ABC of emotions

All of psychology can be summed up as a combination of Affect, Behaviour and Cognition. Emotions are affect proper, but being in an affective or emotional state also carries along with it certain changes in behaviour and cognitions. For eg, an angry person not only feels angry but also behaves in an aggressive manner and his whole perception of other conspecifics is coloured by his being in a state of anger.

Now consider certain basic and prototypical emotions like joy, sadness, interest, fear, love , anger and surprise, disgust. While all of them have a distinct affective tone associated with them, less is known about the behavioural and cognitive dimensions to these emotions. Today I’ll like to share my thoughts regarding the same.

Joy is associated with being playful (B) and thinking creatively and divergently and imaginatively (C); sadness on the other hand is associated with being withdrawn (B) and has been shown to be associated with thinking more critically, convergently and in a intellectual fashion (C). As is apparent there is an opposing way in which these emotions and their behavioural and cognitive tendencies are associated. While positive emotions help you sample a greater universe out there , negative emotions help you focus on a salient selected stimuli.

Now consider interest; its is associated with being able to explore a given environment (B) and learning new information (C). While fear is associated with exploiting a given environment (B) (and not venturing beyond the unknown) and performing as per the given knowledge structure (C). Again we see the dichotomy and opposition.

Consider love that is associated with nurturing/protecting (B) the loved ones and with whom you feel a sense of belonging/ kinship (C). Anger on the other hand is associated with aggression or attack (B) on people considered different from self (C). Different perceptions or thinking may get evoked for same person based on emotion. For eg, you may feel anger towards your son when he disobeys and then literally want to slap him and want to disown him/ distance form him in the angry mood.

Finally consider surprise. Its associated with leaning with wonder and being fascinated (B) and trying to accommodate the new information (C) ; on the contrary, disgust would be associated with recoiling away in contempt and being judgmental (B) and trying to assimilate everything in the black and white schemata (C).

The above is broadly in line with the broaden and build theory of positive emotions and the specific action tendencies theory of negative emotions. What do you think, do share your comments.

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