Emotion in Psychology

Human beings are endorsed by motives, and as rational beings, to a certain extent, we go about intelligently satisfying them. But our life does not end with this. We are also emotional beings. Indeed most of our affairs of everyday life are tingled with feelings and emotions. Our finest achievements, miserable failures, noble characters and ugly behaviours are all directed by emotions.

What is Emotion in Psychology?

They add colour and spice to living. Proper control and expression of our emotions make our living pleasantly; lack of control and improper expression leads to misery.

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What is Emotion?

The term emotion is derived from the Latin verb 'movere', which means stir up, agitate, disturb or move. Woodworth has defined emotion as a "conscious stirred up the organism's state".

Read: Physical Changes during Emotion (External & Internal)

Read: Emotion and Autonomic Nervous System: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic

Read: Theories of Emotion: Evolutionary, Cannon-Bard, James-Lange and Schachter-Singer Theory


In psychology, emotion is often defined as a complex state of feeling resulting in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behaviour. Emotionality is associated with various psychological phenomena, including temperament, personality, mood, and motivation. According to author David G. Meyers, human emotion involves "...physiological arousal, expressive behaviours, and conscious experience."

Emotions are often confused with feelings and moods, but the three terms are not interchangeable. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), emotion is defined as “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioural and physiological elements.” Emotions are how individuals deal with matters or situations they find personally significant. Emotional experiences have three components: a subjective experience, a physiological response and a behavioural or expressive response.

Feelings arise from an emotional experience. Because a person is conscious of the incident, this is classified in the same category as hunger or pain. A sense is the result of an emotion and may be influenced by memories, beliefs and other factors.


3 Components of Emotions

There are three components of emotions.

a)  Cognition: This component serves primarily to influence an evaluation of a given situation, prompting us to become emotional in one way or another or not at all.

b)  Feeling: In daily life, we think of feelings. The feelings are most readily evident changes in an aroused person. Emotions have immediate motivational significance. They give rise to many physiological processes in the cardiovascular system and produce increased blood pressure, changes in sexual urge. They also stimulate the nervous system and prompt widespread electrochemical activities.

c)  Behaviour: The behavioural component involves facial, postural, gestures and vocal responses.


3 Process of Emotion

Subjective Responses

All emotions originate from a subjective experience, often known as a stimulus, but what does this mean? While all humans display basic emotions regardless of culture or background, the knowledge that causes them can be profoundly subjective.

Subjective experiences can range from the insignificant such as perceiving a colour, to the monumental, such as losing a loved one or marrying. No matter how strong the background, it can elicit a wide range of feelings in a single individual, and the emotions experienced by each individual may be unique. For instance, one individual may feel rage and regret upon the death of a loved one, while another may feel profound melancholy.


Physiological Responses

We are all familiar with the sensation of our hearts racing in dread. This physiological response is a response of the autonomic nervous system to the emotion we are experiencing. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating our involuntary body responses and the fight-or-flight response. Numerous psychologists believe that our physiological responses are how emotion has likely aided in our evolution and survival as humans throughout history.

Interestingly, research indicates that the most extensive autonomic physiological responses occur when a person's facial expressions most closely reflect the expression of the emotion being experienced. In other words, facial expressions are critical in physically responding to emotion.


Behavioural Responses

The behavioural reaction component of an emotional response is the emotion's entire presentation. Behavioural responses can take the form of a smile, a grimace, a laugh, or a sigh, among others, depending on social conventions and the individual's personality.

While numerous studies reveal that many facial expressions, such as a frown to signify sadness, are universal, sociocultural norms and individual upbringings influence our behavioural reactions. For instance, how love is communicated varies between individuals and throughout civilizations.


Types of Emotion

Emotion is Energy-in-Motion. It is a way of expressing oneself in life. It is the quality of how one relates to life. The emotions expressed by humans can be divided into two broad categories. We can regard them as polarized, opposite, or just say that there is a dividing line where one emotion changes into a different kind of emotion.

We can call the two types of emotions Negative and Positive. That is not so much value judgment as it is a description of the main action of each group. Judging either as "good" or "bad" isn't very helpful.

Negative Emotions

Negative emotions express an attempt or intention to Exclude. Strengthening one's own position at the expense of others. Keeping horrible stuff away, destroying what is perceived as a threat. Negative emotions are fueled by an underlying fear of the unknown, a fear of the actions of others, and a need to control them or stop them from avoiding being harmed.

Negative emotions are, for example, apathy, grief, fear, hatred, shame, blame, regret, resentment, anger, hostility.

Positive Emotions

Positive emotions express an attempt or an intention to Include. Taking the whole into consideration. Working on learning more viewpoints, interacting more with others, enjoying making things better. Positive emotions are fueled by an underlying desire for enjoyment and unity. Positive emotions are, for example, interest, enthusiasm, boredom, laughter, empathy, action, curiosity.

There is a range of different emotions in each category. We could say that some are more positive or negative than others. But it isn't necessarily practical to place them on a linear scale since each is a composite of various elements. Some emotions camouflage as positive or negative but are the opposite of what they pretend to be. There is a type of pity that appears as genuine concern for others, but somebody else is worse off than you instead of taking comfort in that. A covert hostility masks friendliness, which can often be challenging to assess. Likewise, some kinds of anger or tears might look negative but might really be an expression of involvement and care for the whole. The underlying mechanism and motivation count more than the superficial outward manifestation.


It might sound like the negative emotions are just something to get rid of. It is not that simple, however. They serve essential functions. Basically, they show that there is something one doesn't know and can't deal with. That is very useful if that becomes motivation to learn and deal with it. If one is always joyful, one might miss noticing wrong things. Positive and negative emotions are polarities. We can't get rid of one and just keep the other. Ultimately they need to be integrated.

Typically, negative emotion in a client will point us towards areas that need to be processed. They show that there is something there that the person isn't dealing with. We would make her deal with them and transform them into more valuable and enjoyable. The negative emotions are helpful as motivation for moving away from what one doesn't want. Positive emotions are helpful as motivation for moving towards what one does want.

Trouble enters when parts of the system get stuck. Exceptionally when the functions get reversed, the person starts moving towards what she doesn't want. Therefore, stuck negative emotions are a prime target for processing. People might express all sorts of combinations of these emotions. Some people will be relatively chronically stuck in negative emotions, like grief.

Others might be stuck in a positive one, like contentment, and won't be able to experience negative emotions, even when appropriate. Others will, in stressful situations, react according to specific emotional patterns. A person might have hidden grief or fear triggered by certain circumstances. A casual remark might push a button that unleashes pent-up anger.

The aim of processing is to make people more fluid in terms of emotion. Able to use whatever emotion is most appropriate and be able to use the full range as necessary. A fluid and flexible person will likely choose to live mainly in a positive frame of mind. But the goal is actually integration, moving beyond the positive/negative idea altogether.


Values of Emotions

§  Largely a conscious phenomenon
§  Involve more bodily manifestations than other conscious states
§ Vary and several dimensions: intensity, type, origin, arousal, value, self-regulation, etc.
§ Aare reputed to be "antagonists of rationality."
§ Have a central place in moral education and moral life through conscience, empathy, and many specific moral emotions such as shame, guilt, and remorse; inextricably linked to moral virtues

We feel excited when we pass our examination and jump joy. We shout when we get angry, we feel sorry for the death of our loved one. We tremble when we are afraid. Joy, sorrow, fear, sympathy, empathy, love and affection are all emotions that influence our life and behaviour. Life would be dreary without emotions and feelings.


Constructive/Positive Impacts of Emotion

  1. Motivate to Take Action
  1. Undo Negative Emotions
  1. Enhance Resilience
  1. Build Psychological Repertoire
  1. Trigger an Upward Developmental Spiral
  1. Help to Survive, Thrive, and Avoid Danger
  1. Help to Make Decisions
  1. Increase Creativity
  1. Encourage Helping and Co-operative Behavior
  1. Lead to Accuracy in The Work

Destructive/Negative Impacts of Emotion

  1. Dissatisfaction with Work
  1. Frequent Fights
  1. Absenteeism
  1. Create Mental Illness
  1. Social Conflict & Violence
  1. Behavioural Abnormality
  1. Disability and Discourage
  1. Negative Attitude
  1. Broken Relationships
  1. Suffer in indecision
  1. Stress, Frustration, Indifference in Personal Life

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