way, cultural competence should contribute to cross-cultural relations and international diplomacy. Recent research has focused on the role of transnational competence (e.g., Koehn and Rosenau, 2002) in the development of successful transnational networks, projects, and diplomatic efforts. Training people to understand the fundamental differences in peopleâs experiences of the world might allow for better com- munication and collaboration in todayâs global society.
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