In Chapter 2 we reviewed the development of philosophical ideas about emotions. We finished the chapter by setting out a number of philosophical ground rules to which, we suggested, any theory of emotion must adhere if it is to make philosophical sense. These ground rules provide us with some of the main components of emotional experiences within a broadly functional theory of mind. What the rules do not do is to say very much about the psychological processes underlying emotional experience and we presented a review of this psychological literature, with respect to normal, everyday emotions, in Chapter 3. Again, we ended Chapter 3 by listing a number of psychological ground rules that, we felt, should constrain any given theory of emotions. A worrying truth about the psychology of emotion literature is that the majority of theories of normal, everyday emotions make little or no reference to emotional disorder. Similarly, there are a host of theories of emotional disorder that are only loosely anchored, if indeed they are anchored at all, to theories of emotional order. Consequently, in Chapter 4 we reviewed the principal theories of emotional disorder (restricting ourselves to those theories that seek to explain more than one "type" of emotional disturbance such as both anxiety disorders and depression). (We consider a number of other theories of emotional disorder, namely those that concentrate primarily on only one specific type of emotional disturbance, in Chapters 6-10.) Once more we sought to extract a number of key points from this literature at the end of that chapter. In this section we summarise and integrate the key points that these chapters have generated in an attempt to paint the first broad brush strokes of a theory.
In Chapter 2 on the cognitive philosophy of emotion we introduced the idea of Aristotelian functionalism which, when applied to emotions, requires that they be defined with respect to the functional role that they perform. So, for example, in De Anima Aristotle argues that a central defining characteristic of anger is its function with respect to retaliation for some wrong that the individual has suffered. That is, anger has the function of motivating the individual to retaliatory behaviour. This functional role of emotions is echoed in many of the psychological theories of emotion reviewed in Chapters 3 and 4, either explicitly (e.g., Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1987) or implicitly (e.g., in the work of Beck). Although, as we noted in Chapter 2, philosophical functionalism comes in many guises, it is the broad notion that emotions and indeed all mental states are most usefully conceptualised in terms of the functions they perform in the individual's psychology and the causal attributes they possess that we endorse here. This endorsement of functionalism does not mean that we necessarily agree with Aristotle's analysis that particular emotions can be defined with respect to certain behaviours or dispositions to behave, such as retaliation. In contrast, and to anticipate slightly, we take the line that the functionality of emotions is best understood in the light of the plans individuals are pursuing (cf. Oatley & Johnson-Laird, 1987) to achieve certain active goals that they hold. So, to summarise, the first broad brush stroke on our canvas is that the mind is best conceptualised as a functional, goal-directed system.
In addition to this endorsement of functionality, we proposed in Chapter 2 that emotional experiences can be divided into what we have called emotional states, moods, and dispositions (after Ryle, 1949). To clarify these distinctions it is helpful to consider what we mean by emotional states in more detail. We suggested in Chapter 2 that emotional states consisted of the following defining components (see Figure 5.1): an event; an interpretation; an appraisal; physiological change; a propensity for action; and conscious awareness. In addition, we proposed that emotional states often included reference to certain patterns of behaviour or action.
To illustrate, consider the example of Adam who wants to start a relationship with his neighbour Eve. One day Adam bumps into Eve in the street and she tells him that her new partner is moving in with her the next day. This event leads to the interpretation that Adam will never now achieve his goal of having a relationship with Eve. The interpretation will then be appraised in terms of the loss of an important goal, a component of the emotion of sadness (see Table 5.1). This appraisal may
(external or internal)
Figure 5.1 Components of an emotional state as outlined in Chapter 2.
Table 5.1 Appraisal components of basic emotions
Sadness Loss or failure (actual or possible) of valued role or goal Happiness Successful move towards or completion of a valued role or goal Anger Blocking or frustration of a role or goal through perceived agent Fear Physical or social threat to self or valued role or goal
Disgust A person, object, or idea repulsive to the self, and to valued roles and goals be accompanied by physiological change and, most likely, some conscious awareness of being in an emotional state—Adam will feel sad. Adam may even behave in certain ways, such as keeping out of Eve's way or moping around the house. This example illustrates what we consider to be the core components of all emotional states and Adam's plight is summarised in Figure 5.2.
As well as deriving these core components of emotions, we also suggested in Chapter 2 that it is only really possible, at least in the light of our current knowledge, to distinguish one emotion from another reliably on the basis of the appraisal component. For example, fear is associated with an appraisal of physical or psychological threat and sadness, as we saw in the case of Adam, with an appraisal of loss, and so on. This idea was substantially elaborated in Chapter 3 where we reviewed appraisal theories of emotion in some detail and concluded that there are various levels or cycles of appraisal involved in the generation of emotion. We outline these points in Table 5.1. To summarise, the second and third brush strokes on our canvas are that there is a set of components which make up all emotional states (event, interpretation, appraisal, action potential, physiological change, conscious awareness) and that one emotional state can be distinguished from another on the basis of the appraisal component.
Let us return to moods and dispositions. We argued in Chapter 2 that moods are states in which particular emotion-related appraisals are more likely to take place; that is, they are temporary shifts in outlook which alter the likelihood or threshold for emotion-related appraisals. Similarly, dispositions reflect a more permanent
readiness to make appraisals pertaining to a given emotion. So, a sad mood reflects a temporarily enhanced readiness to appraise interpretations about events in a loss-related way, such that the individual feels sad. Likewise, a dispositionally sad person is someone who has a permanent tendency to appraise interpretations in a loss-related fashion such that he or she often feels sad. This broad distinction between occurrent emotional states, moods, and dispositions is the fourth brush stroke on our emotion canvas and the final one that we want to carry forward from the philosophy of emotion chapter.
A number of further key points arose from the discussion of theories of normal, everyday emotions in Chapter 3. The first of these points concerns the issue of basic emotions. In Chapter 3 we proposed (after Stein and her colleagues) that there are certain universal appraisal scenarios corresponding to emotions which are represented by the English emotion terms happiness, sadness, disgust, anger, and fear, and that these emotions can rightly be called basic. We also devoted some space to what we might mean by the term basic in this context. In Chapter 3 we summarised the characteristics of these core universal appraisals (see Table 5.1). One of the central proposals of this book is that basic emotions and their associated appraisal scenarios shape and organise our emotional development and emotional existence. We endorse the view that all emotional experience is derived from the different basic emotions, either alone, combined with each other, or as components along with social and cultural factors of more complex emotions. For example, one can experience sadness at the loss of a valued self-related goal, or a combination of sadness and happiness as in nostalgia, or sadness with respect to another's loss of goals as in empathy. As well as the suggestion that basic emotions are the building blocks of emotional order, we also propose that emotionally disordered states are best understood in terms of basic emotions and that the same model of emotions can be used to understand both emotional order and disorder. Consequently the second half of the book is given over to a detailed discussion of each of the five basic emotions listed above, and the order and disorder associated with them.
The second important point to arise out of Chapter 3 was an emphasis on the distinctions between unconscious and conscious psychological systems. Although we have argued, albeit somewhat tentatively, that phenomenological consciousness is a component of emotions, it remains possible to be non-conscious of the component interpretations and appraisals that constitute emotional experiences, and indeed to lack second-order conscious awareness of emotion phenomenology (Lambie & Marcel, 2002). Furthermore, we propose that it is possible to be consciously aware of one interpretation of an event while also holding an unconscious and contradictory interpretation. Similarly, interpretations can be appraised in a consciously aware manner in terms of one emotion and unconsciously in terms of another; for example, a bereaved wife who is consciously aware of appraising the death of her husband in a sadness-related way reflecting the magnitude of her loss, while being unconscious of appraising his death in terms of freedom to pursue her long-dreamed-of goals; that is, in a joy-related way. Clearly, this example is somewhat simplistic. However, we would argue that the notion of conscious and unconscious psychological systems is able to go some way towards accounting for the variety of desynchronous and conflictual phenomena that characterise emotions and which need to be considered in any comprehensive model of emotional life (Dalgleish & Power, 2004; Lambie & Marcel,
2002). It will be possible to paint a far richer picture of these dynamics when we have outlined more of the theory later in the chapter.
Consistent with this notion of conscious and unconscious systems is the proposal from Chapter 3 that a certain amount of processing is carried out by some form of associative cognitive architecture. Furthermore, we proposed that the representations and processes, both conscious and unconscious, that are involved in emotions might be organised in a functionally modular fashion (Fodor, 1983). Both of these points were presented with minimal elaboration in Chapter 3 and we expand on them in the present chapter.
The final point to be carried forward from Chapter 3 is that a further key to understanding how emotional processes operate is the notion of multiple levels and types of representation of emotion-related concepts in the mind. Indeed, it was clear from our review of theories of normal emotion that multi-level approaches such as interacting cognitive subsystems (ICS; Teasdale & Barnard, 1993) and the multiple entry memory system (MEMS; Johnson & Multhaup, 1992) had by far the greatest explanatory power of the theories on offer. We are indebted to and strongly endorse this type of approach and we also propose that there are multiple and often conflicting representations of emotion-related information that influence processing both consciously and unconsciously. We shall further argue that such representations exist at different levels of the psychological system: some are present as simple concrete beliefs which can readily be translated into natural language (propositional representations); other types of representation exist at higher levels and reflect generalised, abstracted views of the world and the self which cannot be readily expressed in natural language (schematic model representations; cf. Teasdale & Barnard, 1993), while others have become instantiated in the associative architecture which we referred to above. Once more, we expand considerably on these ideas concerning multiple formats and levels of representation in the sections that follow and illustrate how they are influenced by and build on previous work.
To summarise, the review of theories of normal everyday emotions from Chapter 3 allows us to paint some more brush strokes on the emotion canvas with the notions of conscious and unconscious systems, multiple levels and formats of representation, the notion of modularity, and an emphasis on a core set of basic emotions and related appraisal scenarios.
Finally, the review of theories of emotional disorder in Chapter 4 raised a number of core points that any model which seeks to provide an understanding of emotional problems must take into account. The first of these points concerns the issue of life events. A number of theories highlight the importance of key events in the development of emotional disorder (e.g., Brown & Harris, 1978). It is our intention to show that the reason such events are important is a function of the individuals' models, goals, and appraisals about themselves, the world, and others, rather than anything inherent in the events themselves (Ellsworth, 1991). This idea links to the second point to arise out of the discussions in Chapter 4, that of vulnerability. Again, a common feature of a number of models of emotional disorder (those known as diathesis-stress models; e.g., Beck et al., 1979) is the notion that certain individuals are more vulnerable than others to the onset and development of certain types of emotional problem. We shall argue that the concept of vulnerability, as with life events, can best be understood in terms of the models, appraisal systems, roles, and goals that the individual uses in interacting with and interpreting the world.
In the brief tour of the highlights of Chapter 3 above, we stressed the importance of multiple levels and formats of representation in the mind allied to the existence of conscious and unconscious systems. The centrality of these ideas in any attempt to understand the conflictual and contradictory nature of emotional experience is most evident in the area of emotional disorder. For that reason we would like to stress two further, related points which emerge from the review in Chapter 4. The first of these concerns the process of inhibition. The notion that certain ideas or beliefs are so disturbing that they have to be prevented from entering conscious awareness in an undiluted or unaltered form is obviously not new—it is one of the cornerstones of the psychodynamic model of psychology. However, within cognitive theories of emotion and of mind the idea that such inhibitory processes might have an important role has gained little currency (e.g., Dalgleish et al., 1999). As Erdelyi points out: "It is almost as if the literature, imitating a Zen master, were conveying the profound essence of the repression process through inexplicable acts (and omissions of acts) rather than through formal verbal exposition" (1988, p. 84). We shall argue that the concept of inhibition, not only between conscious and unconscious systems but also between and within different levels and formats of representation, is important in any attempt to understand emotional order and disorder. The second related point from Chapter 4 is the broad idea that different subsystems of the mind may become interlocked or coupled (cf. Teasdale & Barnard, 1993) in a pathological way that serves to maintain and exacerbate emotional difficulties.
To summarise, our analysis of theories of emotional disorder in Chapter 4 allows us to add the final broad brush strokes to our canvas. These points concern the importance of life events, the concept of vulnerability, the process of cognitive inhibition, and the idea of interlock or coupling between different psychological components and systems.
Was this article helpful?