The official conference fan. Not a bad idea, given the weather.
I am currently at the conference of the International Society for Research on Emotions which is being held in Kyoto, Japan, from July 26-29, 2011.
So what can one find at such a conference? Interestingly enough, not only the present, but much past, and also some future. Today, the first day of the conference, there were some presentations dealing with how emotions, such as fear or anger, were perceived by philosophers in Greece and Rome (David Konstan, Brown University) or in England between the 12th and 18th century (Susan Broomhall, presenting for Philippa Maddern, both Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions). What can one learn from this? That the way we understand what emotions are, how they come about, what they do etc. is shaped in powerful ways by the environment and the prevalent beliefs and practices. This is relevant because it is unlikely that today we are so enlightened that we have achieved objectivity in answering these questions. In fact, not only is objectivity a difficult concept today and in the future, when emotions are concerned, but the questions that we ask, are also shaped by our present cultures, as two other presenters pointed out. This matters because, as David Konstan pointed out, if we do brain research, on a particular emotion, say anger, then how we go about doing this is strongly shaped by our present understanding of what anger is or is not - thus, the objectivity that the machines and sophisticated methods in neuroscience seems to provide is hopelessly intermingled with the subjectivity of the researcher that defines the question to be studied there and how. Interesting.
Tomorrow there is much about the future, robots, cyberemotions, and the like.
Wow, it has been so long that I wrote something! Not for a lack of topics, but simply because I felt there was too much to do. Perhaps I should write about the feeling of too much to do ;-)
In the meanwhile, I can tell with happiness and pride that the book I edited with Nicole Krämer from Uni Duisburg-Essen is finally out. That is, it is already out in Europe - in the US it will be towards the end of July, 2011.
Face-to-Face Communication over the Internet
Emotions in a Web of Culture, Language, and Technology
Social platforms such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have rekindled the initial excitement of cyberspace. Text-based, computer-mediated communication has been enriched with face-to-face communication such as Skype, as users move from desktops to laptops with integrated cameras and related hardware. Age, gender and culture barriers seem to have crumbled and disappeared as the user base widens dramatically. Other than simple statistics relating to e-mail usage, chatrooms and blog subscriptions, we know surprisingly little about the rapid changes taking place. This book assembles leading researchers on nonverbal communication, emotion, cognition and computer science to summarize what we know about the processes relevant to face-to-face communication as it pertains to telecommunication, including video-conferencing. The authors take stock of what has been learned regarding how people communicate, in person or over distance, and set the foundations for solid research helping to understand the issues, implications and possibilities that lie ahead.
Folk theory and many classic approaches to emotions assume that a stimulus will trigger an emotional reaction that then needs to be regulated, or it will go on and on and on ... The auto-regulation model (e.g., Kappas, 2011) assumes that emotions influence their eliciting situation and in this interaction will lead to their own modulation, including termination.
Christina responded: "Ah too tough to justify emotion with regulation. Emotion is an expression which may or may not cause other to regulate their feelings..The criteria here is "Concern" What you say?"
Thanks Christina. I did not mean to 'justify' emotion. However, I do not think that emotion and regulation should be contrasted as much as they are, when many people discuss these terms. And I do mean scientists as well as non‐scientists!
I believe that we call emotions is an integral part of a regulation system - or integral parts, plural, because I believe we subsume several functionally related processes under the heading emotion, even if they differ with regard to when and where they happen.
When you say that emotion is an expression, I do not ask "expression of what?" but "why is it expressed?" - and here I am not talking about each individual case but generally. The question, for me at least, is not why person x showed emotion Y in the situation Z, but rather why tend people to show Y in situations of type Z. So the thought here would be that something is expressed to achieve something - either in or for the expressor directly, or for others, which probably means for both. I believe that if there is a systematic pattern of Y to be shown in situations Z then it is a mix of biology and cultural constraints that shaped that pattern because it serves a particular function. The function is what would cause that link to become stable over time.
The function could be to get attention, to appease, to threaten, etc etc. This is what I mean with regulation in the sense that relationships with others are structured via what we call emotions.
What do you mean with "concern" in this context? Whether the situation that is associated with the expression is of personal concern to the person who is in the emotional state?
"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
Wow ... time flies when you're having fun. I took a few weeks off. Not to go to some desert island, not to go climbing mountains, or to discover new museums, but instead to spend some time at home and take care of some dental work that was way overdue. Now "vacation time" is over and it is back to work. This is orientation week at Jacobs University and we will be welcoming the new students. Vuvuzelas are far away indeed and there are lots of exciting things to come in the next few weeks, also for my own research, including the new eCUTE project that I will at some point also write ...
So summer was also a quiet time for this blog, but of course it is never a quiet time in my head when it comes to emotions. I used the time to plan a bit what to write about in the next few weeks. I think I will definitely discuss a bit more two topics that are inspired by my summer in the dentist chair: 1) The importance of the smile - as a social signal and 2) how difficult it is to disentangle emotion and emotion regulation. Let me tell you, there was a lot of emotion on the chair and off the chair and there was a lot of regulation.
Aftermath of the tragedy at Loveparade in Duisburg, Germany, July 24, 2010, Image Globovision. Licensed under common license http://www.flickr.com/photos/globovision/4824530153/ original caption: Trabajadores sanitarios trasladan a una persona herida tras una estampida provocada por un pánico colectivo en el túnel de acceso a la antigua estación de mercancías de Duisburgo, donde se celebraba la fiesta de música electrónica "Loveparade"
Time flies. The last post I wrote was before the final of the world cup. The goal of the last post was to point out how some of the key concepts of emotion theories often focus on the individual and neglect the complex interplay of individuals with networks of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers, both in real interactions and in implied, implicit ways.
I was very happy to receive both emails, and comments via the blog, pointing out that social processes play a role. Indeed - this is the thrust of my argument. concepts such as "relevance" can only explain so much ... In a public situation, after the win of the team, one can think in addition to what I outlined hte last time of comparison processes (if everybody is excited, it probably is exciting, even if I am not sure), to very low-level processes of contagion that follow from the perception of others around us. Feedback processes at multiple levels.
And now for a harsh switch of valence - from euphoria to hysteria.
Yesterday evening, I watched, on television and the Internet, as did many in Germany, events as the tragedy of Duisburg started to unfold. All the while the techno beat was still pounding and lights were flashing with hundreds of thousands of fans apparently unaware of the carnage just a few stone throws away. It is clear that the causes of the event are manifold and now, with hindsight, it appears that bad decisions with regard to the planning might have contributed to the sequence of events. However, one thing is sure - lots of people in a tight space, pushing and shoving, in the heat, played a big role. Did we really witness a stampede? Whenever we talk or think about crowd behavior the question is whether "the crowd" really exists. Does the crowd have a mind? Surely it does not have a (single) brain. The concept of the crowd is a very difficult one when trying to describe behavior in human - whether it relates to offline or online behavior (see CYBEREMOTIONS:EU).
In my mind bridging the analysis of the behavior of individuals and the behavior of large groups of individuals in real time is one of the major challenges for social psychology today.
Scientists from many disciplines are trying to observe, describe, predict, and modify panic behavior as one of the most destructive "mass" behaviors. Here is a link from an Australian TV program, CATALYST. The hope is that research bridging biology, psychology, mathematics, and even physics can help to prevent catastrophes, such as the one in Duisburg yesterday.
The world cup is coming to an end real!soon!now! - In the meanwhile, I have been busy collecting photos of the emotional reactions of fans (like here). Amazing! But not only on TV or the Internet and the press have I witnessed such emotions, I have seen them first hand - without having to go to South Africa. Walking through the streets in Germany after a win, there were cars honking, vuvuzelas were given a good work out, flags were waved, and people were busy wearing smiles and laughing all around. Fascinating. Why? I was surprised by the intensity and the ubiquity of the reactions - after all, it was not these people on the field, they did not win, the players are people who they do not know personally, who are very different from them, and the team will not see any of the reactions and waving (unless you happen to be in the first row of some official "public viewing" and the coaches will show the players video clips for motivational reasons - which apparently they do).
So what creates these intense emotions? How can they be explained? The go-to theory here surely is appraisal theory - this group of theories distinguishes itself from others in that it focuses on what conditions/situations/events elicit a specific emotional state. Different people react to the same objective situation differently - appraisal theory hold that this because the meaning and the implications for everybody might be different. The emotion is not caused by the event directly, but by what that entails for you, now ... Typically the key feature then that determines whether you will have an emotional reaction (what you show, feel, how your body responds) is to what degree the event is perceived as relevant for you. If it is not relevant it should not do much, if it is highly relevant and it is either important for or against your goals and needs then something should happen.
Consider some stranger getting into a car and driving off - no big deal. If it is your car that would be a different story. You see an apple - if you are really hungry and there is nothing else around, you will see this apple with different eyes then when you are not hungry. Magda Arnold, the "mother of appraisal theory" already discussed things like that 50 years ago and of course many philosophers did before. There is no need that these goal states are as biological as hunger, thirst, or having to go to the bathroom (a locked door then can mean a very different thing under such circumstances), but for example, a bus closing its doors in front of you when you have to be somewhere on time vs when you are on vacation and you have much time.
But what about things like TV or film? Why would you care about a fictional character dying on screen? Why can a novel move you to tears? Why can a football match create mayhem? Let's wait for the final to see who wins the cup and I will continue from there ... In the meanwhile I invite comments and I also invite you to participate in our studies here.
A good overview over appraisal theory can be found here.
... and ... do emotions explain the death threats to Paul the octopus?
Arnold, M.B. (1960). Emotion and personality (2 vols). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Scherer, K. R., Schorr, A., & Johnstone, T. (2001). Appraisal processes in emotion: Theory, Methods, Research. New York: Oxford University Press.
What an excitement! Soccer is grabbing the world. Possibly more so than ever. South Africa is a gracious host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as it is officially known. Surely an event that is accompanied by many emotions - on the field, in the stadium, in the press booths, GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL!, at home, and wherever people watch and listen to the matches as they happen.
Emotions are not just intrapersonal events - processes that happen within us, but they happen between us. Just how social emotions are is one of the areas of debate. For example, some researchers will acknowledge that emotions are social because many of the events that trigger emotions are social. For example you find out someone lied to you, you meet your loved one after a long separation, someone cuts in and takes "your" parking space. All well. These are social situations, and the importance of these situations is high because of the implications that others have for us. There will be hardly disagreement on this one. In fact, the same experience can evoke different reactions if you believed it to be caused by a software program, rather than a person.
Take the following, by now classical, example: One of the experimental paradigms that has found some interest in a new field called neuroeconomics is the ultimatum game. Imagine that you come to my experiment and I put you in a room with someone else. I give you 10 Euro and tell you that you have to split that money with your fellow subject any way you want it. If she agrees to the split, both will get the money. If she does not agree then neither will get it. Fairly straightforward. You offer 5 Euro, she accepts, and both walk with 5 Euro. But what happens if you offer only one Euro? Most likely, studies have shown, the other will reject this offer. This phenomenon caused (surprisingly) some head scratching in economists who had a hard time understanding why that would happen. Why would you reject money with no strings attached? Well, to many people outside of academia it appears quite logical that unfair behavior can tick you off and that one way to punish the person treating you unfairly is to make sure that the other one will not benefit from that unfair behavior. So far so good. Now, one of the interesting studies in this field by Alan Sanfey and colleagues (2003) showed that if the offer is made by a computer program, rather than a person, the unfair offer is more likely to be accepted. This is important because it demonstrates this facet of the social nature of emotion - the same thing happens to you, but in one case you believe there is a person causing this, in the other you believe that a computer is causing it and your brain and the rest of your body behave differently. An elegant way to demonstrate the importance of social factors for the causation of emotion.
However, I am a firm believer that emotions are social in many more ways. One aspect that an event like the world cup highlights for us is the complex forth and back that happens in mass events like a football match. Emotions are often caused by social events, they have social consequences, but in addition, in the context of communication processes there are complex real-time things happening that apparently have emergent properties. There are very complex networks at play - you might watch with some friends, you might watch with people you do not know, but who, by their fan clothing and their behavior betray that they are "with you", there are national groups involved, there are teams involved, all of these form invisible ties that make you respond to their behavior, and those who can see and hear you to your behavior. Sometimes it is even sufficient to imagine the others (we'll talk more about this one several times). It is a real time network of subnetworks that involve feedback loops that lead to big effects: Is this the madness of the crowd that LeBon wrote about? I believe it is more complicated. In the context of our CYBEREMOTIONS project we are actually interested in such phenomena on the Internet (more about that one also).
So I leave you with the challenge to think about the complexity of the communication and feedback processes in real time while watching the next world cup matches. If you can, go to a public viewing area, and observe what is going on as people stare at strangers on huge displays, staring at other people in a stadium, staring at themselves on displays in the stadium, or staring at the people on the field, who are emoting, a lot! Enjoy the emergent chaos, and try not to get too annoyed by the vuvuzelas!
Sanfey, A.G., Rilling, J.K., Aronson, J.A., Nystrom, L.E., & Cohen, J.D. (2003) The neural basis of economic decision-making in the ultimatum game. Science, 300, 1755–1758.
Thank you Elena for the question in the comment to the last post - could it be that emotion is a sort of sense - like the 7th sense?
Of course much depends on the definition of what a sense is. The five senses that are usually referred to, sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste have specific sensing organs - receptors that are to a certain degree specific to some stimulation, for example chemical, or pressure. In fact there are more senses, such as nociception, or thermoception. In addition, there are senses that deal with stimulation inside of the body. Emotions in contrast seem to be aroused by the results of other senses, something we see, or hear - or imagine seeing or hearing. Thus, there seems to be a big difference. Emotional processes (let's not go back to the definition issue for the time being) follow other sense data, are not dependent to a specific modality, and, we now know, are linked to relatively complex networks in the brain that are not modality specific.
But is intuition not "the sixth sense"? Well technically not. More often sixth sense is associated with the notion of paranormal phenomena, such as telepathy. Independent of the fact that there is no scientifically validated evidence of such paranormal phenomena, the use of the term sense in this context is colloquial.
But what could it then be? I am at this point wondering whether augmented reality is a useful metaphor for the relationship of emotions and perception. Emotion can provide a different dimension to sense data - the dark ally that feels creepy, the cake that looks yummy, the dog that looks dangerous. In all of these examples words are used to convey a feeling that is the summary function of a rapid and typically automatic evaluation of properties of the object(s) perceived in relationship to their implication. One aspect of emotions is that they send nonverbal messages that are shorthand for the implication. They may trigger in human verbal associations and interpretations, but they need not. Important: these messages need not be consciously received. After all, part of the process is the rearrangement of resources to deal with situations, and that is the case whether one is aware of it or not.
Wait a moment ...? Unconscious emotions? Yes, If you did not already do so, please check out
Winkielman, P., Berridge, K. C., & Wilbarger, J. L. (2005). Unconscious affective reactions to masked happy versus angry faces influence consumption behavior and judgments of value. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1, 121-135.
So, Mr. Martian, what are emotions about you ask? OK, here is attempt Nr. 1.0 - I hope the translator works ...:
Emotions permit navigating an organism's complex physical and social environment by allowing to tag objects, actions, and events with meaning and implications for the organism. By linking to memories of the past, analyses of the present, and projections into the future, time is as much a factor as is space in optimizing such navigation. Emotions do that not only by providing information to the individual in the shape of subjective experience, but also by affecting every aspect of processing information regarding external and internal events. Thus, what to pay attention to, or what to remember (or not) is just as influenced by this system as is what elements to associate with other elements in the future. Bodily changes are often involved that might be helpful in supporting certain modes of response. These involve basically all other organismic systems ranging from muscles involved in locomotion, to cardiovascular changes, to modulating digestion and immune function. In this sense, emotions are active because they do not just facilitate dealing with situations, they actively influence them by biasing the own behavior as well as that of other organisms. Expressive behavior affects not only conspecifics, but can also have an effect on members of other species. In humans, a very social species, such expressive behavior leads to coordinated actions in many ways. Meaning can be assigned by direct experience, such as pain or pleasure, by observation of others' emotional responses, as well as by stories of real and fictional events. This allows rapid and slow mediated spreading of emotionally relevant information going beyond the effect of learning by first-hand experience. Thus, meaning is not only constructed by the individual, but also by aggregates of individuals, such as families, clans, companies, religious groups, nations, etc. It is particularly this process that distinguishes human emotions from emotional processes in non-human animals.
Events that are perceived by the organism as being of high relevance can lead to rapid and considerable change in basically every system of the body. Typically, such activation is self-regulating as the type of behavior that is being facilitated by the bodily changes will lead to the self-termination of the emotion-cascade. For example, running away from a threat, scaring away an annoying person, or obtaining comfort. With experience and learning the strategic manipulation of emotion relevant responses allows modulation of the own or others' emotional state, for example using expressive or other behaviors.
OK, then there is the part with different emotions, learning about emotions, what happens when emotions get out of hand, and what happens to emotions when some of the systems that are usually involved do not work well, but that was already a massive chunk of conjecture, so what do you think?
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.