What is Negative Affactivity?

Introduction

Negative affectivity (NA), or negative affect, is a personality variable that involves the experience of negative emotions and poor self-concept.

Refer to Positive Affectivity.

Negative affectivity subsumes a variety of negative emotions, including anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear, and nervousness. Low negative affectivity is characterised by frequent states of calmness and serenity, along with states of confidence, activeness, and great enthusiasm.

Individuals differ in negative emotional reactivity. Trait negative affectivity roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factor of anxiety/neuroticism that is found within the Big Five personality traits as emotional stability. The Big Five are characterised as openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Neuroticism can plague an individual with severe mood swings, frequent sadness, worry, and being easily disturbed, and predicts the development and onset of all “common” mental disorders. Research shows that negative affectivity relates to different classes of variables: Self-reported stress and (poor) coping skills, health complaints, and frequency of unpleasant events. Weight gain and mental health complaints are often experienced as well.

People who express high negative affectivity view themselves and a variety of aspects of the world around them in generally negative terms. Negative affectivity is strongly related to life satisfaction. Individuals high in negative affect will exhibit, on average, higher levels of distress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction, and tend to focus on the unpleasant aspects of themselves, the world, the future, and other people, and also evoke more negative life events. The similarities between these affective traits and life satisfaction have led some researchers to view both positive and negative affect with life satisfaction as specific indicators of the broader construct of subjective well-being.

Negative affect arousal mechanisms can induce negative affective states as evidenced by a study conducted by Stanley S. Seidner on negative arousal and white noise. The study quantified reactions from Mexican and Puerto Rican participants in response to the devaluation of speakers from other ethnic origins.

Measurement

There are many instruments that can be used to measure negative affectivity, including measures of related concepts, such as neuroticism and trait anxiety. Two frequently used are:

  • PANAS – The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule incorporates a 10-item negative affect scale.
    • The PANAS-X is an expanded version of PANAS that incorporates negative affect subscales for Fear, Sadness, Guilt, Hostility, and Shyness.
  • I-PANAS-SF – The International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short Form is an extensively validated brief, cross-culturally reliable 10-item version of the PANAS.
    • Negative Affect items are Afraid, Ashamed, Hostile, Nervous and Upset.
    • Internal consistency reliabilities between .72 and .76 are reported.
    • The I-PANAS-SF was developed to eliminate redundant and ambiguous items and thereby derive an efficient measure for general use in research situations where either time or space are limited, or where international populations are of interest but where English may not be the mother tongue.

Benefits

Studies have indicated that negative affect has important, beneficial impacts on cognition and behaviour. These developments were a departure from earlier psychological research, which was characterised by a unilateral emphasis on the benefits of positive affect. Both states of affect influence mental processes and behaviour.

Benefits of negative affect are present in areas of cognition including perception, judgement, memory and interpersonal personal relations. Since negative affect relies more on cautious processing than pre-existing knowledge, people with negative affect tend to perform better in instances involving deception, manipulation, impression formation, and stereotyping. Negative affectivity’s analytical and detailed processing of information leads to fewer reconstructive-memory errors, whereas positive mood relies on broader schematic to thematic information that ignores detail. Thus, information processing in negative moods reduces the misinformation effect and increases overall accuracy of details. People also exhibit less interfering responses to stimuli when given descriptions or performing any cognitive task.

Judgement

People are notoriously susceptible to forming inaccurate judgments based on biases and limited information. Evolutionary theories propose that negative affective states tend to increase scepticism and decrease reliance on pre-existing knowledge. Consequently, judgemental accuracy is improved in areas such as impression formation, reducing fundamental attribution error, stereotyping, and gullibility. While sadness is normally associated with the hippocampus, it does not produce the same side effects that would be associated with feelings of pleasure or excitement. Sadness correlates with feeling blue or the creation of tears, while excitement may cause a spike in blood pressure and one’s pulse. As far as judgement goes, most people think about how they themselves feel about a certain situation. They will jump right to their current mood when asked a question. However, some mistake this process when using their current mood to justify a reaction to a stimulus. If you are sad, yet only a little bit, chances are your reactions and input will be negative as a whole.

Impression Formation

First impressions are one of the most basic forms of judgments people make on a daily basis; yet judgment formation is a complex and fallible process. Negative affect is shown to decrease errors in forming impressions based on presuppositions. One common judgment error is the halo effect, or the tendency to form unfounded impressions of people based on known but irrelevant information. For instance, more attractive people are often attributed with more positive qualities. Research demonstrates that positive affect tends to increase the halo effect, whereas negative affect decreases it.

A study involving undergraduate students demonstrated a halo effect in identifying a middle-aged man as more likely to be a philosopher than an unconventional, young woman. These halo effects were nearly eliminated when participants were in a negative affective state. In the study, researchers sorted participants into either happy or sad groups using an autobiographical mood induction task in which participants reminisced on sad or happy memories. Then, participants read a philosophical essay by a fake academic who was identified as either a middle-aged, bespectacled man or as a young, unorthodox-looking woman. The fake writer was evaluated on intelligence and competence. The positive affect group exhibited a strong halo effect, rating the male writer significantly higher than the female writer in competence. The negative affect group exhibited almost no halo effects rating the two equally. Researchers concluded that impression formation is improved by negative affect. Their findings support theories that negative affect results in more elaborate processing based upon external, available information.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The systematic, attentive approach caused by negative affect reduces fundamental attribution error, the tendency to inaccurately attribute behaviour to a person’s internal character without taking external, situational factors into account. The fundamental attribution error (FAE) is connected with positive affect since it occurs when people use top-down cognitive processing based on inferences. Negative affect stimulates bottom-up, systematic analysis that reduces fundamental attribution error.

This effect is documented in FAE research in which students evaluated a fake debater on attitude and likability based on an essay the “debater” wrote. After being sorted into positive or negative affect groups, participants read one of two possible essays arguing for one side or another on a highly controversial topic. Participants were informed that the debater was assigned a stance to take in the essay that did not necessarily reflect his views. Still, the positive affect groups rated debaters who argued unpopular views as holding the same attitude expressed in the essay. They were also rated as unlikeable compared to debaters with popular stances, thus, demonstrating FAE. In contrast, the data for the negative affect group displayed no significant difference in ratings for debaters with popular stance and debaters with unpopular stances. These results indicate that positive affect assimilation styles promote fundamental attribution error, and negative affect accommodation styles minimise the error in respect to judging people.

Stereotyping

Negative affect benefits judgement in diminishing the implicit use of stereotypes by promoting closer attention to stimuli. In one study, participants were less likely to discriminate against targets that appeared Muslim when in a negative affective state. After organising participants into positive and negative affect groups, researchers had them play a computer game. Participants had to make rapid decisions to shoot only at targets carrying a gun. Some of the targets wore turbans making them appear Muslim. As expected, there was a significant bias against Muslim targets resulting in a tendency to shoot at them. However, this tendency decreased with subjects in negative affective states. Positive affect groups developed more aggressive tendencies toward Muslims. Researchers concluded that negative affect leads to less reliance on internal stereotypes, thus decreasing judgemental bias.

Gullibility

Multiple studies have shown that negative affectivity has a beneficial role in increasing scepticism and decreasing gullibility. Because negative affective states increase external analysis and attention to details, people in negative states are better able to detect deception.

Researchers have presented findings in which students in negative affective states had improved lie detection compared to students in positive affective states. In a study, students watched video clips of everyday people either lying or telling the truth. First, music was used to induce positive, negative, or neutral affect in participants. Then, experimenters played 14 video messages that had to be identified by participants as true or false. As expected, the negative affect group performed better in veracity judgments than the positive affect group who performed no better than chance. Researchers believe that the negative affect groups detected deception more successfully because they attended to stimulus details and systematically built inferences from those details.

Memory

Memory has been found to have many failures that affect the accuracy of recalled memories. This has been especially pragmatic in criminal settings as eyewitness memories have been found to be less reliable than one would hope. However, the externally focused and accommodative processing of negative affect has a positive effect on the overall improvement of memory. This is evidenced by reduction of the misinformation effect, and the number of false memories reported. The knowledge implies that negative affect can be used to enhance eyewitness memory; however, additional research suggests that the extent to which memory is improved by negative affect does not sufficiently improve eyewitness testimonies to significantly reduce its error.

Misinformation Effect

Negative affect has been shown to decrease susceptibility of incorporating misleading information, which is related to the misinformation effect. The misinformation effect refers to the finding that misleading information presented between the encoding of an event and its subsequent recall influences a witness’s memory. This corresponds to two types of memory failure:

  • Suggestibility:
    • When recollections are influenced by the prodding or expectations of others creating false memories.
  • Misattribution:
    • When a witness gets confused and misattributes the misinformation to the original event.
    • Also defined as the retroactive interference: When later information interferes with the ability to retain previously encoded information.

In Witness of Events

Negative mood is shown to decrease suggestibility error. This is seen through reduced amounts of incorporation of false memories when misleading information is present. On the other hand, positive affect has shown to increase susceptibility to misleading information. An experiment with undergraduate students supported these results. Participants began the study in a lecture hall and witnessed what they thought was an unexpected five-minute belligerent encounter between an intruder and the lecturer. A week later, these participants watched a 10-minute-long video that generated either a positive, negative or neutral mood. They then completed a brief questionnaire about the previous incident between the intruder and lecturer that they witnessed the week earlier. In this questionnaire half of the participants received questions with misleading information and the other half received questions without any misleading information. This manipulation was used to determine if participants were susceptible to suggestibility failure. After 45 minutes of unrelated distractors participants were given a set of true or false questions which tested for false memories. Participants experiencing negative moods reported fewer numbers of false memories, whereas those experiencing positive moods reported a greater amount of false memories. This implies that positive affect promotes integration of misleading details and negative affect reduces the misinformation effect.

In Recall of Past Public Events

People who experience negative affectivity following an event report fewer reconstructive false memories. This was evidenced by two studies conducted around public events. The first surrounded the events of the televised O.J. Simpson trial. Participants were asked to fill out questionnaires three times: one week, two months and a year after the televised verdict. These questionnaires measured participant emotion towards the verdict and the accuracy of their recalled memory of what occurred during the trial. Overall the study found that although participant response to the event outcome did not affect the quantity of remembered information, it did influence the likelihood of false memory. Participants who were pleased with the verdict of the O.J. Simpson trial were more likely to falsely believe something occurred during the trial than those who were displeased with the verdict. Another experiment found the same findings with Red Sox fans and Yankees fans in their overall memory of events that occurred in the final game of a 2004 playoff series in which the Red Sox defeated the Yankees. The study found that the Yankees fans had better memory of events that occurred than the Red Sox fans. The results from both of these experiments are consistent with the findings that negative emotion can lead to fewer memory errors and thus increased memory accuracy of events.

Degree of Enhanced Memory

Although negative affect has been shown to decrease the misinformation effect, the degree to which memory is improved is not enough to make a significant effect on witness testimony. In fact, emotions, including negative affect, are shown to reduce accuracy in identifying perpetrators from photographic line-ups. Researchers demonstrated this effect in an experiment in which participants watched a video that induced either negative emotion or a neutral mood. The two videos were deliberately similar except for the action of interest, which was either a mugging (negative emotion) or a conversation (neutral emotion). After watching one of the two videos participants are shown perpetrator line-ups, which either contained the target perpetrator from the video or a foil, a person that looked similar to the target. The results revealed that the participants who watched the emotion-induced video were more likely to incorrectly identify the innocent foil than to correctly identify the perpetrator. Neutral participants were more likely to correctly identify the perpetrator in comparison to their emotional counterparts. This demonstrates that emotional affect in forensic settings decreases accuracy of eyewitness memory. These findings are consistent with prior knowledge that stress and emotion greatly impair eyewitness ability to recognitive perpetrators.

Interpersonal Benefits

Negative affectivity can produce several interpersonal benefits. It can cause subjects to be more polite and considerate with others. Unlike positive mood, which causes less assertive approaches, negative affectivity can, in many ways, cause a person to be more polite and elaborate when making requests.

Negative affectivity increases the accuracy of social perceptions and inferences. Specifically, high negative-affectivity people have more negative, but accurate, perceptions of the impression they make to others. People with low negative affectivity form overly-positive, potentially inaccurate impression of others that can lead to misplaced trust.

Intergroup Discrimination

A research conducted by Forgas J.P studied how affectivity can influence intergroup discrimination. He measured affectivity by how people allocate rewards to in-group and out-group members. In the procedure, participants had to describe their interpretations after looking at patterns of judgments about people. Afterwards, participants were exposed to a mood induction process, where they had to watch videotapes designed to elicit negative or positive affectivity. Results showed that participants with positive affectivity were more negative and discriminated more than participants with negative affectivity. Also, happy participants were more likely to discriminate between in-group and out-group members than sad participants. Negative affect is often associated with team selection. It is viewed as a trait that could make selecting individuals for a team irrelevant, thus preventing knowledge from becoming known or predicted for current issues that may arise.

Communication

Negative affectivity subconsciously signals a challenging social environment. Negative mood may increase a tendency to conform to social norms.

In a study, college students were exposed to a mood induction process. After the mood induction process, participants were required to watch a show with positive and negative elements. After watching the show, they were asked to engage on a hypothetical conversation in which they “describe the episode (they) just observed to a friend”. Their speech was recorded and transcribed during this task. Results showed that speakers in a negative mood had a better quality descriptions and greater amount of information and details. These results show that negative mood can improve people’s communication skills.

A negative mood is closely linked to better conversation because it makes use of the hippocampus and different regions of the brain. When someone is upset, that individual may see or hear things differently than an individual who is very upbeat and happy all the time. The small details the negative individual picks up may be something completely overlooked before. Anxiety disorders are often associated with over-thinking and ruminating on topics that would seem irrelevant and pointless to an individual without a disorder. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one common anxiety trait that allows the affected individual a different insight on how things may appear to be. An individual that makes use of their negative affect has a different view of the world and what goes on in it, thus making their conversations different and interesting to others.

Self-Disclosure

Results of one study show that participants with negative affectivity were more careful with the information they shared with others, being more cautious with who they could trust or not. Researchers found that negative mood not only decreases intimacy levels but also increases caution in placing trust in others.

Enhanced Ability to Experience Feelings

Negative affect is regularly recognised as a “stable, heritable trait tendency to experience a broad range of negative feelings, such as worry, anxiety, self-criticisms, and a negative self-view”. This allows one to feel every type of emotion, which is regarded as a normal part of life and human nature. So, while the emotions themselves are viewed as negative, the individual experiencing them should not be classified as a negative person or depressed. They are going through a normal process and are feeling something that many individuals may not be able to feel or process due to differing problems.

Fit with Evolutionary Psychology

These findings complement evolutionary psychology theories that affective states serve adaptive functions in promoting suitable cognitive strategies to deal with environmental challenges. Positive affect is associated with assimilative, top-down processing used in response to familiar, benign environments. Negative affect is connected with accommodative, bottom-up processing in response to unfamiliar, or problematic environments. Thus, positive affectivity promotes simplistic heuristic approaches that rely on pre-existing knowledge and assumptions. Conversely, negative affectivity promotes controlled, analytic approaches that rely on externally drawn information.

What is Positive Affectivity?

Introduction

Positive affectivity (PA) is a human characteristic that describes how much people experience positive affects (sensations, emotions, sentiments); and as a consequence how they interact with others and with their surroundings.

People with high positive affectivity are typically enthusiastic, energetic, confident, active, and alert. Research has linked positive affectivity with an increase in longevity, better sleep, and a decrease in stress hormones. People with a high positive affectivity have healthier coping styles, more positive self-qualities, and are more goal oriented. Positive affectivity also promotes an open-minded attitude, sociability, and helpfulness.

Those having low levels of positive affectivity (and high levels of negative affectivity) are characterised by sadness, lethargy, distress, and un-pleasurable engagement (see negative affectivity). Low levels of positive affect are correlated with social anxiety and depression, due to decreased levels of dopamine.

Research and Findings

Studies are finding there is a relationship between dopamine release and positive affect in cognitive abilities. For instance, when dopamine levels are low, positive affect can stimulate the release of more dopamine, temporarily increasing cognitive, motor, and emotional processing. Stimulating dopamine release influences several cognitive functions. First, an increase in dopamine in the nigrostriatal system can temporarily relieve motor or cognitive dysfunction, due to Parkinson’s.

An increase in dopamine release also influences the mesocorticolimbic system, via ventral tegmental area (VTA) cells, increasing mood and open mindedness in older adults. Positive affect also stimulates dopamine production in the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate facilities, which help with processing working memory and executive attention. Lastly, PA indirectly improves memory consolidation in the hippocampus, by increasing acetylcholine release from an increase in dopamine.

Overall, positive affect results in a more positive outlook, increases problem solving skills, increases social skills, increases activity and projects, and can play a role in motor function.

Relationship with Negative Affectivity

Refer to Negative Affectivity.

Positive affectivity (PA) and negative affectivity (NA) are nearly independent of each other; it is possible for a person to be high in both PA and NA, high in one and low in the other, or low in both. Affectivity has been found to be moderately stable over time and across situations (such as working versus relaxing). Positive affectivity may influence an individual’s choices in general, particularly their responses to questionnaires.

Relationship with Happiness, Self-Esteem and Extraversion

Happiness, a feeling of well-being, and high levels of self-esteem are often associated with high levels of positive affectivity, but they are each influenced by negative affectivity as well. Trait PA roughly corresponds to the dominant personality factors of extraversion; however, this construct is also influenced by interpersonal components.

Testing

Because there is not a hard-and-fast rule for defining certain levels of positive affectivity, different self-reported assessments use different scales of measure. Several prominent tests are listed below; in each of these, the respondent determines the degree to which a given adjective or phrase accurately characterizes him or her.

  • Differential Emotions Scale (DES): A PA scale that assesses enjoyment (happy or joyful feelings) and interest (excitement, alertness, curiosity).
  • Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist – Revised (MAACL-R): Measures PA according to the DES scale and to an additional scale assessing thrill-seeking behaviour (i.e. how daring or adventurous the person is).
  • Profile of Mood States (POMS): Uses vigour scale to assess the domain of PA.
  • Expanded Form of the Positives and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS-X): This test uses three main scales:
    • Joviality (how cheerful, happy, or lively);
    • Self-assurance (how confident and strong); and
    • Attentiveness (alertness and concentration).
  • International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule Short-Form (I-PANAS-SF): This is a brief, 10-item version of the PANAS that has been developed and extensively validated for use in English with both native and non-native English speakers.
    • Internal consistency reliability for the 5-item PA scale is reported to range between .72 and .78.

In Business Management

Positive affectivity is a managerial and organisational behaviour tool used to create positive environments in the workplace. Through the use of PA, the manager can induce a positive employee experience and culture. “Since affectivity is related to the employee experiences, we expect the employees with high PA to feel considerable organizational support. Their optimism and confidence also helps them discuss their views in a manner characterised by constructive controversy with their supervisor, so that problems are solved and their positive feelings confirmed”. Positive Affectivity allows creative problem solving to flourish in an environment where employees are not intimidated to approach managers, therefore employees believe they are playing a key role in the organisation in coming forward with solutions. The goal is to maximise PA and minimise any negative affectivity circulating in the business. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger, stress, hostility, sadness, and guilt, increase the predictability of workplace deviance, and therefore reduce the productivity of the business.

Effects

Positive affectivity is an integral part of everyday life. PA helps individuals to process emotional information accurately and efficiently, to solve problems, to make plans, and to earn achievements. The broaden-and-build theory of PA suggests that PA broadens people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and builds their enduring personal resources.

Research shows that PA relates to different classes of variables, such as social activity and the frequency of pleasant events. PA also strongly relates to life satisfaction. The high energy and engagement, optimism, and social interest characteristic of high-PA individuals suggest that they are more likely to be satisfied with their lives. In fact, the content similarities between these affective traits and life satisfaction have led some researchers to view both PA, NA, and life satisfaction as specific indicators of the broader construct of subjective well-being.

PA may influence the relationships between variables in organizational research. PA increases attentional focus and behavioural repertoire, and these enhanced personal resources can help to overcome or deal with distressing situations. These resources are physical (e.g. better health), social (e.g. social support networks), and intellectual and psychological (e.g. resilience, optimism, and creativity).

PA provides a psychological break or respite from stress, supporting continued efforts to replenish resources depleted by stress. Its buffering functions provide a useful antidote to the problems associated with negative emotions and ill health due to stress, as PA reduces allostatic load. Likewise, happy people are better at coping. McCrae and Costa concluded that PA was associated with more mature coping efforts.

What is Hysteria?

Introduction

Hysteria is a pejorative term used colloquially to mean ungovernable emotional excess and can refer to a temporary state of mind or emotion.

In the 19th century, hysteria was considered a diagnosable physical illness in females. It is assumed that the basis for diagnosis operated under the belief that women are predisposed to mental and behavioural conditions; a misinterpretation of gender-related differences in stress responses. In the 20th century, it shifted to being considered a mental illness.

Many influential persons such as Sigmund Freud and Jean-Martin Charcot dedicated research to hysteria patients. Currently, most doctors practicing Western medicine do not accept hysteria as a medical diagnosis. The blanket diagnosis of hysteria has been fragmented into myriad medical categories such as epilepsy, histrionic personality disorder, conversion disorders, dissociative disorders, or other medical conditions. Furthermore, lifestyle choices, such as deciding not to wed, are no longer considered symptoms of psychological disorders such as hysteria.

Brief History

The word hysteria originates from the Greek word for uterus, hystera. The oldest record of hysteria dates back to 1900 B.C. when Egyptians recorded behavioural abnormalities in adult women on medical papyrus. The Egyptians attributed the behavioural disturbances to a wandering uterus – thus later dubbing the condition hysteria. To treat hysteria Egyptian doctors prescribed various medications. For example, doctors put strong smelling substances on the patients’ vulvas to encourage the uterus to return to its proper position. Another tactic was to smell or swallow unsavoury herbs to encourage the uterus to flee back to the lower part of the female’s abdomen.

The ancient Greeks accepted the ancient Egyptians’ explanation for hysteria; however, they included in their definition of hysteria the inability to bear children or the failure to marry. Ancient Romans also attributed hysteria to an abnormality in the womb; however, discarded the traditional explanation of a wandering uterus. Instead, the ancient Romans credited hysteria to a disease of the womb or a disruption in reproduction (i.e. a miscarriage, menopause, etc.).[5] Hysteria theories from the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and ancient Romans were the basis of the Western understanding of hysteria.

Between the fifth and thirteenth centuries, however, the increasing influence of Christianity in the Latin West altered medical and public understanding of hysteria. St. Augustine’s writings suggested that human suffering resulted from sin, and thus, hysteria became perceived as satanic possession. With the shift in perception of hysteria came a shift in treatment options. Instead of admitting patients to a hospital, the church began treating patients through prayers, amulets, and exorcisms. Furthermore, during the Renaissance period many patients of hysteria were prosecuted as witches and underwent interrogations, torture, and execution.

However, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries activists and scholars worked to change the perception of hysteria back to a medical condition. Particularly, French physician Charles Lepois insisted that hysteria was a malady of the brain. In addition, in 1697, English physician Thomas Sydenham theorised that hysteria was an emotional condition, instead of a physical condition. Many physicians followed Lepois and Sydenham’s lead and hysteria became disassociated with the soul and the womb. During this time period, science started to focalize hysteria in the central nervous system. As doctors developed a greater understanding of the human nervous system, the neurological model of hysteria was created, which further propelled the conception of hysteria as a mental disorder.

In 1859, Paul Briquet defined hysteria as a chronic syndrome manifesting in many unexplained symptoms throughout the body’s organ systems. What Briquet described became known as Briquet’s syndrome, or Somatization disorders, in 1971. Over a ten year period, Briquet conducted 430 case studies of patients with hysteria. Following Briquet, Jean-Martin Charcot studied women in an asylum in France and used hypnosis as treatment. He also mentored Pierre Janet, another French psychologist, who studied five of hysteria’s symptoms (anaesthesia, amnesia, abulia, motor control diseases, and character change) in depth and proposed that hysteria symptoms occurred due to a lapse in consciousness. Both Charcot and Janet inspired Sigmund Freud’s work. Freud theorised hysteria stemmed from childhood sexual abuse or repression, and was also one of the first to apply hysteria to men.

During the 20th century, as psychiatry advanced in the West, anxiety and depression diagnoses began to replace hysteria diagnoses in Western countries. For example, from 1949 to 1978, annual admissions of hysteria patients in England and Wales decreased by roughly two thirds. With the decrease of hysteria patients in Western cultures came an increase in anxiety and depression patients. Although declining in the West, in Eastern countries such as Sudan, Egypt, and Lebanon hysteria diagnoses remained consistent. Theories for why hysteria diagnoses began to decline vary, but many historians infer that World War II, westernisation, and migration shifted Western mental health expectations. Twentieth century western societies expected depression and anxiety manifest itself more in post World War II generations and displaced individuals; and thus, individuals reported or were diagnosed accordingly. In addition, medical advancements explained ailments that were previously attributed to hysteria such as epilepsy or infertility. In 1980, after a gradual decline in diagnoses and reports, hysteria was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which had included hysteria as a mental disorder from its second publication in 1968.

Historical Symptoms

Historically, hysteria has had a range of symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fainting.
  • Amnesia.
  • Paralysis.
  • Pain.
  • Spasms.
  • Convulsive fits.
  • Vomiting.
  • Deafness.
  • Bizarre movements.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Inability to speak
  • infertility.

Historical Treatment

  • Regular marital sex.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Childbirth.
  • Proximal convulsions/orgasms.
  • Rest Cure.

Notable Figures

Jean-Martin Charcot

In the late nineteenth century, French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, attempted to tackle what he referred to as, “the great neurosis” or hysteria. Charcot theorised that hysteria was a hereditary, physiological disorder. He believed hysteria impaired areas of the brain which provoked the physical symptoms displayed in each patient. While Charcot believed hysteria was hereditary, he also thought that environmental factors such as stress could trigger hysteria in an individual.

Charcot published over 120 case studies of patients who he diagnosed with hysteria, including Marie “Blanche” Whittman. Whittman was referred to as the “Queen of Hysterics,” and remains the most famous patient of hysteria. To treat his patients, Charcot used hypnosis, which he determined was only successful when used on hysterics. Using patients as props, Charcot executed dramatic public demonstrations of hysterical patients and his cures for hysteria, which many suggest produced the hysterical phenomenon. Furthermore, Charcot noted similarities between demon possession and hysteria, and thus, he concluded “demonomania” was a form of hysteria.

Sigmund Freud

In 1896, Sigmund Freud, who was an Austrian psychiatrist, published “The Aetiology of Hysteria”. The paper explains how Freud believes his female patients’ neurosis, which he labels hysteria, resulted from sexual abuse as children. Freud named the concept of physical symptoms resulting from childhood trauma: hysterical conversion. Freud hypothesized that in order to cure hysteria the patient must relive the experiences through imagination in the most vivid form while under light hypnosis. However, Freud later changed his theory. His new theory claimed that his patients imagined the instances of sexual abuse, which were instead repressed childhood fantasies. By 1905, Freud retracted the theory of hysteria resulting from repressed childhood fantasies. Freud was also one of the first noted psychiatrist to attribute hysteria to men. He diagnosed himself with hysteria – writing he feared his work exacerbated his condition.

Modern Perceptions

For the most part, hysteria does not exist as a medical diagnosis in Western culture and has been replaced by other diagnoses such as conversion or functional disorders. The effects of hysteria as a diagnosable illness in the 18th and 19th centuries has had a lasting effect on the medical treatment of women’s health. The term hysterical, applied to an individual, can mean that they are emotional, irrationally upset, or frenzied. When applied to a situation that does not involve panic, hysteria means that situation is uncontrollably amusing (the connotation being that it invokes hysterical laughter). Hysteria can also impact groups, medically and colloquially referred to as mass hysteria or mass psychogenic illness. Instances of mass hysteria have been recorded throughout history and continue to occur today.

What is Affect (Psychology)?

Introduction

Affect, in psychology, refers to the underlying experience of feeling, emotion or mood.

Dimensions of Affect

Affective states are psycho-physiological constructs – meaning, largely, concepts that connect mental and physical processes. According to most current views, they vary along three principal dimensions: valence, arousal, and motivational intensity.

  • Valence is the subjective spectrum of positive-to-negative evaluation of an experience an individual may have had.
    • Emotional valence refers to the emotion’s consequences, emotion-eliciting circumstances, or subjective feelings or attitudes.
  • Arousal is objectively measurable as activation of the sympathetic nervous system, but can also be assessed subjectively via self-report.
  • Motivational intensity refers to the impulsion to act; the strength of an urge to move toward or away from a stimulus and whether or not to interact with said stimulus.
    • Simply moving is not considered approach (or avoidance) motivation.

It is important to note that arousal is different from motivational intensity. While arousal is a construct that is closely related to motivational intensity, they differ in that motivation necessarily implies action while arousal does not.

Affect Display

Affect is sometimes used to mean affect display, which is a facial, vocal, or gestural behaviour that serves as an indicator of affect.

Effects

In psychology, affect brings about an organism’s interaction with stimuli.

Affect can influence cognitive scope (the breadth of cognitive processes). Initially, it was thought that positive affects broadened whereas negative affects narrowed cognitive scope. However, evidence now suggests that affects high in motivational intensity narrow cognitive scope whereas affects low in motivational intensity broaden it. The construct of cognitive scope has proven valuable in cognitive psychology.

Affect Tolerance

According to a research article about affect tolerance written by psychiatrist Jerome Sashin (1985), “Affect tolerance can be defined as the ability to respond to a stimulus which would ordinarily be expected to evoke affects by the subjective experiencing of feelings.” Essentially it refers to one’s ability to react to emotions and feelings. One who is low in affect tolerance would show little to no reaction to emotion and feeling of any kind. This is closely related to alexithymia.

“Alexithymia is a subclinical phenomenon involving a lack of emotional awareness or, more specifically, difficulty in identifying and describing feelings and in distinguishing feelings from the bodily sensations of emotional arousal” (Glimcher & Fehr, 2014). At its core, alexithymia is an inability for an individual to recognise what emotions they are feeling – as well as an inability to describe them. According to Dalya Samur and colleagues (2013) people with alexithymia have been shown to have correlations with increased suicide rates, mental discomfort, and deaths.

Affect tolerance factors, including anxiety sensitivity, intolerance of uncertainty, and emotional distress tolerance, may be helped by mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the practice of being hyper aware of one’s own feelings, thoughts, sensations, and the stimulus of the environment around you – not in an anxiety-inducing way, but in a gentle and pleasant way. Mindfulness has been shown to produce increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioural regulation.

Relationship to Behaviour and Cognition

The affective domain represents one of the three divisions described in modern psychology: the other two being the behavioural, and the cognitive. Classically, these divisions have also been referred to as the “ABC’s of psychology”. However, in certain views, the cognitive may be considered as a part of the affective, or the affective as a part of the cognitive; it is important to note that “cognitive and affective states … [are] merely analytic categories.”

Instinctive and Cognitive Factors in Causation of Affect

Affect can mean an instinctual reaction to stimulation that occurs before the typical cognitive processes considered necessary for the formation of a more complex emotion. Robert B. Zajonc (1980) asserts this reaction to stimuli is primary for human beings and that it is the dominant reaction for non-human organisms. Zajonc suggests that affective reactions can occur without extensive perceptual and cognitive encoding and be made sooner and with greater confidence than cognitive judgments.

Many theorists, such as Lazarus (1982) consider affect to be post-cognitive: elicited only after a certain amount of cognitive processing of information has been accomplished. In this view, such affective reactions as liking, disliking, evaluation, or the experience of pleasure or displeasure each result from a different prior cognitive process that makes a variety of content discriminations and identifies features, examines them to find value, and weighs them according to their contributions (Brewin, 1989). Some scholars, such as Lerner and Keltner (2000) argue that affect can be both pre- and post-cognitive: initial emotional responses produce thoughts, which produce affect. In a further iteration, some scholars argue that affect is necessary for enabling more rational modes of cognition (Damasio, 2006).

A divergence from a narrow reinforcement model of emotion allows other perspectives about how affect influences emotional development. Thus, temperament, cognitive development, socialisation patterns, and the idiosyncrasies of one’s family or subculture might interact in nonlinear ways. For example, the temperament of a highly reactive/low self-soothing infant may “disproportionately” affect the process of emotion regulation in the early months of life (Griffiths, 1997).

Some other social sciences, such as geography or anthropology, have adopted the concept of affect during the last decade. In French psychoanalysis a major contribution to the field of affect comes from André Green (1973). The focus on affect has largely derived from the work of Deleuze and brought emotional and visceral concerns into such conventional discourses as those on geopolitics, urban life and material culture. Affect has also challenged methodologies of the social sciences by emphasizing somatic power over the idea of a removed objectivity and therefore has strong ties with the contemporary non-representational theory.

Brief History

A number of experiments have been conducted in the study of social and psychological affective preferences (i.e., what people like or dislike). Specific research has been done on preferences, attitudes, impression formation, and decision making. This research contrasts findings with recognition memory (old-new judgements), allowing researchers to demonstrate reliable distinctions between the two. Affect-based judgements and cognitive processes have been examined with noted differences indicated, and some argue affect and cognition are under the control of separate and partially independent systems that can influence each other in a variety of ways (Zajonc, 1980). Both affect and cognition may constitute independent sources of effects within systems of information processing. Others suggest emotion is a result of an anticipated, experienced, or imagined outcome of an adaptational transaction between organism and environment, therefore cognitive appraisal processes are keys to the development and expression of an emotion (Lazarus, 1982).

Psychometric Measurement

Affect has been found across cultures to comprise both positive and negative dimensions. The most commonly used measure in scholarly research is the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) (Watson, Clark & Tellegen, 1988). The PANAS is a lexical measure developed in a North American setting and consisting of 20 single-word items, for instance excited, alert, determined for positive affect, and upset, guilty, and jittery for negative affect. However, some of the PANAS items have been found either to be redundant or to have ambiguous meanings to English speakers from non-North American cultures. As a result, an internationally reliable short-form, the I-PANAS-SF, has been developed and validated comprising two 5-item scales with internal reliability, cross-sample and cross-cultural factorial invariance, temporal stability, convergent and criterion-related validities.

Mroczek and Kolarz (1998) have also developed another set of scales to measure positive and negative affect. Each of the scales has 6 items. The scales have shown evidence of acceptable validity and reliability across cultures.

Non-Conscious Affect and Perception

In relation to perception, a type of non-conscious affect may be separate from the cognitive processing of environmental stimuli. A monohierarchy of perception, affect and cognition considers the roles of arousal, attention tendencies, affective primacy (Zajonc, 1980), evolutionary constraints (Shepard, 1984; 1994), and covert perception (Weiskrantz, 1997) within the sensing and processing of preferences and discriminations. Emotions are complex chains of events triggered by certain stimuli. There is no way to completely describe an emotion by knowing only some of its components. Verbal reports of feelings are often inaccurate because people may not know exactly what they feel, or they may feel several different emotions at the same time. There are also situations that arise in which individuals attempt to hide their feelings, and there are some who believe that public and private events seldom coincide exactly, and that words for feelings are generally more ambiguous than are words for objects or events. Therefore, non-conscious emotions need to be measured by measures circumventing self-report such as the Implicit Positive and Negative Affect Test (IPANAT; Quirin, Kazén & Kuhl, 2009).

Affective responses, on the other hand, are more basic and may be less problematic in terms of assessment. Brewin has proposed two experiential processes that frame non-cognitive relations between various affective experiences: those that are prewired dispositions (i.e. non-conscious processes), able to “select from the total stimulus array those stimuli that are causally relevant, using such criteria as perceptual salience, spatiotemporal cues, and predictive value in relation to data stored in memory” (Brewin, 1989, p.381), and those that are automatic (i.e. subconscious processes), characterised as “rapid, relatively inflexible and difficult to modify… (requiring) minimal attention to occur and… (capable of being) activated without intention or awareness” (Brewin1989 p.381). But a note should be considered on the differences between affect and emotion.

Arousal

Arousal is a basic physiological response to the presentation of stimuli. When this occurs, a non-conscious affective process takes the form of two control mechanisms: one mobilising and the other immobilising. Within the human brain, the amygdala regulates an instinctual reaction initiating this arousal process, either freezing the individual or accelerating mobilisation.

The arousal response is illustrated in studies focused on reward systems that control food-seeking behaviour (Balleine, 2005). Researchers have focused on learning processes and modulatory processes that are present while encoding and retrieving goal values. When an organism seeks food, the anticipation of reward based on environmental events becomes another influence on food seeking that is separate from the reward of food itself. Therefore, earning the reward and anticipating the reward are separate processes and both create an excitatory influence of reward-related cues. Both processes are dissociated at the level of the amygdala, and are functionally integrated within larger neural systems.

Motivational intensity and Cognitive Scope

Measuring Cognitive Scope

Cognitive scope can be measured by tasks involving attention, perception, categorisation and memory. Some studies use a flanker attention task to figure out whether cognitive scope is broadened or narrowed. For example:

  • Using the letters “H” and “N” participants need to identify as quickly as possible the middle letter of 5 when all the letters are the same (e.g. “HHHHH”); and
  • When the middle letter is different from the flanking letters (e.g. “HHNHH”).

Broadened cognitive scope would be indicated if reaction times differed greatly from when all the letters were the same compared to when the middle letter is different. Other studies use a Navon attention task to measure difference in cognitive scope. A large letter is composed of smaller letters, in most cases smaller “L”‘s or “F”‘s that make up the shape of the letter “T” or “H” or vice versa. Broadened cognitive scope would be suggested by a faster reaction to name the larger letter, whereas narrowed cognitive scope would be suggested by a faster reaction to name the smaller letters within the larger letter. A source-monitoring paradigm can also be used to measure how much contextual information is perceived: for instance, participants are tasked to watch a screen which serially displays words to be memorised for 3 seconds each, and also have to remember whether the word appeared on the left or the right half of the screen. The words were also encased in a coloured box, but the participants did not know that they would eventually be asked what colour box the word appeared in.

Main Research Findings

Motivation intensity refers to the strength of urge to move toward or away from a particular stimulus.

Anger and fear affective states, induced via film clips, conferred more selective attention on a flanker task compared to controls as indicated by reaction times that were not very different, even when the flanking letters were different from the middle target letter. Both anger and fear have high motivational intensity because propulsion to act would be high in the face of an angry or fearful stimulus, like a screaming person or coiled snake. Affects high in motivational intensity, thus, narrow cognitive scope making people able to focus more on target information. After seeing a sad picture, participants were faster to identify the larger letter in a Navon attention task, suggesting more global or broadened cognitive scope. The sad emotion is thought to sometimes have low motivational intensity. But, after seeing a disgusting picture, participants were faster to identify the component letters, indicative of a localised more narrow cognitive scope. Disgust has high motivational intensity. Affects high in motivational intensity, thus, narrow cognitive scope making people able to focus more on central information. whereas affects low in motivational intensity broadened cognitive scope allowing for faster global interpretation. The changes in cognitive scope associated with different affective states is evolutionarily adaptive because high motivational intensity affects elicited by stimuli that require movement and action should be focused on, in a phenomenon known as goal-directed behaviour. For example, in early times seeing a lion (fearful stimulus) probably elicited a negative but high motivational affective state (fear) in which the human being was propelled to run away. In this case the goal would be to avoid getting killed.

Moving beyond just negative affective states, researchers wanted to test whether or not the negative or positive affective states varied between high and low motivational intensity. To evaluate this theory, Harmon-Jones and Gable (2009) created an experiment using appetitive picture priming and the Navon task, which would allow them to measure the attentional scope with the detection of the Navon letters. The Navon task included a neutral affect comparison condition. Typically, neutral states cause broadened attention with a neutral stimulus. They predicted that a broad attentional scope could cause a faster detection of global (large) letters, whereas a narrow attentional scope could cause a faster detection of local (small) letters. The evidence proved that the appetitive stimuli produced a narrowed attentional scope. The experimenters further increased the narrowed attentional scope in appetitive stimuli by telling participants they would be allowed to consume the desserts shown in the pictures. The results revealed that their hypothesis was correct in that the broad attentional scope led to quicker detection of global letters and the narrowed attentional scope led to quicker detection of local letters.

Bradley and colleagues (2001) wanted to further examine the emotional reactions in picture priming. Instead of using an appetitive stimulus they used stimulus sets from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS). The image set includes various unpleasant pictures such as snakes, insects, attack scenes, accidents, illness, and loss. They predicted that the unpleasant picture would stimulate a defensive motivational intensity response, which would produce strong emotional arousal such as skin gland responses and cardiac deceleration. Participants rated the pictures based on valence, arousal and dominance on the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) rating scale. The findings were consistent with the hypothesis and proved that emotion is organised motivationally by the intensity of activation in appetitive or defensive systems.

Prior to research in 2013, Harmon-Jones and Gable (2009) performed an experiment to examine whether neural activation related with approach-motivation intensity (left frontal-central activity) would trigger the effect of appetitive stimuli on narrowed attention. They also tested whether individual dissimilarities in approach motivation are associated with attentional narrowing. In order to test the hypothesis, the researchers used the same Navon task with appetitive and neutral pictures in addition to having the participants indicate how long since they had last eaten in minutes. To examine the neural activation, the researchers used an electroencephalography and recorded eye movements in order to detect what regions of the brain were being used during approach motivation. The results supported the hypothesis suggesting that the left frontal-central hemisphere is relative for approach-motivational processes and narrowed attentional scope. Some psychologists were concerned that the individuals who were hungry had an increase in the left frontal-central due to frustration. This statement was proved false because the research shows that the dessert pictures increase positive affect even in the hungry individuals. The findings revealed that narrowed cognitive scope has the ability to assist us in goal accomplishment.

Clinical Applications

Later on, researchers connected motivational intensity to clinical applications and found that alcohol-related pictures caused narrowed attention for persons who had a strong motivation to consume alcohol. The researchers tested the participants by exposing them to alcohol and neutral pictures. After the picture was displayed on a screen, the participants finished a test evaluating attentional focus. The findings proved that exposure to alcohol-related pictures led to a narrowing of attentional focus to individuals who were motivated to use alcohol. However, exposure to neutral pictures did not correlate with alcohol-related motivation to manipulate attentional focus. The Alcohol Myopia Theory (AMT) states that alcohol consumption reduces the amount of information available in memory, which also narrows attention so only the most proximal items or striking sources are encompassed in attentional scope. This narrowed attention leads intoxicated persons to make more extreme decisions than they would when sober. Researchers provided evidence that substance-related stimuli capture the attention of individuals when they have high and intense motivation to consume the substance. Motivational intensity and cue-induced narrowing of attention has a unique role in shaping people’s initial decision to consume alcohol. In 2013, psychologists from the University of Missouri investigated the connection between sport achievement orientation and alcohol outcomes. They asked varsity athletes to complete a Sport Orientation Questionnaire which measured their sport-related achievement orientation on three scales – competitiveness, win orientation, and goal orientation (Weaver et al., 2013). The participants also completed assessments of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. The results revealed that the goal orientation of the athletes were significantly associated with alcohol use but not alcohol-related problems.

In terms of psychopathological implications and applications, college students showing depressive symptoms were better at retrieving seemingly “nonrelevant” contextual information from a source monitoring paradigm task. Namely, the students with depressive symptoms were better at identifying the colour of the box the word was in compared to non-depressed students. Sadness (low motivational intensity) is usually associated with depression, so the more broad focus on contextual information of sadder students supports that affects high in motivational intensity narrow cognitive scope whereas affects low in motivational intensity broaden cognitive scope.

The motivational intensity theory states that the difficulty of a task combined with the importance of success determine the energy invested by an individual. The theory has three main layers.

  • The innermost layer says human behaviour is guided by the desire to conserve as much energy as possible. Individuals aim to avoid wasting energy so they invest only the energy that is required to complete the task.
  • The middle layer focuses on the difficulty of tasks combined with the importance of success and how this affects energy conservation. It focuses on energy investment in situations of clear and unclear task difficulty.
  • The last layer looks at predictions for energy invested by a person when they have several possible options to choose at different task difficulties.

The person is free to choose among several possible options of task difficulty. The motivational intensity theory offers a logical and consistent framework for research. Researchers can predict a person’s actions by assuming effort refers to the energy investment. The motivational intensity theory is used to show how changes in goal attractiveness and energy investment correlate.

Mood

Refer to Mood (Psychology).

Mood, like emotion, is an affective state. However, an emotion tends to have a clear focus (i.e. its cause is self-evident), while mood tends to be more unfocused and diffuse. Mood, according to Batson, Shaw and Oleson (1992), involves tone and intensity and a structured set of beliefs about general expectations of a future experience of pleasure or pain, or of positive or negative affect in the future. Unlike instant reactions that produce affect or emotion, and that change with expectations of future pleasure or pain, moods, being diffuse and unfocused and thus harder to cope with, can last for days, weeks, months or even years (Schucman & Thetford, 1975). Moods are hypothetical constructs depicting an individual’s emotional state. Researchers typically infer the existence of moods from a variety of behavioural referents (Blechman, 1990). Habitual negative affect and negative mood is characteristic of high neuroticism.

Positive affect and negative affect (PANAS) represent independent domains of emotion in the general population, and positive affect is strongly linked to social interaction. Positive and negative daily events show independent relationships to subjective well-being, and positive affect is strongly linked to social activity. Recent research suggests that high functional support is related to higher levels of positive affect. In his work on negative affect arousal and white noise, Seidner (1991) found support for the existence of a negative affect arousal mechanism regarding the devaluation of speakers from other ethnic origins. The exact process through which social support is linked to positive affect remains unclear. The process could derive from predictable, regularised social interaction, from leisure activities where the focus is on relaxation and positive mood, or from the enjoyment of shared activities. The techniques used to shift a negative mood to a positive one are called mood repair strategies.

Social Interaction

Affect display is a critical facet of interpersonal communication. Evolutionary psychologists have advanced the hypothesis that hominids have evolved with sophisticated capability of reading affect displays.

Emotions are portrayed as dynamic processes that mediate the individual’s relation to a continually changing social environment. In other words, emotions are considered to be processes of establishing, maintaining, or disrupting the relation between the organism and the environment on matters of significance to the person.

Most social and psychological phenomena occur as the result of repeated interactions between multiple individuals over time. These interactions should be seen as a multi-agent system – a system that contains multiple agents interacting with each other and/or with their environments over time. The outcomes of individual agents’ behaviours are interdependent: Each agent’s ability to achieve its goals depends on not only what it does but also what other agents do.

Emotions are one of the main sources for the interaction. Emotions of an individual influence the emotions, thoughts and behaviours of others; others’ reactions can then influence their future interactions with the individual expressing the original emotion, as well as that individual’s future emotions and behaviours. Emotion operates in cycles that can involve multiple people in a process of reciprocal influence.

Affect, emotion, or feeling is displayed to others through facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, voice characteristics, and other physical manifestation. These affect displays vary between and within cultures and are displayed in various forms ranging from the most discrete of facial expressions to the most dramatic and prolific gestures.

Observers are sensitive to agents’ emotions, and are capable of recognising the messages these emotions convey. They react to and draw inferences from an agent’s emotions. The emotion an agent displays may not be an authentic reflection of his or her actual state (refer to Emotional Labour).

Agents’ emotions can have effects on four broad sets of factors:

  • Emotions of other persons.
  • Inferences of other persons.
  • Behaviours of other persons.
  • Interactions and relationships between the agent and other persons.

Emotion may affect not only the person at whom it was directed, but also third parties who observe an agent’s emotion. Moreover, emotions can affect larger social entities such as a group or a team. Emotions are a kind of message and therefore can influence the emotions, attributions and ensuing behaviours of others, potentially evoking a feedback process to the original agent.

Agents’ feelings evoke feelings in others by two suggested distinct mechanisms:

  • Emotion contagion:
    • People tend to automatically and unconsciously mimic non-verbal expressions.
    • Mimicking occurs also in interactions involving textual exchanges alone.
  • Emotion interpretation:
    • An individual may perceive an agent as feeling a particular emotion and react with complementary or situationally appropriate emotions of their own.
    • The feelings of the others diverge from and in some way complement the feelings of the original agent.

People may not only react emotionally, but may also draw inferences about emotive agents such as the social status or power of an emotive agent, his competence and his credibility. For example, an agent presumed to be angry may also be presumed to have high power.

References

Balliene, B.W. (2005) Dietary Influences on Obesity: Environment, Behavior and Biology. Physiology & Behaviour. 86(5), pp.717-730.

Batson, C.D., Shaw, L.L. & Oleson, K.C. (1992). Differentiating Affect, Mood and Emotion: Toward Functionally based Conceptual Distinctions. Emotion. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Blechman, E.A. (1990). Moods, Affect, and Emotions. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Hillsdale.

Bradley, M.M., Codispoti, M., Cuthbert, B.N. & Lang, P.J. (2001) Emotion and motivation I: Defensive and appetitive reactions in picture processing. Emotion. 1(3), pp.276-298. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.1.3.276.

Brewin, C.R. (1989) Cognitive Change Processes in Psychotherapy. Psychological Review. 96(45), pp.379-394. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.96.3.379.

Damasio, A. (2006) Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. London: Vintage (Part of the Random House Group).

Glimcher, P.W. & Fehr, E (Eds.) (2014) Chapter 27 – Understanding Others: Brain Mechanisms of Theory of Mind and Empathy. Neuroeconomics (Second Edition). Academic Press. pp.513-532. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-416008-8.00027-9.

Green, A. (Author), Sheridan, A. (Trans) & Spillius, E.B. (General Editor) (1999) The Fabric of Affect in the Psychoanalytic Discourse. The New Library of Psychoanalysis 37. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, P.E. (1997) What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Harmon-Jones, E. & Gable, P.A. (2009) Neural Activity Underlying the Effect of Approach-Motivated Positive Affect on Narrowed Attention. Psychological Science. 20(4), pp.406-409. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02302.x.

Lazarus, R.S. (1982) Thoughts on the Relations between Emotions and Cognition. American Physiologist. 37 (10), pp.1019-1024.

Lerner, J.S. & Keltner, D. (2000) Beyond valence: Toward a model of emotion-specific influences on judgement and choice. Cognition and Emotion. 14(4), pp.473-493. doi:10.1080/026999300402763.

Mroczek, D.K. & Kolarz, C.M. (1998) The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 75(5), pp.1333-1349. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.75.5.1333.

Quirin, M., Kazén, M. & Kuhl, J. (2009) When nonsense sounds happy or helpless: The Implicit Positive and Negative Affect Test (IPANAT). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 97(3), pp.500-516. doi:10.1037/a001606

Samur, D., Tops, M., Schlinkert, C., Quirin, M., Cuijpers, P. & Koole, S.L. (2013) Four decades of research on alexithymia: moving toward clinical applications. Frontiers in Psychology. 4, pp.861. https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyg.2013.00861.

Sashin, J.I. (1985) Affect tolerance: A model of affect-response using catastrophe theory. Journal of Social and Biological Structures. 8(2), pp.175-202.

Schucman, H. & Thetford, C. (1975). A Course in Miracle. New York: Viking Penguin.

Seidner, S.S. (1991). Negative Affect Arousal Reactions from Mexican and Puerto Rican Respondents. Washington, D.C.: ERIC.

Shepard, R.N. (1984) Ecological Constraints on Internal Representation. Psychological Review. 91(4), pp.417-447. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.91.4.417.

Shepard, R.N. (1994) Perceptual-cognitive Universals as Reflections of the World. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 1(1), pp.2-28. doi:10.3758/bf03200759

Watson, D., Clark, L.A. & Tellegen, A. (1988) Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: the PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 54(6), pp.1063-1070. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.6.1063.

Weaver, C.C., Martens, M.P., Cadigan, J.M., Takamatsu, S.K., Treloar, H.R. & Pedersen, E.R. (2013) Sport-related achievement motivation and alcohol outcomes: An athlete-specific risk factor among intercollegiate athletes. Addictive Behaviours. 38(12), pp.2930-2936. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.08.021.

Weiskrantz, L. (1997) Consciousness Lost and Found. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Zajonc, R.B. (1980) Feelings and Thinking: Preferences Need No Inferences. American Psychologist. 35(2), pp.151-175. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.35.2.151.

Book: Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance

Book Title:

Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance: Quick DBT Skills to Manage Intense Emotions (New Harbinger Pocket Therapy).

Author(s): Matthew McKay (PhD), Jeffrey C. Wood (PSyd), and Jeffrey Brantley (MD).

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: New Harbinger.

Type(s): Paperback and Kindle.

Synopsis:

In Pocket Therapy for Emotional Balance, three clinical psychologists and authors of The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook offer quick, evidence-based tips and tools for managing intense emotions in the moment. Using this handy, take-anywhere guide, readers will find freedom from overwhelming thoughts and feelings, find a sense of calm, and live a more balanced life.

Bite-sized, evidence based tips and tools for managing intense emotions in the moment-from the authors of The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook! Sometimes emotions can feel like a big, powerful tidal wave that will sweep you away. And the more you try to suppress or put a lid on these emotions, the more overwhelming they get. So, how can you feel better when difficult emotions threaten to wash over you?

In this take-anywhere pocket guide, clinical psychologists and authors Matt McKay, Jeffrey Wood, and Jeffrey Brantley offer quick and simple strategies based in dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to help you take charge of your emotions and start living the life you want. Using this handy little book, you’ll find freedom from overwhelming thoughts and feelings, discover a sense of lasting calm, improve your relationships, and feel more at peace with the world and yourself. If you are looking for small, easy ways to manage your emotions on the go, put this compact guide in your coat pocket, your purse, on your nightstand, or anywhere for quick and soothing relief.

Book: Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges

Book Title:

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids.

Author(s): Deborah Vlock.

Year: 2018.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Illustrated Edition.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Parenting Children with Mental Health Challenges: A Guide to Life with Emotionally Complex Kids offers overwhelmed readers guidance, solidarity, and hope. The author, a “mental-health mom” who’s survived indignity, exhaustion, and the heartbreak of loving a child with multiple mental-health disorders, writes with frankness and occasional humour about the hardest parenting job on earth.

Drawing on her own experiences and those of other parents, plus tips from mental health professionals, Vlock suggests ways of parenting smarter, partnering better, and living more fully and less fearfully in the shadow of childhood psychiatric illness.

Addressing the many hurdles children and families must face, including life on the home front, school, friendships and relationships, and more, the book shows readers that they are not alone-and they are stronger than they think. With its combination of easily digestible, to-the-point suggestions, clear action items, and first-person parent/kid stories, its aim is to make mental-health parents feel stronger and better, while actively seeking positive outcomes for their kids and families.

With rates of mental health diagnoses among youth on the rise, this invaluable resource will help parents through the trying times with support, understanding, and guidance.

Book: Mindfulness For Insomnia

Book Title:

Mindfulness For Insomnia – A Four-Week Guided Program To Relax Your Body, Calm Your Mind, and Get the Sleep You Need.

Author(s): Catherine Polan Orzech (MA and LMFT) and William H. Moorcroft (PhD).

Year: 2019.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: New Harbinger.

Type(s): Paperback, Audiobook, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

Sleep plays a crucial role in our waking lives. While we sleep, our bodies are recharging with energy, damaged tissue is repaired, and our memories are stored. When we do not get enough sleep, we are tired, less positive, less motivated, less focused, and more likely to feel depressed. We may even experience more intense cravings for high-fat, sugar-rich foods. And yet, despite the myriad advantages of getting a good night’s sleep, countless people suffer from chronic insomnia. If you’re one of them, this book can help.

In this guide, a trained mindfulness expert teams up with a behavioural sleep specialist to offer evidence-based meditations and an innovative four-week protocol to address the emotional stresses and anxieties that lie at the root of sleep issues.

You’ll learn practices grounded in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindful self-compassion (MSC), and guided mindfulness and acceptance for insomnia (GMATI) to alleviate the mental, emotional, and physical suffering caused by insomnia. You’ll also learn to identify both internal and external factors that may be compromising your sleep, and develop a plan to address these issues.

There is nothing we can do to “make” ourselves fall asleep. In many ways, this is why insomnia can be so maddening. But what we can do is help create the conditions necessary for healthy slumber. The mindfulness tools in this book will help you do exactly that.

Book: Mindfulness for Everyday Living – A Guide for Mental Health Practitioners

Book Title:

Mindfulness for Everyday Living – A Guide for Mental Health Practitioners.

Author(s): Patrick R. Steffen (Editor).

Year: 2020.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Springer.

Type(s): Hardcover and Kindle.

Synopsis:

This book presents practical approaches for integrating mindfulness principles into daily life. It examines how to incorporate mindfulness principles into interventions across various fields and with different client populations. In addition, the volume describes how to teach clients to integrate mindfulness techniques into daily living – from general stress reduction and compassionate positive living to working with children with medical conditions or autism to mindful parenting and healthy marriages.

The book explains key concepts clearly and succinctly and details practical daily approaches and use. Each chapter presents cutting-edge research that is integrated into effective, proven interventions that represent the gold standard of care and are simple and powerful to use, and concludes with recommendations on how each individual can create his or her own personalized mindfulness approach that matches his or her needs and situation. This book is a must have resource for clinicians, therapists, and health professionals as well as researchers, professors, and graduate students in clinical psychology, psychotherapy/counselling, psychiatry, social work, and developmental psychology.

What is Emotion?

Introduction

Emotions are biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure. There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition. Emotions are often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, creativity, and motivation.

Research on emotion has increased significantly over the past two decades with many fields contributing including psychology, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, endocrinology, medicine, history, sociology of emotions, and computer science. The numerous theories that attempt to explain the origin, neurobiology, experience, and function of emotions have only fostered more intense research on this topic. Current areas of research in the concept of emotion include the development of materials that stimulate and elicit emotion. In addition, positron emission tomography (PET) scans and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans help study the affective picture processes in the brain.

From a purely mechanistic perspective, emotions can be defined as “a positive or negative experience that is associated with a particular pattern of physiological activity.” Emotions produce different physiological, behavioural and cognitive changes. The original role of emotions was to motivate adaptive behaviours that in the past would have contributed to the passing on of genes through survival, reproduction, and kin selection.

In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. For those who act primarily on emotions, they may assume that they are not thinking, but mental processes involving cognition are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events. For example, the realisation of our believing that we are in a dangerous situation and the subsequent arousal of our body’s nervous system (rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweating, muscle tension) is integral to the experience of our feeling afraid. Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition. Consciously experiencing an emotion is exhibiting a mental representation of that emotion from a past or hypothetical experience, which is linked back to a content state of pleasure or displeasure. The content states are established by verbal explanations of experiences, describing an internal state.

Emotions are complex. According to some theories, they are states of feeling that result in physical and psychological changes that influence our behaviour. The physiology of emotion is closely linked to arousal of the nervous system with various states and strengths of arousal relating, apparently, to particular emotions. Emotion is also linked to behavioural tendency. Extroverted people are more likely to be social and express their emotions, while introverted people are more likely to be more socially withdrawn and conceal their emotions. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation, positive or negative. According to other theories, emotions are not causal forces but simply syndromes of components, which might include motivation, feeling, behaviour, and physiological changes, but no one of these components is the emotion. Nor is the emotion an entity that causes these components.

Emotions involve different components, such as subjective experience, cognitive processes, expressive behaviour, psychophysiological changes, and instrumental behaviour. At one time, academics attempted to identify the emotion with one of the components: William James with a subjective experience, behaviourists with instrumental behaviour, psychophysiologists with physiological changes, and so on. More recently, emotion is said to consist of all the components. The different components of emotion are categorised somewhat differently depending on the academic discipline. In psychology and philosophy, emotion typically includes a subjective, conscious experience characterised primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states. A similar multi-componential description of emotion is found in sociology. For example, Peggy Thoits described emotions as involving physiological components, cultural or emotional labels (anger, surprise, etc.), expressive body actions, and the appraisal of situations and contexts.

Brief History

Human nature and the following bodily sensations have been always part of the interest of thinkers and philosophers. Far most extensively, this interest has been of great interest by both Western and Eastern societies. Emotional states have been associated with the divine and the enlightenment of the human mind and body. The ever changing actions of individuals and its mood variations have been of great importance by most of the Western philosophers (Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Aquinas, Hobbes) that lead them to propose vast theories; often competing theories, that sought to explain emotion and the following motivators of human action and its consequences.

In the Age of Enlightenment Scottish thinker David Hume proposed a revolutionary argument that sought to explain the main motivators of human action and conduct. He proposed that actions are motivated by “fears, desires, and passions”. As he wrote in his book Treatise of Human Nature (1773): “Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will… it can never oppose passion in the direction of the will… Reason is, and ought to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them”. With these lines Hume pretended to explain that reason and further action will be subjected to the desires and experience of the self. Later thinkers would propose that actions and emotions are deeply interrelated to social, political, historical, and cultural aspects of reality that would be also associated with sophisticated neurological and physiological research on the brain and other parts of the physical body.

Etymology

The word “emotion” dates back to 1579, when it was adapted from the French word émouvoir, which means “to stir up”. The term emotion was introduced into academic discussion as a catch-all term to passions, sentiments and affections. The word “emotion” was coined in the early 1800s by Thomas Brown and it is around the 1830s that the modern concept of emotion first emerged for the English language. “No one felt emotions before about 1830. Instead they felt other things – “passions”, “accidents of the soul”, “moral sentiments” – and explained them very differently from how we understand emotions today.”

Some cross-cultural studies indicate that the categorisation of “emotion” and classification of basic emotions such as “anger” and “sadness” are not universal and that the boundaries and domains of these concepts are categorised differently by all cultures. However, others argue that there are some universal bases of emotions. In psychiatry and psychology, an inability to express or perceive emotion is sometimes referred to as alexithymia.

Definitions

The Oxford Dictionaries definition of emotion is “A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” Emotions are responses to significant internal and external events.

Emotions can be occurrences (e.g. panic) or dispositions (e.g. hostility), and short-lived (e.g. anger) or long-lived (e.g. grief). Psychotherapist Michael C. Graham describes all emotions as existing on a continuum of intensity. Thus fear might range from mild concern to terror or shame might range from simple embarrassment to toxic shame. Emotions have been described as consisting of a coordinated set of responses, which may include verbal, physiological, behavioural, and neural mechanisms.

Emotions have been categorised, with some relationships existing between emotions and some direct opposites existing. Graham differentiates emotions as functional or dysfunctional and argues all functional emotions have benefits.

In some uses of the word, emotions are intense feelings that are directed at someone or something. On the other hand, emotion can be used to refer to states that are mild (as in annoyed or content) and to states that are not directed at anything (as in anxiety and depression). One line of research looks at the meaning of the word emotion in everyday language and finds that this usage is rather different from that in academic discourse.

In practical terms, Joseph LeDoux has defined emotions as the result of a cognitive and conscious process which occurs in response to a body system response to a trigger.

Components

According to Scherer’s Component Process Model (CPM) of emotion, there are five crucial elements of emotion. From the component process perspective, emotional experience requires that all of these processes become coordinated and synchronised for a short period of time, driven by appraisal processes. Although the inclusion of cognitive appraisal as one of the elements is slightly controversial, since some theorists make the assumption that emotion and cognition are separate but interacting systems, the CPM provides a sequence of events that effectively describes the coordination involved during an emotional episode.

  • Cognitive appraisal: provides an evaluation of events and objects.
  • Bodily symptoms: the physiological component of emotional experience.
  • Action tendencies: a motivational component for the preparation and direction of motor responses.
  • Expression: facial and vocal expression almost always accompanies an emotional state to communicate reaction and intention of actions.
  • Feelings: the subjective experience of emotional state once it has occurred.

Differentiation

Emotion can be differentiated from a number of similar constructs within the field of affective neuroscience:

  • Feeling; not all feelings include emotion, such as the feeling of knowing. In the context of emotion, feelings are best understood as a subjective representation of emotions, private to the individual experiencing them.
  • Moods are diffuse affective states that generally last for much longer durations than emotions, are also usually less intense than emotions and often appear to lack a contextual stimulus.
  • Affect is used to describe the underlying affective experience of an emotion or a mood.

Purpose and Value

One view is that emotions facilitate adaptive responses to environmental challenges. Emotions have been described as a result of evolution because they provided good solutions to ancient and recurring problems that faced our ancestors. Emotions can function as a way to communicate what’s important to us, such as values and ethics. However some emotions, such as some forms of anxiety, are sometimes regarded as part of a mental illness and thus possibly of negative value.

Classification

A distinction can be made between emotional episodes and emotional dispositions. Emotional dispositions are also comparable to character traits, where someone may be said to be generally disposed to experience certain emotions. For example, an irritable person is generally disposed to feel irritation more easily or quickly than others do. Finally, some theorists place emotions within a more general category of “affective states” where affective states can also include emotion-related phenomena such as pleasure and pain, motivational states (for example, hunger or curiosity), moods, dispositions and traits.

Basic Emotions

For more than 40 years, Paul Ekman has supported the view that emotions are discrete, measurable, and physiologically distinct. Ekman’s most influential work revolved around the finding that certain emotions appeared to be universally recognised, even in cultures that were preliterate and could not have learned associations for facial expressions through media. Another classic study found that when participants contorted their facial muscles into distinct facial expressions (for example, disgust), they reported subjective and physiological experiences that matched the distinct facial expressions. Ekman’s facial-expression research examined six basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Later in his career, Ekman theorised that other universal emotions may exist beyond these six. In light of this, recent cross-cultural studies led by Daniel Cordaro and Dacher Keltner, both former students of Ekman, extended the list of universal emotions. In addition to the original six, these studies provided evidence for amusement, awe, contentment, desire, embarrassment, pain, relief, and sympathy in both facial and vocal expressions. They also found evidence for boredom, confusion, interest, pride, and shame facial expressions, as well as contempt, relief, and triumph vocal expressions.

Robert Plutchik agreed with Ekman’s biologically driven perspective but developed the “wheel of emotions”, suggesting eight primary emotions grouped on a positive or negative basis: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation. Some basic emotions can be modified to form complex emotions. The complex emotions could arise from cultural conditioning or association combined with the basic emotions. Alternatively, similar to the way primary colours combine, primary emotions could blend to form the full spectrum of human emotional experience. For example, interpersonal anger and disgust could blend to form contempt. Relationships exist between basic emotions, resulting in positive or negative influences.

Multi-Dimensional Analysis

Psychologists have used methods such as factor analysis to attempt to map emotion-related responses onto a more limited number of dimensions. Such methods attempt to boil emotions down to underlying dimensions that capture the similarities and differences between experiences. Often, the first two dimensions uncovered by factor analysis are valence (how negative or positive the experience feels) and arousal (how energised or enervated the experience feels). These two dimensions can be depicted on a 2D coordinate map. This two-dimensional map has been theorised to capture one important component of emotion called core affect. Core affect is not theorised to be the only component to emotion, but to give the emotion its hedonic and felt energy.

Using statistical methods to analyse emotional states elicited by short videos, Cowen and Keltner identified 27 varieties of emotional experience: admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, craving, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, excitement, fear, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire and surprise.

Theories

Pre-Modern History

In Buddhism, emotions occur when an object is considered as attractive or repulsive. There is a felt tendency impelling people towards attractive objects and impelling them to move away from repulsive or harmful objects; a disposition to possess the object (greed), to destroy it (hatred), to flee from it (fear), to get obsessed or worried over it (anxiety), and so on.

In stoic theories it was seen as a hindrance to reason and therefore a hindrance to virtue. Aristotle believed that emotions were an essential component of virtue. In the Aristotelian view all emotions (called passions) corresponded to appetites or capacities. During the Middle Ages, the Aristotelian view was adopted and further developed by scholasticism and Thomas Aquinas in particular.

In Chinese antiquity, excessive emotion was believed to cause damage to qi, which in turn, damages the vital organs. The four humours theory made popular by Hippocrates contributed to the study of emotion in the same way that it did for medicine.

In the early 11th century, Avicenna theorised about the influence of emotions on health and behaviours, suggesting the need to manage emotions.

Early modern views on emotion are developed in the works of philosophers such as René Descartes, Niccolò Machiavelli, Baruch Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes and David Hume. In the 19th century emotions were considered adaptive and were studied more frequently from an empiricist psychiatric perspective.

Western Theological

Christian perspective on emotion presupposes a theistic origin to humanity. God who created humans gave humans the ability to feel emotion and interact emotionally. Biblical content expresses that God is a person who feels and expresses emotion. Though a somatic view would place the locus of emotions in the physical body, Christian theory of emotions would view the body more as a platform for the sensing and expression of emotions. Therefore emotions themselves arise from the person, or that which is “imago-dei” or image of God in humans. In Christian thought, emotions have the potential to be controlled through reasoned reflection. That reasoned reflection also mimics God who made mind. The purpose of emotions in human life are therefore summarised in God’s call to enjoy Him and creation, humans are to enjoy emotions and benefit from them and use them to energise behaviour.

Evolutionary Theories (19th Century)

Perspectives on emotions from evolutionary theory were initiated during the mid-late 19th century with Charles Darwin’s 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Surprisingly, Darwin argued that emotions served no evolved purpose for humans, neither in communication, nor in aiding survival. Darwin largely argued that emotions evolved via the inheritance of acquired characters. He pioneered various methods for studying non-verbal expressions, from which he concluded that some expressions had cross-cultural universality. Darwin also detailed homologous expressions of emotions that occur in animals. This led the way for animal research on emotions and the eventual determination of the neural underpinnings of emotion.

Evolutionary Theories (Contemporary)

More contemporary views along the evolutionary psychology spectrum posit that both basic emotions and social emotions evolved to motivate (social) behaviours that were adaptive in the ancestral environment. Emotion is an essential part of any human decision-making and planning, and the famous distinction made between reason and emotion is not as clear as it seems. Paul D. MacLean claims that emotion competes with even more instinctive responses, on one hand, and the more abstract reasoning, on the other hand. The increased potential in neuroimaging has also allowed investigation into evolutionarily ancient parts of the brain. Important neurological advances were derived from these perspectives in the 1990s by Joseph E. LeDoux and António Damásio.

Research on social emotion also focuses on the physical displays of emotion including body language of animals and humans (see affect display). For example, spite seems to work against the individual but it can establish an individual’s reputation as someone to be feared. Shame and pride can motivate behaviours that help one maintain one’s standing in a community, and self-esteem is one’s estimate of one’s status.

Somatic Theories (General)

Somatic theories of emotion claim that bodily responses, rather than cognitive interpretations, are essential to emotions. The first modern version of such theories came from William James in the 1880s. The theory lost favour in the 20th century, but has regained popularity more recently due largely to theorists such as John Cacioppo, António Damásio, Joseph E. LeDoux and Robert Zajonc who are able to appeal to neurological evidence.

Somatic Theories (James-Lange Theory)

In his 1884 article William James argued that feelings and emotions were secondary to physiological phenomena. In his theory, James proposed that the perception of what he called an “exciting fact” directly led to a physiological response, known as “emotion.” To account for different types of emotional experiences, James proposed that stimuli trigger activity in the autonomic nervous system, which in turn produces an emotional experience in the brain. The Danish psychologist Carl Lange also proposed a similar theory at around the same time, and therefore this theory became known as the James–Lange theory. As James wrote, “the perception of bodily changes, as they occur, is the emotion.” James further claims that “we feel sad because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and either we cry, strike, or tremble because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be.”

An example of this theory in action would be as follows: An emotion-evoking stimulus (snake) triggers a pattern of physiological response (increased heart rate, faster breathing, etc.), which is interpreted as a particular emotion (fear). This theory is supported by experiments in which by manipulating the bodily state induces a desired emotional state. Some people may believe that emotions give rise to emotion-specific actions, for example, “I’m crying because I’m sad,” or “I ran away because I was scared.” The issue with the James-Lange theory is that of causation (bodily states causing emotions and being a priori), not that of the bodily influences on emotional experience (which can be argued and is still quite prevalent today in biofeedback studies and embodiment theory).

Although mostly abandoned in its original form, Tim Dalgleish argues that most contemporary neuroscientists have embraced the components of the James-Lange theory of emotions.

The James-Lange theory has remained influential. Its main contribution is the emphasis it places on the embodiment of emotions, especially the argument that changes in the bodily concomitants of emotions can alter their experienced intensity. Most contemporary neuroscientists would endorse a modified James-Lange view in which bodily feedback modulates the experience of emotion.

Somatic Theories (Cannon-Bard Theory)

Walter Bradford Cannon agreed that physiological responses played a crucial role in emotions, but did not believe that physiological responses alone could explain subjective emotional experiences. He argued that physiological responses were too slow and often imperceptible and this could not account for the relatively rapid and intense subjective awareness of emotion. He also believed that the richness, variety, and temporal course of emotional experiences could not stem from physiological reactions, that reflected fairly undifferentiated fight or flight responses. An example of this theory in action is as follows: An emotion-evoking event (snake) triggers simultaneously both a physiological response and a conscious experience of an emotion.

Phillip Bard contributed to the theory with his work on animals. Bard found that sensory, motor, and physiological information all had to pass through the diencephalon (particularly the thalamus), before being subjected to any further processing. Therefore, Cannon also argued that it was not anatomically possible for sensory events to trigger a physiological response prior to triggering conscious awareness and emotional stimuli had to trigger both physiological and experiential aspects of emotion simultaneously.

Somatic Theories (Two-Factor Theory)

Stanley Schachter formulated his theory on the earlier work of a Spanish physician, Gregorio Marañón, who injected patients with epinephrine and subsequently asked them how they felt. Marañón found that most of these patients felt something but in the absence of an actual emotion-evoking stimulus, the patients were unable to interpret their physiological arousal as an experienced emotion. Schachter did agree that physiological reactions played a big role in emotions. He suggested that physiological reactions contributed to emotional experience by facilitating a focused cognitive appraisal of a given physiologically arousing event and that this appraisal was what defined the subjective emotional experience. Emotions were thus a result of two-stage process:

  1. General physiological arousal; and
  2. Experience of emotion.

For example, the physiological arousal, heart pounding, in a response to an evoking stimulus, the sight of a bear in the kitchen. The brain then quickly scans the area, to explain the pounding, and notices the bear. Consequently, the brain interprets the pounding heart as being the result of fearing the bear. With his student, Jerome Singer, Schachter demonstrated that subjects can have different emotional reactions despite being placed into the same physiological state with an injection of epinephrine. Subjects were observed to express either anger or amusement depending on whether another person in the situation (a confederate) displayed that emotion. Hence, the combination of the appraisal of the situation (cognitive) and the participants’ reception of adrenaline or a placebo together determined the response. This experiment has been criticised in Jesse Prinz’s (2004) Gut Reactions.

Cognitive Theories (General)

With the two-factor theory now incorporating cognition, several theories began to argue that cognitive activity in the form of judgments, evaluations, or thoughts were entirely necessary for an emotion to occur. One of the main proponents of this view was Richard Lazarus who argued that emotions must have some cognitive intentionality. The cognitive activity involved in the interpretation of an emotional context may be conscious or unconscious and may or may not take the form of conceptual processing.

Lazarus’ theory is very influential; emotion is a disturbance that occurs in the following order:

  • Cognitive appraisal: The individual assesses the event cognitively, which cues the emotion.
  • Physiological changes: The cognitive reaction starts biological changes such as increased heart rate or pituitary adrenal response.
  • Action: The individual feels the emotion and chooses how to react.

For example: Jenny sees a snake.

  • Jenny cognitively assesses the snake in her presence and cognition allows her to understand it as a danger.
  • Her brain activates the adrenal glands which pump adrenaline through her blood stream, resulting in increased heartbeat.
  • Jenny screams and runs away.

Lazarus stressed that the quality and intensity of emotions are controlled through cognitive processes. These processes underline coping strategies that form the emotional reaction by altering the relationship between the person and the environment.

George Mandler provided an extensive theoretical and empirical discussion of emotion as influenced by cognition, consciousness, and the autonomic nervous system in two books (Mind and Emotion, 1975, and Mind and Body: Psychology of Emotion and Stress, 1984)

There are some theories on emotions arguing that cognitive activity in the form of judgments, evaluations, or thoughts are necessary in order for an emotion to occur. A prominent philosophical exponent is Robert C. Solomon (for example, The Passions, Emotions and the Meaning of Life, 1993). Solomon claims that emotions are judgments. He has put forward a more nuanced view which responds to what he has called the ‘standard objection’ to cognitivism, the idea that a judgment that something is fearsome can occur with or without emotion, so judgment cannot be identified with emotion. The theory proposed by Nico Frijda where appraisal leads to action tendencies is another example.

It has also been suggested that emotions (affect heuristics, feelings and gut-feeling reactions) are often used as shortcuts to process information and influence behaviour. The affect infusion model (AIM) is a theoretical model developed by Joseph Forgas in the early 1990s that attempts to explain how emotion and mood interact with one’s ability to process information.

Cognitive Theories (Perceptual Theory)

Theories dealing with perception either use one or multiples perceptions in order to find an emotion. A recent hybrid of the somatic and cognitive theories of emotion is the perceptual theory. This theory is neo-Jamesian in arguing that bodily responses are central to emotions, yet it emphasizes the meaningfulness of emotions or the idea that emotions are about something, as is recognised by cognitive theories. The novel claim of this theory is that conceptually-based cognition is unnecessary for such meaning. Rather the bodily changes themselves perceive the meaningful content of the emotion because of being causally triggered by certain situations. In this respect, emotions are held to be analogous to faculties such as vision or touch, which provide information about the relation between the subject and the world in various ways. A sophisticated defence of this view is found in philosopher Jesse Prinz’s book Gut Reactions, and psychologist James Laird’s book Feelings.

Cognitive Theories (Affective Events Theory)

Affective events theory is a communication-based theory developed by Howard M. Weiss and Russell Cropanzano (1996), that looks at the causes, structures, and consequences of emotional experience (especially in work contexts). This theory suggests that emotions are influenced and caused by events which in turn influence attitudes and behaviours. This theoretical frame also emphasizes time in that human beings experience what they call emotion episodes – a “series of emotional states extended over time and organized around an underlying theme.” This theory has been utilised by numerous researchers to better understand emotion from a communicative lens, and was reviewed further by Howard M. Weiss and Daniel J. Beal in their article, “Reflections on Affective Events Theory”, published in Research on Emotion in Organisations in 2005.

Situated Perspective on Emotion

A situated perspective on emotion, developed by Paul E. Griffiths and Andrea Scarantino, emphasizes the importance of external factors in the development and communication of emotion, drawing upon the situationism approach in psychology. This theory is markedly different from both cognitivist and neo-Jamesian theories of emotion, both of which see emotion as a purely internal process, with the environment only acting as a stimulus to the emotion. In contrast, a situationist perspective on emotion views emotion as the product of an organism investigating its environment, and observing the responses of other organisms. Emotion stimulates the evolution of social relationships, acting as a signal to mediate the behaviour of other organisms. In some contexts, the expression of emotion (both voluntary and involuntary) could be seen as strategic moves in the transactions between different organisms. The situated perspective on emotion states that conceptual thought is not an inherent part of emotion, since emotion is an action-oriented form of skilful engagement with the world. Griffiths and Scarantino suggested that this perspective on emotion could be helpful in understanding phobias, as well as the emotions of infants and animals.

Genetics

Emotions can motivate social interactions and relationships and therefore are directly related with basic physiology, particularly with the stress systems. This is important because emotions are related to the anti-stress complex, with an oxytocin-attachment system, which plays a major role in bonding. Emotional phenotype temperaments affect social connectedness and fitness in complex social systems. These characteristics are shared with other species and taxa and are due to the effects of genes and their continuous transmission. Information that is encoded in the DNA sequences provides the blueprint for assembling proteins that make up our cells. Zygotes require genetic information from their parental germ cells, and at every speciation event, heritable traits that have enabled its ancestor to survive and reproduce successfully are passed down along with new traits that could be potentially beneficial to the offspring.

In the five million years since the lineages leading to modern humans and chimpanzees split, only about 1.2% of their genetic material has been modified. This suggests that everything that separates us from chimpanzees must be encoded in that very small amount of DNA, including our behaviours. Students that study animal behaviours have only identified intraspecific examples of gene-dependent behavioural phenotypes. In voles (Microtus spp.) minor genetic differences have been identified in a vasopressin receptor gene that corresponds to major species differences in social organisation and the mating system. Another potential example with behavioural differences is the FOCP2 gene, which is involved in neural circuitry handling speech and language. Its present form in humans differed from that of the chimpanzees by only a few mutations and has been present for about 200,000 years, coinciding with the beginning of modern humans. Speech, language, and social organization are all part of the basis for emotions.

Formation

Neurobiological Explanation

Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain. If distinguished from reactive responses of reptiles, emotions would then be mammalian elaborations of general vertebrate arousal patterns, in which neurochemicals (for example, dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin) step-up or step-down the brain’s activity level, as visible in body movements, gestures and postures. Emotions can likely be mediated by pheromones (think fear).

For example, the emotion of love is proposed to be the expression of Paleocircuits of the mammalian brain (specifically, modules of the cingulate gyrus) which facilitate the care, feeding, and grooming of offspring. Paleocircuits are neural platforms for bodily expression configured before the advent of cortical circuits for speech. They consist of pre-configured pathways or networks of nerve cells in the forebrain, brain stem and spinal cord.

Other emotions like fear and anxiety long thought to be exclusively generated by the most primitive parts of the brain (stem) and more associated to the fight-or-flight responses of behaviour, have also been associated as adaptive expressions of defensive behaviour whenever a threat is encountered. Although defensive behaviours have been present in a wide variety of species, Blanchard et al. (2001) discovered a correlation of given stimuli and situation that resulted in a similar pattern of defensive behaviour towards a threat in human and non-human mammals.

Whenever, potentially dangerous stimuli is presented additional brain structures activate that previously thought (hippocampus, thalamus, etc). Thus, giving the amygdala an important role on coordinating the following behavioural input based on the presented neurotransmitters that respond to threat stimuli. These biological functions of the amygdala are not only limited to the “fear-conditioning” and “processing of aversive stimuli”, but also are present on other components of the amygdala. Therefore, it can referred the amygdala as a key structure to understand the potential responses of behaviour in danger like situations in human and non-human mammals.

The motor centres of reptiles react to sensory cues of vision, sound, touch, chemical, gravity, and motion with pre-set body movements and programmed postures. With the arrival of night-active mammals, smell replaced vision as the dominant sense, and a different way of responding arose from the olfactory sense, which is proposed to have developed into mammalian emotion and emotional memory. The mammalian brain invested heavily in olfaction to succeed at night as reptiles slept – one explanation for why olfactory lobes in mammalian brains are proportionally larger than in the reptiles. These odour pathways gradually formed the neural blueprint for what was later to become our limbic brain.

Emotions are thought to be related to certain activities in brain areas that direct our attention, motivate our behaviour, and determine the significance of what is going on around us. Pioneering work by Paul Broca (1878), James Papez (1937), and Paul D. MacLean (1952) suggested that emotion is related to a group of structures in the centre of the brain called the limbic system, which includes the hypothalamus, cingulate cortex, hippocampi, and other structures. More recent research has shown that some of these limbic structures are not as directly related to emotion as others are while some non-limbic structures have been found to be of greater emotional relevance.

Prefrontal Cortex

There is ample evidence that the left prefrontal cortex is activated by stimuli that cause positive approach. If attractive stimuli can selectively activate a region of the brain, then logically the converse should hold, that selective activation of that region of the brain should cause a stimulus to be judged more positively. This was demonstrated for moderately attractive visual stimuli and replicated and extended to include negative stimuli.

Two neurobiological models of emotion in the prefrontal cortex made opposing predictions. The valence model predicted that anger, a negative emotion, would activate the right prefrontal cortex. The direction model predicted that anger, an approach emotion, would activate the left prefrontal cortex. The second model was supported.

This still left open the question of whether the opposite of approach in the prefrontal cortex is better described as moving away (direction model), as unmoving but with strength and resistance (movement model), or as unmoving with passive yielding (action tendency model). Support for the action tendency model (passivity related to right prefrontal activity) comes from research on shyness and research on behavioural inhibition. Research that tested the competing hypotheses generated by all four models also supported the action tendency model.

Homeostatic/Primordial Emotion

Another neurological approach proposed by Bud Craig in 2003 distinguishes two classes of emotion: “classical” emotions such as love, anger and fear that are evoked by environmental stimuli, and “homeostatic emotions” – attention-demanding feelings evoked by body states, such as pain, hunger and fatigue, that motivate behaviour (withdrawal, eating or resting in these examples) aimed at maintaining the body’s internal milieu at its ideal state.

Derek Denton calls the latter “primordial emotions” and defines them as “the subjective element of the instincts, which are the genetically programmed behaviour patterns which contrive homeostasis. They include thirst, hunger for air, hunger for food, pain and hunger for specific minerals etc. There are two constituents of a primordial emotion – the specific sensation which when severe may be imperious, and the compelling intention for gratification by a consummatory act.”

Emergent Explanation

Joseph LeDoux differentiates between the human’s defence system, which has evolved over time, and emotions such as fear and anxiety. He has said that the amygdala may release hormones due to a trigger (such as an innate reaction to seeing a snake), but “then we elaborate it through cognitive and conscious processes”.

Lisa Feldman Barrett highlights differences in emotions between different cultures, and says that emotions (such as anxiety) “are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment.” She has termed this approach the theory of constructed emotion.

Disciplinary Approaches

Many different disciplines have produced work on the emotions. Human sciences study the role of emotions in mental processes, disorders, and neural mechanisms. In psychiatry, emotions are examined as part of the discipline’s study and treatment of mental disorders in humans. Nursing studies emotions as part of its approach to the provision of holistic health care to humans. Psychology examines emotions from a scientific perspective by treating them as mental processes and behaviour and they explore the underlying physiological and neurological processes. In neuroscience sub-fields such as social neuroscience and affective neuroscience, scientists study the neural mechanisms of emotion by combining neuroscience with the psychological study of personality, emotion, and mood. In linguistics, the expression of emotion may change to the meaning of sounds. In education, the role of emotions in relation to learning is examined.

Social sciences often examine emotion for the role that it plays in human culture and social interactions. In sociology, emotions are examined for the role they play in human society, social patterns and interactions, and culture. In anthropology, the study of humanity, scholars use ethnography to undertake contextual analyses and cross-cultural comparisons of a range of human activities. Some anthropology studies examine the role of emotions in human activities. In the field of communication sciences, critical organisational scholars have examined the role of emotions in organisations, from the perspectives of managers, employees, and even customers. A focus on emotions in organisations can be credited to Arlie Russell Hochschild’s concept of emotional labour. The University of Queensland hosts EmoNet, an e-mail distribution list representing a network of academics that facilitates scholarly discussion of all matters relating to the study of emotion in organisational settings. The list was established in January 1997 and has over 700 members from across the globe.

In economics, the social science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, emotions are analysed in some sub-fields of microeconomics, in order to assess the role of emotions on purchase decision-making and risk perception. In criminology, a social science approach to the study of crime, scholars often draw on behavioural sciences, sociology, and psychology; emotions are examined in criminology issues such as anomie theory and studies of “toughness,” aggressive behaviour, and hooliganism. In law, which underpins civil obedience, politics, economics and society, evidence about people’s emotions is often raised in tort law claims for compensation and in criminal law prosecutions against alleged lawbreakers (as evidence of the defendant’s state of mind during trials, sentencing, and parole hearings). In political science, emotions are examined in a number of sub-fields, such as the analysis of voter decision-making.

In philosophy, emotions are studied in sub-fields such as ethics, the philosophy of art (for example, sensory – emotional values, and matters of taste and sentimentality), and the philosophy of music (see also music and emotion). In history, scholars examine documents and other sources to interpret and analyse past activities; speculation on the emotional state of the authors of historical documents is one of the tools of interpretation. In literature and film-making, the expression of emotion is the cornerstone of genres such as drama, melodrama, and romance. In communication studies, scholars study the role that emotion plays in the dissemination of ideas and messages. Emotion is also studied in non-human animals in ethology, a branch of zoology which focuses on the scientific study of animal behaviour. Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with strong ties to ecology and evolution. Ethologists often study one type of behaviour (for example, aggression) in a number of unrelated animals.

History

The history of emotions has become an increasingly popular topic recently, with some scholars[who?] arguing that it is an essential category of analysis, not unlike class, race, or gender. Historians, like other social scientists, assume that emotions, feelings and their expressions are regulated in different ways by both different cultures and different historical times, and the constructivist school of history claims even that some sentiments and meta-emotions, for example schadenfreude, are learnt and not only regulated by culture. Historians of emotion trace and analyse the changing norms and rules of feeling, while examining emotional regimes, codes, and lexicons from social, cultural, or political history perspectives. Others focus on the history of medicine, science, or psychology. What somebody can and may feel (and show) in a given situation, towards certain people or things, depends on social norms and rules; thus historically variable and open to change. Several research centres have opened in the past few years in Germany, England, Spain, Sweden, and Australia.

Furthermore, research in historical trauma suggests that some traumatic emotions can be passed on from parents to offspring to second and even third generation, presented as examples of transgenerational trauma.

Sociology

A common way in which emotions are conceptualized in sociology is in terms of the multidimensional characteristics including cultural or emotional labels (for example, anger, pride, fear, happiness), physiological changes (for example, increased perspiration, changes in pulse rate), expressive facial and body movements (for example, smiling, frowning, baring teeth), and appraisals of situational cues. One comprehensive theory of emotional arousal in humans has been developed by Jonathan Turner (2007; 2009). Two of the key eliciting factors for the arousal of emotions within this theory are expectations states and sanctions. When people enter a situation or encounter with certain expectations for how the encounter should unfold, they will experience different emotions depending on the extent to which expectations for Self, other and situation are met or not met. People can also provide positive or negative sanctions directed at Self or other which also trigger different emotional experiences in individuals. Turner analysed a wide range of emotion theories across different fields of research including sociology, psychology, evolutionary science, and neuroscience. Based on this analysis, he identified four emotions that all researchers consider being founded on human neurology including assertive-anger, aversion-fear, satisfaction-happiness, and disappointment-sadness. These four categories are called primary emotions and there is some agreement amongst researchers that these primary emotions become combined to produce more elaborate and complex emotional experiences. These more elaborate emotions are called first-order elaborations in Turner’s theory and they include sentiments such as pride, triumph, and awe. Emotions can also be experienced at different levels of intensity so that feelings of concern are a low-intensity variation of the primary emotion aversion-fear whereas depression is a higher intensity variant.

Attempts are frequently made to regulate emotion according to the conventions of the society and the situation based on many (sometimes conflicting) demands and expectations which originate from various entities. The expression of anger is in many cultures discouraged in girls and women to a greater extent than in boys and men (the notion being that an angry man has a valid complaint that needs to be rectified, while an angry women is hysterical or oversensitive, and her anger is somehow invalid), while the expression of sadness or fear is discouraged in boys and men relative to girls and women (attitudes implicit in phrases like “man up” or “don’t be a sissy”). Expectations attached to social roles, such as “acting as man” and not as a woman, and the accompanying “feeling rules” contribute to the differences in expression of certain emotions. Some cultures encourage or discourage happiness, sadness, or jealousy, and the free expression of the emotion of disgust is considered socially unacceptable in most cultures. Some social institutions are seen as based on certain emotion, such as love in the case of contemporary institution of marriage. In advertising, such as health campaigns and political messages, emotional appeals are commonly found. Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaigns emphasizing the fear of terrorism.

Sociological attention to emotion has varied over time. Émile Durkheim (1915/1965) wrote about the collective effervescence or emotional energy that was experienced by members of totemic rituals in Australian aborigine society. He explained how the heightened state of emotional energy achieved during totemic rituals transported individuals above themselves giving them the sense that they were in the presence of a higher power, a force, that was embedded in the sacred objects that were worshipped. These feelings of exaltation, he argued, ultimately lead people to believe that there were forces that governed sacred objects.

In the 1990s, sociologists focused on different aspects of specific emotions and how these emotions were socially relevant. For Cooley (1992), pride and shame were the most important emotions that drive people to take various social actions. During every encounter, he proposed that we monitor ourselves through the “looking glass” that the gestures and reactions of others provide. Depending on these reactions, we either experience pride or shame and this results in particular paths of action. Retzinger (1991) conducted studies of married couples who experienced cycles of rage and shame. Drawing predominantly on Goffman and Cooley’s work, Scheff (1990) developed a micro sociological theory of the social bond. The formation or disruption of social bonds is dependent on the emotions that people experience during interactions.

Subsequent to these developments, Randall Collins (2004) formulated his interaction ritual theory by drawing on Durkheim’s work on totemic rituals that was extended by Goffman (1964/2013; 1967) into everyday focused encounters. Based on interaction ritual theory, we experience different levels or intensities of emotional energy during face-to-face interactions. Emotional energy is considered to be a feeling of confidence to take action and a boldness that one experiences when they are charged up from the collective effervescence generated during group gatherings that reach high levels of intensity.

There is a growing body of research applying the sociology of emotion to understanding the learning experiences of students during classroom interactions with teachers and other students (for example, Milne & Otieno, 2007; Olitsky, 2007; Tobin, et al., 2013; Zembylas, 2002). These studies show that learning subjects like science can be understood in terms of classroom interaction rituals that generate emotional energy and collective states of emotional arousal like emotional climate.

Apart from interaction ritual traditions of the sociology of emotion, other approaches have been classed into one of six other categories:

  • Evolutionary/biological theories.
  • Symbolic interactionist theories.
  • Dramaturgical theories.
  • Ritual theories.
  • Power and status theories.
  • Stratification theories.
  • Exchange theories.

This list provides a general overview of different traditions in the sociology of emotion that sometimes conceptualise emotion in different ways and at other times in complementary ways. Many of these different approaches were synthesized by Turner (2007) in his sociological theory of human emotions in an attempt to produce one comprehensive sociological account that draws on developments from many of the above traditions.

Psychotherapy and Regulation

Emotion regulation refers to the cognitive and behavioural strategies people use to influence their own emotional experience. For example, a behavioural strategy in which one avoids a situation to avoid unwanted emotions (trying not to think about the situation, doing distracting activities, etc.). Depending on the particular school’s general emphasis on either cognitive components of emotion, physical energy discharging, or on symbolic movement and facial expression components of emotion different schools of psychotherapy approach the regulation of emotion differently. Cognitively oriented schools approach them via their cognitive components, such as rational emotive behaviour therapy. Yet others approach emotions via symbolic movement and facial expression components (like in contemporary Gestalt therapy).

Cross-Cultural Research

Research on emotions reveals the strong presence of cross-cultural differences in emotional reactions and that emotional reactions are likely to be culture-specific. In strategic settings, cross-cultural research on emotions is required for understanding the psychological situation of a given population or specific actors. This implies the need to comprehend the current emotional state, mental disposition or other behavioural motivation of a target audience located in a different culture, basically founded on its national political, social, economic, and psychological peculiarities but also subject to the influence of circumstances and events.

Computer Science

In the 2000s, research in computer science, engineering, psychology and neuroscience has been aimed at developing devices that recognise human affect display and model emotions. In computer science, affective computing is a branch of the study and development of artificial intelligence that deals with the design of systems and devices that can recognise, interpret, and process human emotions. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning computer sciences, psychology, and cognitive science. While the origins of the field may be traced as far back as to early philosophical enquiries into emotion, the more modern branch of computer science originated with Rosalind Picard’s 1995 paper on affective computing. Detecting emotional information begins with passive sensors which capture data about the user’s physical state or behaviour without interpreting the input. The data gathered is analogous to the cues humans use to perceive emotions in others. Another area within affective computing is the design of computational devices proposed to exhibit either innate emotional capabilities or that are capable of convincingly simulating emotions. Emotional speech processing recognises the user’s emotional state by analysing speech patterns. The detection and processing of facial expression or body gestures is achieved through detectors and sensors.

The Effects on Memory

Emotion affects the way autobiographical memories are encoded and retrieved. Emotional memories are reactivated more, they are remembered better and have more attention devoted to them. Through remembering our past achievements and failures, autobiographical memories affect how we perceive and feel about ourselves.

Notable Theorists

In the late 19th century, the most influential theorists were William James (1842-1910) and Carl Lange (1834-1900). James was an American psychologist and philosopher who wrote about educational psychology, psychology of religious experience/mysticism, and the philosophy of pragmatism. Lange was a Danish physician and psychologist. Working independently, they developed the James-Lange theory, a hypothesis on the origin and nature of emotions. The theory states that within human beings, as a response to experiences in the world, the autonomic nervous system creates physiological events such as muscular tension, a rise in heart rate, perspiration, and dryness of the mouth. Emotions, then, are feelings which come about as a result of these physiological changes, rather than being their cause.

Silvan Tomkins (1911-1991) developed the affect theory and script theory. The affect theory introduced the concept of basic emotions, and was based on the idea that the dominance of the emotion, which he called the affected system, was the motivating force in human life.

Some of the most influential deceased theorists on emotion from the 20th century include:

  • Magda B. Arnold (1903-2002), an American psychologist who developed the appraisal theory of emotions;
  • Richard Lazarus (1922-2002), an American psychologist who specialised in emotion and stress, especially in relation to cognition;
  • Herbert A. Simon (1916-2001), who included emotions into decision making and artificial intelligence;
  • Robert Plutchik (1928-2006), an American psychologist who developed a psychoevolutionary theory of emotion;
  • Robert Zajonc (1923-2008) a Polish-American social psychologist who specialised in social and cognitive processes such as social facilitation;
  • Robert C. Solomon (1942-2007), an American philosopher who contributed to the theories on the philosophy of emotions with books such as What Is An Emotion?: Classic and Contemporary Readings (2003);
  • Peter Goldie (1946-2011), a British philosopher who specialised in ethics, aesthetics, emotion, mood and character;
  • Nico Frijda (1927-2015), a Dutch psychologist who advanced the theory that human emotions serve to promote a tendency to undertake actions that are appropriate in the circumstances, detailed in his book The Emotions (1986); and
  • Jaak Panksepp (1943-2017), an Estonian-born American psychologist, psychobiologist, neuroscientist and pioneer in affective neuroscience.

Influential theorists who are still active include the following psychologists, neurologists, philosophers, and sociologists:

  • Lisa Feldman Barrett (born 1963): Neuroscientist and psychologist specializing in affective science and human emotion.
  • John Cacioppo (born 1951): From the University of Chicago, founding father with Gary Berntson of social neuroscience.
  • Randall Collins (born 1941): American sociologist from the University of Pennsylvania developed the interaction ritual theory which includes the emotional entrainment model.
  • Michael Apter (born 1939): British psychologist who developed reversal theory, a structural, phenomenological theory of personality, motivation, and emotion.
  • António Damásio (born 1944): Portuguese behavioural neurologist and neuroscientist who works in the US.
  • Richard Davidson (born 1951): American psychologist and neuroscientist; pioneer in affective neuroscience.
  • Paul Ekman (born 1934): Psychologist specialising in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions.
  • Barbara Fredrickson: Social psychologist who specialises in emotions and positive psychology.
  • Arlie Russell Hochschild (born 1940): American sociologist whose central contribution was in forging a link between the subcutaneous flow of emotion in social life and the larger trends set loose by modern capitalism within organisations.
  • Joseph E. LeDoux (born 1949): American neuroscientist who studies the biological underpinnings of memory and emotion, especially the mechanisms of fear.
  • George Mandler (born 1924): American psychologist who wrote influential books on cognition and emotion.
  • Konstantinos V. Petrides: Greek-British psychologist who specialises in emotion, personality, psychometrics, and philosophy of mind, professor of psychology and psychometrics at University College London.
  • Jesse Prinz: American philosopher who specialises in emotion, moral psychology, aesthetics and consciousness.
  • James A. Russell (born 1947): American psychologist who developed or co-developed the PAD theory of environmental impact, circumplex model of affect, prototype theory of emotion concepts, a critique of the hypothesis of universal recognition of emotion from facial expression, concept of core affect, developmental theory of differentiation of emotion concepts, and, more recently, the theory of the psychological construction of emotion.
  • Klaus Scherer (born 1943): Swiss psychologist and director of the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences in Geneva; he specialises in the psychology of emotion.
  • Ronald de Sousa (born 1940): English-Canadian philosopher who specialises in the philosophy of emotions, philosophy of mind and philosophy of biology.
  • Jonathan H. Turner (born 1942): American sociologist from the University of California, Riverside, who is a general sociological theorist with specialty areas including the sociology of emotions, ethnic relations, social institutions, social stratification, and bio-sociology.
  • Dominique Moïsi (born 1946): Authored a book titled The Geopolitics of Emotion focusing on emotions related to globalisation.

What is Anxiety?

Introduction

Anxiety is an emotion characterised by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints, and rumination. It includes subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events.

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalised and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. It is often accompanied by muscular tension, restlessness, fatigue and problems in concentration. Anxiety is closely related to fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety involves the expectation of future threat. People facing anxiety may withdraw from situations which have provoked anxiety in the past.

Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting beyond developmentally appropriate periods. They differ from transient fear or anxiety, often stress-induced, by being persistent (e.g. typically lasting 6 months or more), although the criterion for duration is intended as a general guide with allowance for some degree of flexibility and is sometimes of shorter duration in children.

Anxiety vs Fear

Anxiety is distinguished from fear, which is an appropriate cognitive and emotional response to a perceived threat. Anxiety is related to the specific behaviours of fight-or-flight responses, defensive behaviour or escape. It occurs in situations only perceived as uncontrollable or unavoidable, but not realistically so. David Barlow defines anxiety as “a future-oriented mood state in which one is not ready or prepared to attempt to cope with upcoming negative events,” and that it is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Another description of anxiety is agony, dread, terror, or even apprehension. In positive psychology, anxiety is described as the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Fear and anxiety can be differentiated in four domains:

  1. Duration of emotional experience;
  2. Temporal focus;
  3. Specificity of the threat; and
  4. Motivated direction.

Fear is short-lived, present-focused, geared towards a specific threat, and facilitating escape from threat; anxiety, on the other hand, is long-acting, future-focused, broadly focused towards a diffuse threat, and promoting excessive caution while approaching a potential threat and interferes with constructive coping.

Joseph E. LeDoux and Lisa Feldman Barrett have both sought to separate automatic threat responses from additional associated cognitive activity within anxiety.

Symptoms

Anxiety can be experienced with long, drawn-out daily symptoms that reduce quality of life, known as chronic (or generalised) anxiety, or it can be experienced in short spurts with sporadic, stressful panic attacks, known as acute anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety can range in number, intensity, and frequency, depending on the person. While almost everyone has experienced anxiety at some point in their lives, most do not develop long-term problems with anxiety.

Anxiety may cause psychiatric and physiological symptoms.

The risk of anxiety leading to depression could possibly even lead to an individual harming themselves, which is why there are many 24-hour suicide prevention hotlines.

The behavioural effects of anxiety may include withdrawal from situations which have provoked anxiety or negative feelings in the past. Other effects may include changes in sleeping patterns, changes in habits, increase or decrease in food intake, and increased motor tension (such as foot tapping).

The emotional effects of anxiety may include “feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense or jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching (and waiting) for signs (and occurrences) of danger, and, feeling like your mind’s gone blank” as well as “nightmares/bad dreams, obsessions about sensations, déjà vu, a trapped-in-your-mind feeling, and feeling like everything is scary.” It may include a vague experience and feeling of helplessness.

The cognitive effects of anxiety may include thoughts about suspected dangers, such as fear of dying. “You may … fear that the chest pains are a deadly heart attack or that the shooting pains in your head are the result of a tumour or an aneurysm. You feel an intense fear when you think of dying, or you may think of it more often than normal, or can’t get it out of your mind.”

The physiological symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Neurological, as headache, paraesthesia’s, fasciculations, vertigo, or presyncope.
  • Digestive, as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, indigestion, dry mouth, or bolus.
  • Respiratory, as shortness of breath or sighing breathing.
  • Cardiac, as palpitations, tachycardia, or chest pain.
  • Muscular, as fatigue, tremors, or tetany.
  • Cutaneous, as perspiration, or itchy skin.
  • Uro-genital, as frequent urination, urinary urgency, dyspareunia, or impotence, chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Stress hormones released in an anxious state have an impact on bowel function and can manifest physical symptoms that may contribute to or exacerbate IBS.

Types of Anxiety

There are various types of anxiety. Existential anxiety can occur when a person faces angst, an existential crisis, or nihilistic feelings. People can also face mathematical anxiety, somatic anxiety, stage fright, or test anxiety. Social anxiety refers to a fear of rejection and negative evaluation by other people.

Existential

The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, in The Concept of Anxiety (1844), described anxiety or dread associated with the “dizziness of freedom” and suggested the possibility for positive resolution of anxiety through the self-conscious exercise of responsibility and choosing. In Art and Artist (1932), the psychologist Otto Rank wrote that the psychological trauma of birth was the pre-eminent human symbol of existential anxiety and encompasses the creative person’s simultaneous fear of – and desire for – separation, individuation, and differentiation.

The theologian Paul Tillich characterised existential anxiety as “the state in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing” and he listed three categories for the nonbeing and resulting anxiety: ontic (fate and death), moral (guilt and condemnation), and spiritual (emptiness and meaninglessness). According to Tillich, the last of these three types of existential anxiety, i.e. spiritual anxiety, is predominant in modern times while the others were predominant in earlier periods. Tillich argues that this anxiety can be accepted as part of the human condition or it can be resisted but with negative consequences. In its pathological form, spiritual anxiety may tend to “drive the person toward the creation of certitude in systems of meaning which are supported by tradition and authority” even though such “undoubted certitude is not built on the rock of reality”.

According to Viktor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, when a person is faced with extreme mortal dangers, the most basic of all human wishes is to find a meaning of life to combat the “trauma of nonbeing” as death is near.

Depending on the source of the threat, psychoanalytic theory distinguishes the following types of anxiety:

  • Realistic.
  • Neurotic.
  • Moral.

Test and Performance

According to Yerkes-Dodson law, an optimal level of arousal is necessary to best complete a task such as an exam, performance, or competitive event. However, when the anxiety or level of arousal exceeds that optimum, the result is a decline in performance.

Test anxiety is the uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness felt by students who have a fear of failing an exam. Students who have test anxiety may experience any of the following: the association of grades with personal worth; fear of embarrassment by a teacher; fear of alienation from parents or friends; time pressures; or feeling a loss of control. Sweating, dizziness, headaches, racing heartbeats, nausea, fidgeting, uncontrollable crying or laughing and drumming on a desk are all common. Because test anxiety hinges on fear of negative evaluation, debate exists as to whether test anxiety is itself a unique anxiety disorder or whether it is a specific type of social phobia. The DSM-IV classifies test anxiety as a type of social phobia.

While the term “test anxiety” refers specifically to students, many workers share the same experience with regard to their career or profession. The fear of failing at a task and being negatively evaluated for failure can have a similarly negative effect on the adult. Management of test anxiety focuses on achieving relaxation and developing mechanisms to manage anxiety.

Stranger, Social, and Intergroup Anxiety

Humans generally require social acceptance and thus sometimes dread the disapproval of others. Apprehension of being judged by others may cause anxiety in social environments.

Anxiety during social interactions, particularly between strangers, is common among young people. It may persist into adulthood and become social anxiety or social phobia. “Stranger anxiety” in small children is not considered a phobia. In adults, an excessive fear of other people is not a developmentally common stage; it is called social anxiety. According to Cutting, social phobics do not fear the crowd but the fact that they may be judged negatively.

Social anxiety varies in degree and severity. For some people, it is characterised by experiencing discomfort or awkwardness during physical social contact (e.g. embracing, shaking hands, etc.), while in other cases it can lead to a fear of interacting with unfamiliar people altogether. Those suffering from this condition may restrict their lifestyles to accommodate the anxiety, minimising social interaction whenever possible. Social anxiety also forms a core aspect of certain personality disorders, including avoidant personality disorder.

To the extent that a person is fearful of social encounters with unfamiliar others, some people may experience anxiety particularly during interactions with outgroup members, or people who share different group memberships (i.e. by race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc.). Depending on the nature of the antecedent relations, cognitions, and situational factors, intergroup contact may be stressful and lead to feelings of anxiety. This apprehension or fear of contact with outgroup members is often called interracial or intergroup anxiety.

As is the case with the more generalised forms of social anxiety, intergroup anxiety has behavioural, cognitive, and affective effects. For instance, increases in schematic processing and simplified information processing can occur when anxiety is high. Indeed, such is consistent with related work on attentional bias in implicit memory. Additionally recent research has found that implicit racial evaluations (i.e. automatic prejudiced attitudes) can be amplified during intergroup interaction. Negative experiences have been illustrated in producing not only negative expectations, but also avoidant, or antagonistic, behaviour such as hostility. Furthermore, when compared to anxiety levels and cognitive effort (e.g. impression management and self-presentation) in intragroup contexts, levels and depletion of resources may be exacerbated in the intergroup situation.

Trait

Anxiety can be either a short-term ‘state’ or a long-term personality “trait”. Trait anxiety reflects a stable tendency across the lifespan of responding with acute, state anxiety in the anticipation of threatening situations (whether they are actually deemed threatening or not). A meta-analysis showed that a high level of neuroticism is a risk factor for development of anxiety symptoms and disorders. Such anxiety may be conscious or unconscious.

Personality can also be a trait leading to anxiety and depression. Through experience, many find it difficult to collect themselves due to their own personal nature.

Choice or Decision

Anxiety induced by the need to choose between similar options is increasingly being recognised as a problem for individuals and for organisations. In 2004, Capgemini wrote: “Today we’re all faced with greater choice, more competition and less time to consider our options or seek out the right advice.”

In a decision context, unpredictability or uncertainty may trigger emotional responses in anxious individuals that systematically alter decision-making. There are primarily two forms of this anxiety type. The first form refers to a choice in which there are multiple potential outcomes with known or calculable probabilities. The second form refers to the uncertainty and ambiguity related to a decision context in which there are multiple possible outcomes with unknown probabilities.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder may share symptoms of stress and anxiety, but it is actually very different. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs without any triggers. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, this disorder can be distinguished by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. Someone who suffers from panic disorder will eventually develop constant fear of another attack and as this progresses it will begin to affect daily functioning and an individual’s general quality of life. It is reported by the Cleveland Clinic that panic disorder affects 2% to 3% of adult Americans and can begin around the time of the teenage and early adult years. Some symptoms include: difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, trembling or shaking, feeling faint, nausea, fear that you are losing control or are about to die. Even though they suffer from these symptoms during an attack, the main symptom is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterised by exaggerated feelings of anxiety and fear responses. Anxiety is a worry about future events and fear is a reaction to current events. These feelings may cause physical symptoms, such as a fast heart rate and shakiness. There are a number of anxiety disorders: including generalised anxiety disorder, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and selective mutism. The disorder differs by what results in the symptoms. People often have more than one anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are caused by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. To be diagnosed, symptoms typically need to be present for at least six months, be more than would be expected for the situation, and decrease a person’s ability to function in their daily lives. Other problems that may result in similar symptoms include hyperthyroidism, heart disease, caffeine, alcohol, or cannabis use, and withdrawal from certain drugs, among others.

Without treatment, anxiety disorders tend to remain. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, counselling, and medications. Counselling is typically with a type of cognitive behavioural therapy. Medications, such as antidepressants or beta blockers, may improve symptoms.

About 12% of people are affected by an anxiety disorder in a given year and between 5%-30% are affected at some point in their life. They occur about twice as often in women than they do in men, and generally begin before the age of 25. The most common are specific phobia which affects nearly 12% and social anxiety disorder which affects 10% at some point in their life. They affect those between the ages of 15 and 35 the most and become less common after the age of 55. Rates appear to be higher in the United States and Europe.

Short- and Long-Term Anxiety

Anxiety can be either a short-term “state” or a long-term “trait”. Whereas trait anxiety represents worrying about future events, anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear.

Co-Morbidity

Anxiety disorders often occur with other mental health disorders, particularly major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, or certain personality disorders. It also commonly occurs with personality traits such as neuroticism. This observed co-occurrence is partly due to genetic and environmental influences shared between these traits and anxiety.

Anxiety is often experienced by those with obsessive compulsive disorder and is an acute presence in panic disorder.

Risk Factors

Anxiety disorders are partly genetic, with twin studies suggesting 30-40% genetic influence on individual differences in anxiety. Environmental factors are also important. Twin studies show that individual-specific environments have a large influence on anxiety, whereas shared environmental influences (environments that affect twins in the same way) operate during childhood but decline through adolescence. Specific measured ‘environments’ that have been associated with anxiety include child abuse, family history of mental health disorders, and poverty. Anxiety is also associated with drug use, including alcohol, caffeine, and benzodiazepines (which are often prescribed to treat anxiety).

Neuroanatomy

Neural circuitry involving the amygdala (which regulates emotions like anxiety and fear, stimulating the HPA Axis and sympathetic nervous system) and hippocampus (which is implicated in emotional memory along with the amygdala) is thought to underlie anxiety. People who have anxiety tend to show high activity in response to emotional stimuli in the amygdala. Some writers believe that excessive anxiety can lead to an overpotentiation of the limbic system (which includes the amygdala and nucleus accumbens), giving increased future anxiety, but this does not appear to have been proven.

Research upon adolescents who as infants had been highly apprehensive, vigilant, and fearful finds that their nucleus accumbens is more sensitive than that in other people when deciding to make an action that determined whether they received a reward. This suggests a link between circuits responsible for fear and also reward in anxious people. As researchers note, “a sense of ‘responsibility’, or self-agency, in a context of uncertainty (probabilistic outcomes) drives the neural system underlying appetitive motivation (i.e. nucleus accumbens) more strongly in temperamentally inhibited than noninhibited adolescents”.

The Gut-Brain Axis

The microbes of the gut can connect with the brain to affect anxiety. There are various pathways along which this communication can take place. One is through the major neurotransmitters. The gut microbes such as Bifidobacterium and Bacillus produce the neurotransmitters GABA and dopamine, respectively. The neurotransmitters signal to the nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract, and those signals will be carried to the brain through the vagus nerve or the spinal system. This is demonstrated by the fact that altering the microbiome has shown anxiety- and depression-reducing effects in mice, but not in subjects without vagus nerves.

Another key pathway is the HPA axis, as mentioned above. The microbes can control the levels of cytokines in the body, and altering cytokine levels creates direct effects on areas of the brain such as the hypothalmus, the area that triggers HPA axis activity. The HPA axis regulates production of cortisol, a hormone that takes part in the body’s stress response. When HPA activity spikes, cortisol levels increase, processing and reducing anxiety in stressful situations. These pathways, as well as the specific effects of individual taxa of microbes, are not yet completely clear, but the communication between the gut microbiome and the brain is undeniable, as is the ability of these pathways to alter anxiety levels.

With this communication comes the potential to treat anxiety. Prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to reduced anxiety. For example, experiments in which mice were given fructo- and galacto-oligosaccharide prebiotics and Lactobacillus probiotics have both demonstrated a capability to reduce anxiety. In humans, results are not as concrete, but promising.

Genetics

Genetics and family history (e.g. parental anxiety) may put an individual at increased risk of an anxiety disorder, but generally external stimuli will trigger its onset or exacerbation. Estimates of genetic influence on anxiety, based on studies of twins, range from 25%-40% depending on the specific type and age-group under study. For example, genetic differences account for about 43% of variance in panic disorder and 28% in generalised anxiety disorder. Longitudinal twin studies have shown the moderate stability of anxiety from childhood through to adulthood is mainly influenced by stability in genetic influence. When investigating how anxiety is passed on from parents to children, it is important to account for sharing of genes as well as environments, for example using the intergenerational children-of-twins design.

Many studies in the past used a candidate gene approach to test whether single genes were associated with anxiety. These investigations were based on hypotheses about how certain known genes influence neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and norepinephrine) and hormones (such as cortisol) that are implicated in anxiety. None of these findings are well replicated, with the possible exception of TMEM132D, COMT and MAO-A. The epigenetic signature of BDNF, a gene that codes for a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor that is found in the brain, has also been associated with anxiety and specific patterns of neural activity. and a receptor gene for BDNF called NTRK2 was associated with anxiety in a large genome-wide investigation. The reason that most candidate gene findings have not replicated is that anxiety is a complex trait that is influenced by many genomic variants, each of which has a small effect on its own. Increasingly, studies of anxiety are using a hypothesis-free approach to look for parts of the genome that are implicated in anxiety using big enough samples to find associations with variants that have small effects. The largest explorations of the common genetic architecture of anxiety have been facilitated by the UK Biobank, the ANGST consortium and the CRC Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders.

Medical Conditions

Many medical conditions can cause anxiety. This includes conditions that affect the ability to breathe, like COPD and asthma, and the difficulty in breathing that often occurs near death. Conditions that cause abdominal pain or chest pain can cause anxiety and may in some cases be a somatisation of anxiety; the same is true for some sexual dysfunctions. Conditions that affect the face or the skin can cause social anxiety especially among adolescents, and developmental disabilities often lead to social anxiety for children as well. Life-threatening conditions like cancer also cause anxiety.

Furthermore, certain organic diseases may present with anxiety or symptoms that mimic anxiety. These disorders include certain endocrine diseases (hypo- and hyperthyroidism, hyperprolactinemia), metabolic disorders (diabetes), deficiency states (low levels of vitamin D, B2, B12, folic acid), gastrointestinal diseases (celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease), heart diseases, blood diseases (anaemia), cerebral vascular accidents (transient ischemic attack, stroke), and brain degenerative diseases (Parkinson’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease), among others.

Substance-Induced

Several drugs can cause or worsen anxiety, whether in intoxication, withdrawal or as side effect. These include alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sedatives (including prescription benzodiazepines), opioids (including prescription pain killers and illicit drugs like heroin), stimulants (such as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines), hallucinogens, and inhalants. While many often report self-medicating anxiety with these substances, improvements in anxiety from drugs are usually short-lived (with worsening of anxiety in the long term, sometimes with acute anxiety as soon as the drug effects wear off) and tend to be exaggerated. Acute exposure to toxic levels of benzene may cause euphoria, anxiety, and irritability lasting up to 2 weeks after the exposure.

Psychological

Poor coping skills (e.g. rigidity/inflexible problem solving, denial, avoidance, impulsivity, extreme self-expectation, negative thoughts, affective instability, and inability to focus on problems) are associated with anxiety. Anxiety is also linked and perpetuated by the person’s own pessimistic outcome expectancy and how they cope with feedback negativity. Temperament (e.g. neuroticism) and attitudes (e.g. pessimism) have been found to be risk factors for anxiety.

Cognitive distortions such as overgeneralising, catastrophising, mind reading, emotional reasoning, binocular trick, and mental filter can result in anxiety. For example, an overgeneralised belief that something bad “always” happens may lead someone to have excessive fears of even minimally risky situations and to avoid benign social situations due to anticipatory anxiety of embarrassment. In addition, those who have high anxiety can also create future stressful life events. Together, these findings suggest that anxious thoughts can lead to anticipatory anxiety as well as stressful events, which in turn cause more anxiety. Such unhealthy thoughts can be targets for successful treatment with cognitive therapy.

Psychodynamic theory posits that anxiety is often the result of opposing unconscious wishes or fears that manifest via maladaptive defence mechanisms (such as suppression, repression, anticipation, regression, somatisation, passive aggression, dissociation) that develop to adapt to problems with early objects (e.g. caregivers) and empathic failures in childhood. For example, persistent parental discouragement of anger may result in repression/suppression of angry feelings which manifests as gastrointestinal distress (somatisation) when provoked by another while the anger remains unconscious and outside the individual’s awareness. Such conflicts can be targets for successful treatment with psychodynamic therapy. While psychodynamic therapy tends to explore the underlying roots of anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy has also been shown to be a successful treatment for anxiety by altering irrational thoughts and unwanted behaviours.

Evolutionary Psychology

An evolutionary psychology explanation is that increased anxiety serves the purpose of increased vigilance regarding potential threats in the environment as well as increased tendency to take proactive actions regarding such possible threats. This may cause false positive reactions but an individual suffering from anxiety may also avoid real threats. This may explain why anxious people are less likely to die due to accidents. There is ample empirical evidence that anxiety can have adaptive value. Within a school, timid fish are more likely than bold fish to survive a predator.

When people are confronted with unpleasant and potentially harmful stimuli such as foul odours or tastes, PET-scans show increased blood flow in the amygdala. In these studies, the participants also reported moderate anxiety. This might indicate that anxiety is a protective mechanism designed to prevent the organism from engaging in potentially harmful behaviours.

Social

Social risk factors for anxiety include a history of trauma (e.g. physical, sexual or emotional abuse or assault), bullying, early life experiences and parenting factors (e.g. rejection, lack of warmth, high hostility, harsh discipline, high parental negative affect, anxious childrearing, modelling of dysfunctional and drug-abusing behaviour, discouragement of emotions, poor socialisation, poor attachment, and child abuse and neglect), cultural factors (e.g. stoic families/cultures, persecuted minorities including the disabled), and socioeconomics (e.g. uneducated, unemployed, impoverished although developed countries have higher rates of anxiety disorders than developing countries). A 2019 comprehensive systematic review of over 50 studies showed that food insecurity in the United States is strongly associated with depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Food-insecure individuals had an almost three (3) fold risk increase of testing positive for anxiety when compared to food-secure individuals.

Gender Socialisation

Contextual factors that are thought to contribute to anxiety include gender socialisation and learning experiences. In particular, learning mastery (the degree to which people perceive their lives to be under their own control) and instrumentality, which includes such traits as self-confidence, self-efficacy, independence, and competitiveness fully mediate the relation between gender and anxiety. That is, though gender differences in anxiety exist, with higher levels of anxiety in women compared to men, gender socialisation and learning mastery explain these gender differences.

Treatment

The first step in the management of a person with anxiety symptoms involves evaluating the possible presence of an underlying medical cause, whose recognition is essential in order to decide the correct treatment. Anxiety symptoms may mask an organic disease, or appear associated with or as a result of a medical disorder.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective for anxiety disorders and is a first line treatment. CBT appears to be equally effective when carried out via the internet. While evidence for mental health apps is promising, it is preliminary.

Psychopharmacological treatment can be used in parallel to CBT or can be used alone. As a general rule, most anxiety disorders respond well to first-line agents. First-line drugs are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Benzodiazepines are not recommended for routine use. Other treatment options include pregabalin, tricyclic antidepressants, buspirone, moclobemide, and seratriline, among others.

Prevention

The above risk factors give natural avenues for prevention. A 2017 review found that psychological or educational interventions have a small yet statistically significant benefit for the prevention of anxiety in varied population types.

Pathophysiology

Anxiety disorder appears to be a genetically inherited neurochemical dysfunction that may involve autonomic imbalance; decreased GABA-ergic tone; allelic polymorphism of the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene; increased adenosine receptor function; increased cortisol.

In the central nervous system (CNS), the major mediators of the symptoms of anxiety disorders appear to be norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Other neurotransmitters and peptides, such as corticotropin-releasing factor, may be involved. Peripherally, the autonomic nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system, mediates many of the symptoms. Increased flow in the right parahippocampal region and reduced serotonin type 1A receptor binding in the anterior and posterior cingulate and raphe of patients are the diagnostic factors for prevalence of anxiety disorder.

The amygdala is central to the processing of fear and anxiety, and its function may be disrupted in anxiety disorders. Anxiety processing in the basolateral amygdala has been implicated with dendritic arborisation of the amygdaloid neurons. SK2 potassium channels mediate inhibitory influence on action potentials and reduce arborisation.