Posts tagged emotion
There is a powerful theory in psychology, proposed by Carver and Scheier, about how emotions arise as an indication of how we are progressing towards our goals. Today’s post will be elaborating and extending on that model.
Basically this cybernetic theory of emotions, is based on that fact that most of our actions are goal directed, we are either trying to archive a desired end state / goal; or we are trying to avoid an undesirable end-state or anti-goal. The same action or overt behavior may be motivated by different goal related orientation. For e.g., a student studying for a test may be driven to achieve the highest possible marks so that he can top in the class; or he may be motivated to study hard to avoid failing in the test.
The former motivation where one is driven to achieve some goal is categorized as an approach behavior and the corresponding system the approach system. The latter drive, where one is more focused on moving as far away from a negative outcome as possible is known as the avoidance system.
Foraging for food, maybe an approach system action, while avoiding being eaten by a predator may be an avoidance system action.
Progress in both the systems , i.e moving towards the goal in approach system and moving away from the anti-goal in the avoidance system leads to positive outcomes or end results. The failure to achieve the goal or avoid the anti-goal leads to negative outcomes. So far so good.
At this point Carver and Scheier introduce the feedback control concept. We will take the example of Approach system. Lets say we are moving towards a goal at rate ‘r’ (how fast we are moving from our current sate to the desired state); they suggest that each of us has an internal criteria of how fast that movement should be. In situations which are familiar to us, this is more or less stable value, say ‘a’; but in situations where we have little experience there is a lot of room for flexibility in what this criterion rate ‘a’ should be.
What they suggest is that if the actual rate at which we are moving towards the goal ‘r’ is less than the criterion rate ‘a’, then we feel negative emotions like sadness/ frustration/ anger that are an indication to us to increase our efforts towards the goal (as we are falling behind); on the other hand if the actual rate ‘r’ is greater than the criterion rate ‘a’ then we feel positive emotions like joy, love, care etc, which is a signal to us that we can coast or reduce efforts allotted to this particular goal and maybe move to some other task (because this task is already faring well).
The same applies to avoidance system; if r<a then we would feel negative emotions like fear, anxiety, guilt and if r>a then we will feel positive emotions like calmness, relief etc.
They also relate the emotion felt, with re-prioritization of the task that evokes the emotion. As they rightly discover, anger/frustration and sadness have opposite effects on effort as well as task prioritization, though both are an indication that we are not progressing towards the goal at desired rate. Frustration/ anger makes one redouble efforts and also leads to increases in the priority of task, Sadness however, that is associated when the goal has become unreachable or lost, makes one reduce efforts and decrease the importance or priority of the goal thus making it easy to give up the goal. They explain it as non-linear impact of progress towards goal.
IMHO, they go some distance, but do not go far enough. Below is what I believe makes sense:
- In the Approach system, when r<a, then one feels frustration or anger (if goal is interpersonal) , which indicates that goal requires efforts, which leads to more effort spending and increase in priority of the task. Thus, when things are not going well, but are manageable it leads to frustration/ anger and more focus on the task
- In the Approach system, when r << a , that is rate of progress is much, much less than the criteria, or one is very close to failure, then one feels sadness or depression, which indicates that goal is no longer tenable, which leads to less effort spending and decrease in priority of the task. Thus, when things are out of hand, it leads to sadness/ depression and reduced efforts and focus.
- In the Approach system, when r>a, then one feels passion or commitment (love if goal is interpersonal), and contrary to what Carver and Schieier suggest, leads to more efforts towards the goal and increase in priority of the goal. Thus, when things are going well, but are barely manageable, one redoubles ones efforts and is generally in the passionate/ commitment/ care zone.
- In the Approach system, when r>>a , that is rate of progress is so high that one is almost guaranteed to succeed, then one ends up feeling joy, and starts coasting and reducing efforts, starting looking for other opportunities, and thus decrease in priority of current task. Thus, when things are going strongly in your favor of achieving goal, it leads to happiness/ joy and coasting.
- In the Avoidance system, when r<a, then one feels fear or anxiety, which indicates that avoiding goal requires more efforts, which leads to more effort spending and increase in priority of the task. Thus, when things are not going well, but are manageable it leads to fear/ aanxiety and more focus on the task.
- In the Avoidance system, when r << a , that is rate of avoidance is much, much less than the criteria, or one is very close to reaching the anti-goal, then one feels guilt or disgust, which indicates that anti-goal is no longer avoidable, which leads to less effort spending and decrease in priority of the task. Thus, when things have gone out of hand, it leads to disgust/ and uncomfortable acceptance of the situation (the feeling you get when you already failed the test)
- In the Avoidance system, when r>a, then one feels interest or courage, and contrary to what Carver and Schieier suggest, leads to more efforts towards avoiding the anti-goal and increase in priority of the anti-goal. Thus, when things are going well, but are barely manageable, one redoubles ones efforts and is generally in the interested/ courageous/ calm zone.
- In the Avoidance system, when r>>a , that is rate of avoidance is so high that one is almost guaranteed to escape, then one ends up feeling wonder/ gratitude, and starts coasting and reducing efforts, starting looking for other dangers, and thus decrease in priority of current task. Thus, when things are going strongly in your favor of your avoiding the anti-goal, it leads to wonder/gratitude/ relief and vigilance.
The beauty of Carver and Shcheier model is their differentiation between an Approach system and an Avoidance system and how success or frustration in these systems have different emotional consequences. These are also conceptually related to promotion and prevention focus of Higgins et al.
I am excited by the above model as it aligns well with the eight basic emotions model and I hope this new extension of Carver and Scheier model will lead to much more empirical work in the field.
To recap, here are the contradictions or tensions that these existential givens give rise to:
This paper considers four existential challenges:1) Life (and death). We are alive but we will die, and we live a world that both supports and negates life.2) Meaning (and absurdity). We have a conscious capacity and desire formeaning, but we live in a confusing and sometimes chaotic world that offers many meaning systems and also denies meaning.3) Freedom (and determinism). We are free and determined, and we live in a world that allows and constricts our freedom.4) Community (and aloneness). Human desire and capacity for authentic relatedness are countered by inauthenticity, alienation and loneliness.
Individuals high in HA tend to be cautious, careful,fearful, tense, apprehensive, nervous, timid, doubtful,discouraged, insecure, passive, negativistic, or pessimistic even in situations that do not normally worry other people. These individuals tend to be inhibited and shy in most social situations. Their energy level tends to be low and they feel chronically tired or easily fatigued. As a consequence they need more reassurance and encouragement than most people and are usually sensitive to criticism and punishment. The advantages of of high Harm Avoidance are the greater care and caution in anticipating possible danger, which leads to careful planning when danger is possible. The disadvantages occur when danger is unlikely but still anticipated, such pessimism or inhibition leads to unnecessary worry.
In contrast, individuals with low scores on this temperament dimension tend to be carefree, relaxed, daring, courageous, composed, and optimistic even in situations that worry most people. These individuals are described as outgoing, bold, and confident in most social situations. Their energy level tends to be high, and they impress others as dynamic, lively, and vigorous persons. The advantages of low Harm Avoidance are confidence in the face of danger and uncertainty,leading to optimistic and energetic efforts with little or no distress. The disadvantages are related to unresponsiveness to danger, which can lead to reckless optimism.
Consider on the other hand, Freedom (and determinism). The possibility of being free agents leads to wonder, surprise and novel behavior; while the possibility of being determined, at the other hand, fills us with disgust. This leads to polarity of Disgust-Surprise. Its my assertion that this state is associated with schizophrenic psychosis. This system has a neural basis in the Approach system, which may be associated with Dopamine system. Also sensitivity towards this given results in personality trait of Novelty Seeking. To recap:
Individuals high in Novelty Seeking tend to be quick-tempered, excitable, exploratory, curious, enthusiastic, ardent, easily bored, impulsive, and disorderly The advantages of high Novelty Seeking are enthusiastic and quick engagement with whatever is new and unfamiliar, which leads to exploration of potential rewards. The disadvantages are related to excessive anger and quick disengagement whenever their wishes are frustrated, which leads to inconsistencies in relationships and instability in efforts.
In contrast, individuals low in Novelty Seeking are described as slow tempered, indifferent, uninquisitive, unenthusiastic, umemotional, reflective, thrifty, reserved, tolerant of monotony, systematic, and orderly.
Now consider Loneliness (and community). While existential loneliness give rise to rage against the universe, the sense of community is made possible and engenders feelings of love. Thus the emotional polarities relevant here are Anger-Love. Its again my thesis that this is associated with bipolar sensitivity. This system has a neural basis in the Attach system, which may be associated with Norepinephrine system. The personality trait associated will be Reward Dependence. To recap:
Individuals who score high in Reward Dependence tend to be tender-hearted, loving and warm, sensitive, dedicated, dependent, and sociable. They seek social contact and are open to communication with other people. Typically, they find people they like everywhere they go. A major advantage of high Reward Dependence is the sensitivity to social cues, which facilitates warm social relations and understanding of others’ feelings. A major disadvantage of high Reward Dependence involves the ease with which other people can influence the dependent person’s views and feelings, possibly leading to loss of objectivity.
Individuals low on the Reward Dependence are often described as practical, tough minded, cold, and socially insensitive. They are content to be alone and rarely initiate open communication with others. They prefer to keep their distance and typically have difficulties in finding something in common with other people. An advantage of low Reward Dependence is that independence from sentimental considerations.
Lastly consider absurdity (and meaning). When confronted with the absurdity of life, the pointlessness of it all, our natural reaction is to become sad and depressed. On the other hand, if one is able to find or bestow meaning to one’s everyday acts, one lives with joy in his or her heart. This leads to polar emotions of Sadness and Joy and failure to navigate this existential given properly results in depression. The system associated with this may be called the Achieve system (all achievements being steps to endow life with essence). The personalty system associated here is Persistence. To recap:
Individuals high in Persistence tend to be industrious, hard-working, persistent, and stable despite frustration and fatigue. They typically intensify their effort in response to anticipated reward. They are ready to volunteer when there is something to be done, and are eager to start work on any assigned duty. Persistent persons tend to perceive frustration and fatigue as a personal challenge. They do not give up easily and, in fact, tend to work extra hard when criticized or confronted with mistakes in their work. Highly persistent persons tend to be ambitious overachievers who are willing to make major sacrifices to be a success. A highly persistent individual may tend to be a perfectionist and a workaholic who pushes him/herself far beyond what is necessary to get by.High Persistence is an adaptive behavioral strategy when rewards are intermittent but the contingencies remain stable. However, when the contingencies change rapidly, perseveration becomes maladaptive.
When reward contingencies are stable, individuals low in Persistence are viewed as indolent, inactive, unreliable, unstable and erratic on the basis of both self-reports and interviewer ratings. They rarely intensify their effort even in response to anticipated reward. These persons rarely volunteer for anything they do not have to do, and typically go slow in starting work, even if it is easy to do. They tend to give up easily when faced with frustration, criticism, obstacles, and fatigue. These persons are usually satisfied with their current accomplishments, rarely strive for bigger and better things, and are frequently described as underachievers who could probably accomplish for than they actually do, but do not push themselves harder than it is necessary to get by. Low scorers manifest a low level of perseverance and repetitive behaviors even in response to intermittent reward. Low Persistence is an adaptive strategy when reward contingencies change rapidly and may be maladaptive when rewards are infrequent but occur in the long run.
So my latest thinking based on different strands, ranging from existential strands to evolutionary considerations, seems to indicate that there are four basic emotional polarities and four basic temperaments.
These are summarized below:
- Harm Avoidance: Fear-Courage
- Novelty Seeking: Disgust-Surprise
- Reward Dependence: Anger-Love
- Persistence: Sadness-Joy
Of course, this leaves the question of what happens to the 3 (extended to 4 by me) character traits listed by Cloninger in his TCI. That and four new polar emotions family is the subject of a new post!!
Love and work are two cornerstones of adult human life. The capacity to love and work adequately was considered by Freud as important for our well-being.
Adult romantic or love relationships are grounded in childhood attachment patterns. As per the famous and well researched and validated attachment theory, childhood attachment figures and the quality of our attachment with the primary caregiver, serve as templates for future adult relationships.
Attachment theory posits that there are at-least three different kinds of attachment patterns- secure attachment (when parental care-giving is consistent and available) , insecure anxious attachment and insecure avoidant attachment. While there is bound to be some effects due to child’s temperament, the attachment pattern is mostly supposed to be governed by parental care-giving style.
Although the primary ‘attachment figure’ or care-giver can be any parent, its typically the mother. The father is typically the disciplinarian or primary ‘authority figure’.
That brings me to work. While love is connection and intimacy, work is a constraint and usually a necessity.
One of the important skills to succeed in adult work life is to be comfortable with legitimate authority and also having the skills and confidence to wield authority when in a position to do so.
It is my thesis, that adult workplace adjustment, as operationalized by acceptance and flourishing in one’s place in the hierarchical work system, draws upon childhood patterns of relating to the primary ‘authority figure’ or role-model.
It has been generally found that there are three typical parenting styles: authoritative parenting (where discipline is based on logic and mutually agreed/ humane rules etc), authoritarian parenting (where discipline is done based on the power of the parent and no logical reason per se) and permissive parenting (where disciplining is lacking).
When can hypothesize that this can lead to different forms of model of what an authority figure or role model is: for the child whose primary authority figure is authoritative , authority is acceptable and ennobling; for the child with primary authority figure authoritarian, authority is to be defied or used to subjugate others; for the child with primary authority figure as permissive, any form of authority, even one drawing from ones self esteem is problematic and to be avoided.
It is instructive to take a pause here and see the parallels with caring. While caring consistently for the child, leads to secure attachment and better love relationships later on, not caring or caring inconsistently leads to poorer outcomes in love relationships.
Similarly, pushing a child gently and consistently, leads to the child developing a healthy self-confidence/ self-esteem , while pushing a child too much based on pure ego and power (sort of like bullying by a parent) or not pushing at all may lead to poorer and compromised self -esteem and later on lead to relationship problems in the workplace , where one may suffer from superiority/ inferiority complexes and ‘power and competence’ related issues.
A look at the mediating mechanisms is also instructive.
Good caring or secure attachment leads to a presence of an attachment figure or safe haven where one can do curious exploration and find that people are in general trustworthy and loveable.
Good pushing or comfort-with-authority leads to a presence of a role model or guide with whom one can exploit a niche and find one’s own niche and be comfortable with one’ sown and others legitimate authorities and competences.
Of course while the literature on attachment is burgeoning and its relationship to adult romantic relationship is well established, there needs to be more research on parenting styles and its effect on self-confidence etc and how that impacts later real world work relationships especially those hierarchical in nature like with boss and subordinates.
As an aside, I came to this broad analogy between childhood caring and childhood pushing and there different adult outcomes via the well known social psychology effcet whereby we judge a person/ his or her face etc on two dimensions intuitively: trust/warmth (aligned to capacity for deep love-like bonds) and dominance/competence (aligned to capacity to deliver and execute) . One can see the sam analogy in whether the help we can get form the person is emotional in nature (love like ) or instrumental in nature (work like). Thus for every con-specific we meet, what we are most interested in, while relating to him / her is- what are his/ her capacities to Love and to Work!!
Another list of basic emotions follows from the work of Carroll Izard; Izard is interested in the infants facial expressions and believes that due to lack of socialization etc there is perfect concordance between the infants facial expressions and infants emotional states. As such he has come up with a list of 10 basic facial emotional expressions as found in babies, and if we include Shanta rasa as another rasa in Navrasas then we can try to map that with the Izard’s list. That list (in no particular evolutionary / developmental order) and the mapping with navaras is given below:
1. Interest-excitement: Veera
2. Enjoyment-joy: Hasya
3. Startle- surprise : Abdhuta
4. distress- anguish: Karuna
5. Rage- anger: Raudra
6. disgust- revulsion: Bibhetsa
7. Contempt-scorn: Shringar (reverse scored)?
8. Fear-terror : Bhayanak
9. Shame-shyness-humiliation: Shringar (normally scored)?
10. Guilt-remorse : Shanta?
Now, today’s discussion centers around basic emotions as gleaned from infants facial expressions. There have been people, like Camras, who have opposed this approach saying that in infants the same emotion expressions of anger and sadness cannot be distinguished as also the same states (emotional stimuli) can lad to different emotional facial expressions. There had also been research suggesting that phobic patients show disgust reaction rather than fear reactions to fearful stimuli; thus some concern that fear and disgust are mixed/ indistinguishable.
It is instructive to pause here and return to the Eight rasas theory whereby there are four primary Rasas and the rest of the four rasas are derived from those primary rasas.
It is said that Sringara, Rowdra, Veera and Bibhatsa are the main Rasas and the others Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta and Bhaya are derived from the former four. That means that from Sringara comes Hasya; from Rowdra comes Karuna; from Veera comes Adbhuta and from Bibhatsa comes Bhaya.
Thus, there are four constellations:
1. Karuna- Raudra: or that of sadness – anger.
2. Bhayanak- bibhitsa : or that of Fear – disgust
3. Hasya- Shringar : or that of joy-affection (love)
4. Adbhuta- Veera: or that of surprise- Interest.
In the light of above it is easy to see why Anger and sadness expressions may be mixed or why People in fearful , phobic situations may show disgust reactions; after all they are closely tied together.
That also brings me to research by Katherine Bridges and Sroufe, whereby they delineate how emotions and emotional expressions develop from diffuse to discrete emotions. As per the following table based on Bridges work, the emotions generally start with a diffuse excitement and slowly develop into discrete basic emotions like sadness, anger, fear, disgust, joy, affection, interest and surprise.
This can also be viewed schematically as follows, with diffuse emotional states leading to discrete emotions as the infant develops.
To me, the above looks very promising and supports multiple lines of evidence regarding both the exact content of basic emotions and how they develop/ are related to each other.
Camras, L., & Shutter, J. (2010). Emotional Facial Expressions in Infancy Emotion Review, 2 (2), 120-129 DOI: 10.1177/1754073909352529
As per a new study reported in PNAS, positive emotions and hedonic well being, like happiness and enjoyment, increase past the age of 50 (after reaching a nadir at that age) , while negative emotions , like stress, worry and anger decline with age throughout.
This is the conclusion that Stone et al reached after analyzing response to a telephonic survey of 3,40,000 individuals resident in the US. Only one measure of global Well being was used and hedonic well being was evaluated by the self reported affect experienced on the previous day.
It was found that Global well being , which to my mind is more of a cognitive construct, showed a U shaped relationship with age with global well being dipping around the age of 50. Happiness and enjoyment , the positive hedonic well being measures exhibited a similar curve . It thus appears that positive affect is more cognitively mediated and that may be the reason for the similarity.
Negative affects on the other hand showed a distinctly different curve, thus bolstering my claim that negative and positive emotions are two different things and should not be seen as opposites of each other on a single dimension. The underlying mechanisms and rationale of negative and positive emotions may be vastly different. While negative emotions lead to specific action tendencies, positive emotions lead to broaden-and-build effects of enhancing resources of all type.
To me the above bodes well. I’ll like to quote on how the authors interpret the results (and with which I agree).
The overall WB-age pattern calls out for explanation. Why are older people, on average, happier and less stressed than younger people? The results are generally consistent with Baltes’ (12) theory of increased “wisdom” and emotional intelligence with age (at least through middle age), wherein decreased negative affective states could be a result of increasing wisdom, and with Carstensen et al.’s (13) socioemotional selectivity theory, wherein older people have an increased ability to self-regulate their emotions and view their situations positively. They are also in accord with a “positivity effect,” wherein older people recall fewer negative memories than younger adults (14), and with the possibility that older people are more effective at regulating their emotions than younger adults (15).
I would like to stress that cognitive abilities(especially the ability to interpret the same situation in a positive/adaptive light) increases with age and that may be the reason that despite negative experiences and lack of positive experiences, the old people are still able to appraise the situations differently and derive more positivity overall. I wont be surprised if it became apparent that emotions become more and more cognitive in nature as one moves up in age and less and less as a hardwired instinctual reaction to a given situation.
Stone, A., Schwartz, J., Broderick, J., & Deaton, A. (2010). A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (22), 9985-9990 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003744107