"El tahrir", taken on Feb 5, By Mahmoud Saber
Time flies. Whether one is having fun, or not. My blog has been quiet during the last semester as I was focusing on new research activities. Now, spring semester has started at Jacobs University and I am back to the regular teaching routine. One of the courses I teach is Emotion and Motivation and so it is only natural to make a link between some of the topics that come up in the course and this blog.
The fact that emotions are important appears obvious to most people, but whether research on emotion is important is less so. Depending on the current global, or local, historical context it is more apparent which role emotions can play. They are important at the level of the individual, of smaller groups of people, and of large groups. The current events in Egypt and the news reports in the various media have touched everybody I know. While there are many reasons why people want freedom and prosperity, it is clear that the want is accompanied by strong emotions. Note, that I wrote accompanied - because scientifically, it is not easy to demonstrate an exclusive causation - and of course, we would have to get back to the perennial question of how to define emotions exactly. I also have no empirical data - nobody would want to go to Tahrir square and start measuring how people feel, or how their body responds. So, for the time being let us stick with a softer statement: Emotions play a role in this whole business. And they do that on all sides. One of the things I showed in class was a short clip from CNN with Anderson Cooper ("Video: Anderson Cooper takes on intimidation."). Fear on all sides.
The current events make it again clear that Fear is not just something that appears to happen to us, but that Fear is something that people can do to other people. Intimidation at a personal or at an institutional level is used to bias/change the behavior of others. Thus we can think of emotions also a social tool and not just a subjective experience, or bodily process.
One of the topics I am currently dealing with is the regulation of emotion. In the wider sense this relates not only to how emotions are regulated within our body/mind, but also how emotions regulate the interaction of people and the behavior of groups of different size. There is a current debate to what degree it is possible to distinguish emotions from their regulation. I, for example, argue that emotions always involve regulatory processes.
Kappas, A. (201!). Emotion and regulation are one! Emotion Review, 3, 17–25. doi:10.1177/1754073910380971
Arvid Kappas is Professor of Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen. He has been conducting research on emotions for over three decades in the US, Canada, and in several European countries.