Category Archives: emotion

Emotions and Personality : take 7

Today I want to approach the question of emotions and personality from an existential lens. In my last post I alluded to the existential givens and you can read more about them here [pdf].

English: Emotions associated with sadness

English: Emotions associated with sadness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 for
meaning, 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.
For the personalty traits I will be referring to Cloninger’s temperament traits. For the emotions I will be referring to the eight Rasaas framework.
Consider Death (and life). The mere thought of death causes fear, while you need courage to live despite knowing that one day you will eventually die. Navigating this existential given, leads to the emergence of polar emotions of fear and courage. This also leads to existential as well as normal anxiety. This system has a neural basis as in the Avoid system, which may be associated with Serotonin system.  Also sensitivity to this given, results in the personality trait of Harm Avoidance. To recap:

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:

  1. Harm Avoidance: Fear-Courage
  2. Novelty Seeking: Disgust-Surprise
  3. Reward Dependence: Anger-Love
  4. 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!!

Emotions – redefined!

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a proponent of the eight basic emotions theory of emotions where the eight basic emotions are fear, courage/interest,  sadness, happiness, disgust, surprise/awe and anger and love. Its apparent that they are also paired in opposites as in fear and courage/ interest are opposite emotions in one sense of the word.

Today I want to elaborate on the idea that these emotions come about in opposite pairs and differ just so slightly from each other in terms of the cognitive/motivational  appraisal.

Consider fear. Fear is typically thought of as arising from danger while interest/ courage may be thought of as either being in a safe environment (in a safe haven and thus curious and willing to explore) or persisting in a dangerous situation despite threat.

A more  useful way to think about both fear and courage/interest is to see them as reactions to challenges. A challenge that is dangerous or appraised so, can be construed as a threat and lead to fearful behavior; on the other hand a challenge that is seen as an opportunity , say to prove oneself, can lead to courage/ interest.

The same is true for sadness. Sadness is typically construed as a reaction to loss. However it could be more generically seen as a reaction to any big change- change is typically upsetting and when construed as a door closing it may lead to feelings of sadness; however its also a fact of life that for something new to start something older has to give way- thus when one door closes, another door opens. The person who faced with a  similar big and stressful change, say becoming a parent, may focus on negatives and see it as a close of a dyadic relationship with spouse , loss of freedom etc, and see parenting as burden may get into post-partum depression; while another who welcomes the stress of parenting may actually feel joyous at the arrival of the baby  as a new way of life is opening up.

The right way to think about disgust and surprise/ awe is also on same lines.  While both reveal facets of ourselves or world that were not known to us before, in case of disgust the revelation is construed as  pointing towards ugliness in the world / ourselves ( the beast within) while in surprise/awe the same sudden realization/ revelation is about the beauty within/ outside. One has to remember that at times an Ugly cocoon is pre-requiste for the emergence of a beautiful butterfly and the moment when the long night of the soul is ending is also the time when the gliders of dawn start appearing. Again, by changing our appraisal we can find solace in disgusting situations and make something uplifting out of them.

Finally, anger and love are very social emotions. While anger is typically thought as a reaction to frustration, at a more fundamental level, one can think of anger/ aggression as one way of dealing with conspecifics- in a world of limited resources when the person we are dealing with is ‘not mine’ but ‘other’, then my natural tendency is to get angry in case of conflict and fight for the limited resources; however in a similar situation of conspecifics with limited resources and a conflict if any, if I think of the conspecific as my own – say my child- then my natural reaction is to guard his/ her interests and this is mediated by feelings of love.  The same external situation, different appraisals/ value systems and different emotions!!

 

Thus, we have seen that by changing our underlying value and habitual appraisal systems we can move from a predominance of negative emotions is out life to a predominance of positive emotions in our life, while the external circumstances still remain the same.

The Eight Rasas/Emotions (contd)

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one of the most laughter inducing photos i've ...

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In the last post we looked at the eight Rasas and how they are related to the eight color terms and the eight basic emotions.

 

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.

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Camras, L., & Shutter, J. (2010). Emotional Facial Expressions in Infancy Emotion Review, 2 (2), 120-129 DOI: 10.1177/1754073909352529

The Eight Rasas (aesthetic essences)

Guru N?ty?c?rya M?ni M?dhava Ch?ky?r performin...

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According to Indian Aesthetics , as outlined in Bharat Muni’s Natyashatra,  there are eight Rasas or impacts that an aesthetic piece of work like dance form/ literary piece, tries to achieve/invoke in the beholder/reader. These can be loosely thought of as eight different kinds of aesthetic experiences.

 

As is evident I like all things eight, as I believe they have an underlying eight fold evo-devo stage structure behind them.  In this case in visual art from each of the rasa is associated with a predominant color that signifies that rasa. For eg Shringar or Love/beauty/erotic rasa has as its color, color green.

 

Now, I have also blogged previously about color terms and how they may have evolved in an eight step model. In brief, I believe that Black came first , white next, then Red followed; after which followed yellow, blue and green and then other terms like orange, brown and grey followed.  This I believe is also tied to the way our color vision and sensitivity would have grown/evolved.

 

Taking cue from that color term evolution model , I belive the eight rasas evolved in the same order as the color used to denote them, and that nicely fits with other aspects of the eight stage theory too, like the eight stage emotion development.

 

So, in essence, please find listed below the eight Rasaas in the correct eight stage order:

1. Bahyanak Rasa: color Black : emotion fear.

2. Hasya Rasa: color white: emotion joy/laughter

3. Rudra Rasa: color red : emotion anger

4. Adbhuta Rasa: color yellow , emotion wonder

5. Bibhitsa Rasa: color blue, emotion disgust

6. Shringar rasa: color green; emotion erotic/love

7. Veera rasa : color orange; emotion heroism

8. Karuna rasa: color grey; emotion compassion/ sadness.

 

Contrast this with the basic emotions list I have come up earlier viz.
1. Fear – Bahyanak
2. Joy/happiness – Hasya
3. Anger – Raudra
4. Sadness – Karuna
5. Disgust – Bibhitsa
6. Surprise – shringar
7. Contempt – Veera
8. Interest (anticipation) – Adbhuta

 

With just one switch between the Adbhuta (wonder/interest) and Karuna (sadness/ compassion), the eight rasas fit both the color term evolution and basic emotions evolution. That surely means we are at something and moving in the right direction as different routes are leading to the same destination. .

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Basic Emotions

Facial emotions.

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This post is an attempt to get to the basic emotions. Regular readers of this blog will readily appreciate when I claim that there are eight basic emotions and that they follow a developmental/evolutionary time-course and follow a  particular order.

 

First let us review the attempts made till now to classify and identify the basic emotions– foremost amongst them is the tradition of Tomkins and Ekman that looked at basic and universal emotional facial expressions to come up with their list of basic emotions.

 

Tomkins listed the following as basic emotions: Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surprise;

I agree more or less with the list except for dropping shame or subsuming it under contempt (along with say guilt too making a triad of social emotions)

Ekman on the other hand thought that only Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise were basic based on clearly identifiable facial expressions. He left out contempt and Interest , but I am not too sympathetic to that position, though I understand that being evolutionarily novel these would be least permanently identifiable using fixed facial expressions.

Another towering figure in the emotion research is Plutchick and his wheel is a wonderful figure that not only lists the basic emotions but also highlights the relations between them- which are opposed (180 degree to each other).

The 8 basic emotions Plutchik lists are Trust(Acceptance), anger, anticipation (interest) , disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surprise .

Astute readers will note that the list is more or less same as that of Tomkins except for substitution of Trust )(acceptance) for contempt (reverse scored but same?)

Izards list viz Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surprise is also the same as above list if we group contempt/shame/guilt together as one social emotion category.

That finally brings me to my list and ordering and how the emotions are opposed to each other on some aspect or the other, here I would like to utilize some terminology from astrology where not only opposed (180 degrees) are bad or disharmonious but even squares (90 degrees ) are somewhat disharmonious.

with that lets take a look at Plutchiks wheel and order emotions as follows:
1. Fear
2. Joy/happiness
3. Anger
4. Sadness
5. Disgust
6. Surprise
7. Contempt
8. Interest (anticipation)

One would note that on Plutchik’s wheel Fear is opposed to Anger; Happiness to Sadness; Disgust to Trust (contempt in our scheme) and Surprise to Interest.

what I will argue is that while on one intuitive level Sadness is opposed to happiness and fear to anger on a deeper level the square relation between fear and happiness is more important and similarly between anger and sadness is more important; rather I would go ahead and claim that if I had to fit them on a wheel I would have fitted them as opposites instead of squares.

why the above claim; read this post for some background, but basically my claim is that these opposed pairs follow the opposed polarities of four tasks of existence, adaptation, replication and abstraction as outlined by Theodore Millon and also the eight basic adaptive problems faced by all animals. .

To elaborate, on their opposed natures, consider the first problem of arrival of a stimuli /something/some person; now this (con-specific/ other species animal) could be either predator or prey and thus arouse either feelings of Fear or Happiness depending on whether the arrival is viewed disfavorably or favroably- as foe or as food.

Consider second, the loss (departure) of a stimuli/ something/ some person. This can either arouse feelings of anger to restore the earlier status-qua or lead to feelings of sadness if nothing can be done and this is inevitable/ unavoidable.

Now consider a novel stimuli/person/thing introduced in the environment. This can either lead to disgust reaction if intuitively it is appraised that the stimuli in question is not good for self; or the stimuli/person/thing may arouse feelings of surprise if a positive outcome is anticipated nonetheless the stimuli being novel/ unexpected. when a new person mates another that person can be seen as a constant source of surprises.

Lastly consider a familiar or expected stimuli being present in the environment; this can either lead to contempt reaction as we all know that familiarity breeds contempt; or we could still remain engaged with that and still pay attention and be interested in that familiar stimuli/person/ thing.

This also squarely fits with my earlier basic emotions post based on work by Jaak Panksepp. There the basic emotions (in the particular order that I imposed) were fear, seeking (or happiness) , anger, panic(distress) , lust (mapped to disgust they even rhyme:-) , care (mapped to Surprise) and play (mapped to contempt in new model) and lastly SELF mapped to Interest/anticipation.

Of course one can also readily see that happiness and sadness are opposed; but that misses the finer opposition and continuum on a single dimension of fear-happiness (anxiety-calmness scale) ; anger-sadness (mania-depression scale); disgust-surprise and contempt-interest (psychosis-autism scale).

To me the basic emotions and there ordering seems just perfect- and these are same set of emotions that I have also mapped to personality as enduring traits.something seems to be falling in place and I am most reasonably elated.

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emotion and personality: take 5

Scared child
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I started the emotion and personality series with a focus on the eight stage model and how that informs us about both personality and emotions. I ended up changing tracks and pursuing Millon’s evolutionary stages and polarities and extending it to the ABCD of four broad psychological domains. Avid readers will notice that both my eight stage model and the Millon’s stages/polarities are based on evolutionary considerations and thus there should be neat synthesis involving the two. this post is an attempt to do so under the framework of the four basic domains of psychology : the ABCD model of psychology.

To recap: all psychology basically can be broken into study of :

  1. Affects or emotions
  2. Behaviors or  social factors
  3. Dynamics or drives and motivations and
  4. Cognition or learning, memory etc.

There have been paradigms in psychology like affective psychology, behaviorism, psychodynamcis and cognitive psychology that have focused on one domain more than the other. One can even extrapolate the diffrent approaches and discplines that are releavnt to each domain as below:

  1. Affect/emotions: Evolutionary explanations as most emotions are evolved mechanisms. Biological context is relevant. Genes drive this.
  2. Behaviors/social functioning: Social/situational explanations dependent on interactions with other people/cultural effects. Cultural context is more relevant. Environment drives this.
  3. Dynamics/ drives/motivations: Developmental explanations of how life course and needs/drives interact. Ecological context is instrumental. Environment chooses genes here and only certain phenotypes expressed.
  4. Cognition: economic/information-processing explanations that explain decisions, perceptions etc. Constructed and created context is important here. Niches are build and genes choose environment.

The Affect and Dynamics can be clubbed together as Evo-devo explanations and refer to subjective phenomenon;  while the Behavior and Cognition can be clubbed together as Socio-Economic explanations and refer to objective observable phenomenons. But anyway this is digressing a bit from the main topic.

Getting back to topic at hand, the four domains correspond to the four evolutionary stages of millon and each stage has two polarities and thus map to eight stage model as follows:

  1. Affect maps to problem of Existence and the polarity of pain and  pleasure mapped respectively to say the  ‘FEAR’ and ‘SEEKING’ system of Pankseep. These (the panksepp emotions systems)  I have previously shown how they are mapped to the eights stage model.
  2. Behavior maps to the problem of Adaptation and the polarity of Active and Passive mapped respectively to the ‘RAGE’ and ‘PANIC’ systems of panksepp.
  3. Dynamics/Drive maps to the problem of Replication and the Polarities of Self and Other mapped respectively to ‘LUST’ and ‘CARE’ of Panksepp.
  4. Cognition maps to the problem of abstraction and the polarities of Broad/creative versus narrow/rigid and maps respectively to ‘PLAY’ and ‘SELF’ systems of Panksepp.

Seen form this angle, the eight stages are just the eight polarities manifesting one after the other in the developmental course.

Extending Millon’s evolutionary considerations,it behooves to remember that another way to look at his problems is to view the change sin phylogeny, ontogeny , function (ultimate) and causation (proximate) of any trait.

Phylogeny is dependent on historical environment and leads to the trait having its ultimate thematic value. This I argue is the problem of existence (of trait/individual) and manifests as the domain of Affect.

But a trait with a fixed value would be of no use. Around the ultimate thematic value there will be ultimate variation that charts the possible functional map of what that feature is supposed to do. The abstracted ancestral environment (EEA) is teh context in which function evolves. This is the problem of abstraction and manifests as domain of cognition,.

Apart form the ultimate thematic value, one needs to tune that value to the immediate ecological and developmental context.  Ontogeny is dependent on such an ecological context and is a proximate thematic mechanism that leads to a particular stable thematic value of a trait. This is also the problem of Replication (r-K)  and manifest as Dynamics.

However, even a fixed proximate thematic value of trait will be useless as situations keep changing. Causation is responding to immediate environment in appropriate and adaptive manner. This is the problem of adaptation and manifests as domain of behavior.

I can relate the above to Aristotle’s four causes, but will leave that for another day; time now to wrap up the personality part. Emotions we have seen can be easily subsumed under the ABCD domains of psychology. As Pankspess model has been related to cloninger personality traits, I’ll leave the case rested that personality can also be adequately explained using the ABCD construct.

Before signing off, I’ll hastily note that to me, these ABCD domains map to underlying neurotransmitter systems:

Affect (pain/pleasure/’FEAR’/’SEEKING”) is associated with Noradrenaline system (NE). the role of ?NE in FEAR is clear, but for SEEKING DA also seems to play a role.

Behavior(active/passive/’RAGE’/’PANIC’)  is associated with Serotonin system (SE). The relationship of Serotonin with aggression and separation distress as well as behavioral manifestations like eating/sleeping cycle are well known. Known abnormalities in SE also cause OCD/Panic attack etc. Known abnormalities lead to fatigue, lethargy etc.

Dynamics (self/other/LUST/CARE)  is associated with Dopamine (DA). Known abnormalities in DA cause motivational obscurity like paranoia/psychosis.

Cognition (creative/rigid/’PLAY'”/SELF) is asscoited with Acetylcholine (ACh) and known abnormalities in ACh here lead to Alzheimer etc.

That shall be all for now.

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Personality and emotion: take 4

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I’ve written about the relation between personality and emotion from my perspective, but was gladdened when I found Scherer has written on the matter in a very eloquent and apt manner. To quote from him and Revelle:

Personality is the coherent patterning of affect, behavior, cognition, and desires (goals) over time and space. Just as a full blown emotion represents an integration of feeling, action, appraisal and wants at a particular time and location so does personality represent integration over time and space of these components (Ortony et al., 2005). A helpful analogy is to consider that personality is to emotion as climate is to weather. That is, what one expects is personality, what one observes at any particular moment is emotion.

It is important to note that personality/emotion definition has been expanded to include cognition as well as affect; behavior as well as motivation (desires). Traditionally emotions are seen as affective (feeling) in nature but we know that emotional states have different cognitive underpinnings and can affect cognition in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Similarly though emotions may be more closely related to motivational issues (desires etc) they are also manifested in overt behavioral tendencies. some are energizing while others are calming/soothing.

In one of the last emotion/personality post , I referred to the dimensional emotional model of PAD (Pleasure-Arousal-dominance) as proposed by Meherbain. It is apt to note here that pleasure (pleasantness/unpleasantness) dimension is very much related to affect i.e. subjective feeling or how the emotion is subjectively felt. Also Arousal (Ready/Relaxed) is construct very much related to behavior or action tendencies. Some emotions lead to more vigorous, ready and active engagement with the environment as compared to others wherein one may be relaxed. Similarly Dominance (control/lack of control) is a motivational emotional dimension reflecting whether one wants to control and be in control or be dominated/ lose control in a particular situation.

That leaves us with cognition/appraisals dimension of emotions, but before we get onto that let us revisit the four evolutionary stages of Millon and how opposites on each stage lead to personality variations and disorders. The parallel with emotions will be self-evident.

The first stage is that of Existence and the polarity is of pain/pleasure: again an affective dimension/stage. Stability or life-preservation is coded by predominant disposition towards avoiding feelings of pain- a pain sensitive phenotype; Enhancing or life-enhancement is coded by predominant disposition towards felling pleasure a pleasure sensitive phenotype.

The second stage is that of Adaptation and the polarity is of active-passive: again a behaviorally defined dimension/stage. Modifying the environment to suit ones need is an active strategy, while passively accommodating to environmental niches is the passive strategy. both are defined behaviorally and the actual actions/behavioral tendencies define the personality type.

The third stage of Millon is that of Replication and the polarities are that of Self and Other: this is particularly a motivational dimension…whether one is motivated by selfishness and focus on oneself or by concern for others and selflessness too. There is polarity and tension between self-actualization tendencies and wants and other-nurturing motivational disposition. If focus is on self one would tend to dominate others, if focus is on others one would be willing to become vulnerable and submissive.

The fourth stage of Millon, that he does not relate to personality, but which I find integral to my theory is that of Abstraction and the polarity of information gathering versus information selection/transformation. I call the polarity Broad Versus Narrow and it is reflected in whether one is creative or is rigid and inflexible in thinking, , but the important point to note is that a cognitive dimension has been added to personality at the fourth stage.

Which brings us back to the (missing) cognitive dimension of emotions. I would have gladly taken the credit of discovering/proposing such a cognitive dimension, but it seems I was beaten to the game by Fontaine et al who made the bold statement :“The World of Emotions Is Not Two-Dimensional”.

As per Fonatine/ scherer et al’s analysis, using 144 features (like (a) appraisals of events, (b) psychophysiological changes, (c) motor expressions, (d) action tendencies, (e) subjective experiences, and (f) emotion regulation.) characterizing the 24 prototypical emotion terms, they found that emotions must be specified by at least four dimensions:these dimensions were evaluation-pleasantness, potency-control, activation-arousal, and unpredictability.

Note that the first three dimensions are similar to PAD while the fourth dimension is cognitive(appraisal) in nature- predictability vs unpredictability or certainty vs uncertainty in the appraisal of the situation. this ca be reasonably related to Broad Vs Narrow last stage of Abstraction i.e. whether one is cognitively open to new situations or appraisals or closed to them.

So the relationship between emotions and personality is more or less clear to my naive mind as of now. Of course I’m leaving some parts for the next post that will extend this and correlate with the eight stage process.

For now I’ll like to end with the excellent Scherer et al article quote:

In that personality represents the integration over time of feelings, actions, thoughts and desires, theoretical developments in personality benefit from a greater understanding of emotional processes. At the same time, research in emotion can take advantage of individual differences in sensitivities to situational cues and predispositions to emotional states. The questions of why some people become angry, while others become frightened or depressed in response to threats, and why some become elated while others seem unaffected when given rewards will be better understood by jointly studying the problem of long term coherence (personality) with short term fluctuations in affect, behavior, cognition and desire (emotion).

Fontaine, J., Scherer, K., Roesch, E., & Ellsworth, P. (2007). The World of Emotions is not Two-Dimensional Psychological Science, 18 (12), 1050-1057 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.02024.x

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Emotions and personailty : take 3

Human race suffers from "narcissistic Per...
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I have written two previous posts regarding the relationship between emotions and personality. This is the third part focusing on the relationship between emotions and personality. Regular readers will note my evolutionary leanings and this post too is inspired in part from evolutionary ideas.

First let us review the ideas of Millon as regards to the evolutionary factors that shape personality and personality disorders.

Four domains or spheres in which evolutionary principles are demonstrated have been labeled by Millon as Existence, Adaptation, Replication, and Abstraction. The first relates the serendipitous transformation of random or less organized states into those possessing distinct structures of greater organization; the second refers to homeostatic processes employed to sustain survival in open ecosystems; the third pertains to reproductive styles that maximize the diversification and selection of ecologically effective attributes; and the fourth concerns the emergence of competencies that foster anticipatory planning and reasoned decision-making. Polarities from the first three phases have been used by Millon to construct a theoretically-derived classification system of personality disorders.

Let us simplify the above a bit:
Existence is simply the survival of an individual organism and all the factors that come to play there. For evolution to work, there has to be stable organisms. Ultimately genes are selected, but proximally individuals , which are the vehicles of genes, are selected. The first important function that an organism faces is to maintain and enhance the integrity of its body.
Adaptation is the next problem the creature faces once it has a stable constitution- how its define its relationship with the environment. One can take a passive approach and be dependent on a particular given environment niche; or one can take an active role and mold the environment as per ones needs. In any case an adaptation to ones environment (give/ chosen.actively constructed) is essential for ensuring that one lives a long life, especially a life long enough to reach the reproductive stage. Plants and animals are two prototypical examples of two diametrically opposed adaptation strategy- passive vs active.
Replication is the next task the organism faces. Its not enough just to live- one needs to pass on ones copies – in either original or modified forms- for posterity. The capacity for replication is an important aspect of the evolutionary theory and how evolution works over an extended time. thus the organism needs to reproduce- either clones or children of oneself that can live post the death of the organism and thus enable his genes to live on. One can choose to be self propagating or other -nurturing while ensuring reproductive success. Males and female genders are prototypical examples here.
Abstraction is the next challenge- this time in use of symbolic representation, their manipulations, transmissions etc to achieve lasting effects on potentially unborn and unrelated kins via generativity and memetic transmissions. This is how I see it , not as Millon see its, but this domain is not relevant for either personality or emotions for now.

Lets us see how Millon delineates the polarities inherent in these domain as a human goes about his business of life.

Existence: The Pleasure-Pain Polarity.
The first phase, existence, concerns the maintenance of integrative phenomena, whether nuclear particle, virus, or human being, against the background of entropic decompensation. Evolutionary mechanisms derived from this stage regard life-enhancement and life-preservation. The former are concerned with orienting individuals toward enhancing survival and improvement in the quality of life; the latter with orienting individuals away from actions or environments that decrease the quality of life, or jeopardize existence itself. These may be called existential aims. At the human level of functioning such aims form, phenomenologically or metaphorically , a pleasure-pain polarity.

Adaptation: The Active-Passive Polarity
To exist is but an initial survival phase. Once an integrative structure exists, it must maintain its existence through exchanges of energy and information with its environment. The second evolutionary stage relates to what is termed Modes of Adaptation; it is also framed as a two-part polarity, a passive orientation, that is a tendency to accommodate to one’s ecological niche, versus an active orientation, that is a tendency to modify or intervene in one’s surrounds. These modes of adaptation differ from the first phase of evolution, in that they relate to how that which exists is able to endure or continue to survive in its environment.

Replication: The Self-Other Polarity.
Although organisms may be well-adapted to their environments, the existence of all life-forms is time-limited. To circumvent this limitation, organisms have developed Replication Strategies, that is, ways in which to leave progeny. These strategies reflect what biologists have referred to as r- or self-propagating strategy, at one polar extreme, and K- or other-nurturing strategy, at the other extreme. Psychologically, the former strategy is disposed toward actions which maximize self-reproduction;; here, organisms are egotistic, insensitive, inconsiderate, and socially uncaring; while the latter strategy is disposed toward protecting and sustaining kin or progeny; this leads to actions which are socially affiliative, intimate, caring, and solicitous.

As per Millon an unbalanced leaning towards one or more polarities or a reversal of polarities leads to unhealthy personality styles and personality disorders. How-ever, I’ll lave the discussion of personality disorders for another day.

For now, I’ll like to focus on emotions instead and a popular dimensional theory of emotion developed by Mehrabian amongst others. this the PAD theory that posits that there are three underlying dimensions that characterize all emotions- a Pleasure dimension, an Arousal dimension and a dominance dimension.

As emotions have evolved to solve the same kind of evolutionary problems as personality – though emotions solve the problem in a ‘state’ manner in the ‘here and now’ – it would be self-evident that emotions should also be related to the three domains as outlined above by Millon.

The correspondence can be easily seen. The Pleasure dimension of emotions documents whether the affective valence- whether the affect is subjectively felt as positive and pleasurable or negative and distressing. One can easily see how this is related to the pleasure-pain polarity of Millon.
The Arousal dimension of emotions describes whether the emotion involves feelings of being energetic and ready to act ; or are associated with feelings of relaxation and lessened arousal and passivity. This can be easily seen to correspond to the active-passive polarity of Millon.
The Dominance dimension of emotions describes whether one feels in control and in power over the situation or one feels overwhelmed and subjugated by it. It is related to the powerfulness or dominance felt by the person experiencing the emotion. One can reasonably associate this with the replication self-propagating and other-nurturing polarity. Some states and traits make us more self -focused while others make us more caring towards others.

Now the above PAD model has been found to be valid using factor analytical solutions. In an analysis of positive emotions by M Argyle et al, they found that the structure of positive emotions was best explained by a four dimensional structure.

The grouping data obtained in part 1 were submitted to multidimensional scaling (MDS) and returned a four-dimensional solution. Canonical correlations between the four MDS dimensions and the 13 emotion scales revealed that dimension 1 is best explained by ‘absorption’, dimension 2 by ‘potency’, dimension 3 by ‘altruistic’ and dimension 4 by ‘spiritual’. These correlations were then married to an interpretation of the situations falling high and low on each of the four dimensions, with the following results. Dimension 1 distinguishes internal or private situations from social situations, dimension 2, achievement from leisure situations, dimension 3, social demands from self-indulgence, and dimension 4, serious from trivial situations.

One can easily see that dimension 2 is related to arousal and active-emissivity polarity while dimension 3 is related to the self-propagating/ other-nurturing polarity. Dimension 1 may just be the dimension for valence while dimension 4 may be related to abstraction. In my subsequent posts , I’ll touch upon why I think abstraction domain may also be relevant to emotions and personality.

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Emotions and personality : take 2

Le Penseur, Musée Rodin, Paris
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In my last post, I laid forth my claim that personality and emotions are interrelated; in this post I want to review the affective literature to come up with the different types of affective phenomenon ranging from emotions to moods to personality traits and see what is common and where they differ

In particular, I read this article titled ‘Psychological theories of emotion’ by Scherer; and apart from providing a broad overview of the dimensional, discrete emotions, meaning based and component theories of emotions, it also does a very good job of defining emotions and differentiating them from other affective phenomenon.

Without further ado, here is how the five major affective phenomenon are described:

  1. Emotions: relatively brief episodes of synchronized responses by all or most organismic subsystems to the evaluation of an external or internal event, as being of major significance (eg anger, sadness, joy fear , shame etc)
  2. Mood: diffuse affect state, mots pronounced as changes in subjective feeling , of low intensity, but relatively longer duration, often without apparent cause (eg cheerful, gloomy, irritable, listless , depressed, buoyant)
  3. Interpersonal stances: Affective stance taken towards another person in a specific interaction, coloring the interpersonal exchange in that situation. (eg. distant, cold, warm supportive , contemptuous)
  4. Attitudes: relatively enduring, affectively colored beliefs, preferences and  predispositions towards objects or persons (eg liking, loving, hating, valuing,  desiring)
  5. Personality Traits: emotionally laden , stable personality dispositions and action tendencies, typical for a person (eg. nervous,  anxious, reckless, morose, hostile, envious, jealous)

Note how the above classification also fits the 5 stage model: emotions representing stage 1 , mood stage 2 with stress on subjectivity, Interpersonal stances stress the interpersonal angle in stage 3; while attitudes have more to do with affective and social phenomenon per se in stage 4. ; finally Personality traits is something characteristic of , and defining of, self and properly belongs to stage 5.

Anyway, all said and done, the above classification provides reason not only to differentiate emotions and personality, but by subsuming them under one rubric of affective phenomenon ,also highlighting the similarities and universal features.

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Emotions and personality

Eight ball...
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In response to my last post on the eight factor model fitting Jaak Pankspep’s basic emotions model,@vasusrini asked in a tweet my opinions on relationships between the emotions and relationship of emotions to personality.

Image of Vasu from Twitter
Image of Vasu

@sandygautam I love the 8-emotion classification. I am wondering if there are relationship models, a)bet. emotions b) with Personality typesless than a minute ago via web


This post is the response to the second query. Even prior to this I had had a conversation with @brembs on friendfeed regarding whether flies have emotions and in the case of a inconclusive answer the second follow-up question as to whether they have a personality.

Discerning readers will immediately note that I foresee a plausible and meaningful connection between emotions and personality. Basically in a nutshell, I believe all state variables have a affective component and can be labeled as emotions; while all trait components have a enduring and temperamental component and can be labeled as the personality. Given this fact and given my emphasis on the evolutionarily driven eight basic adaptive problems as determining both the states and traits of an organism as it goes about the business of life, the short answer is that I definitely see a relationship and correspondence between 8 basic emotions and 8 factors/traits of personality.

The long answer is that the best correspondence I have found, with respect to eight factor models, to date for emotions is Jaak Panksepps eight basic emotions and the best correspondence I have found for personality is Robert Cloningers seven factored temperament and character traits of personality. Of course I have also elaborated the five factor model of personality to an eight factor model and will like to draw attention to that as well.

Before I proceed I would like to claim that Cloninger has missed one temperament trait and has confounded anger and seeking systems and traits under one rubric of novelty seeking. thus , I propose and predict that factor studies and more robust empirical work should in the end split Novelty seeking factor of Cloninger in two- thus leading to 5 temperament traits and 3 character traits.

Now lets do a rundown of the eights stages and adaptive problems and ‘state’ emotions useful for that situation and enduring personality ‘traits’ where individuals can differ in their habitual responses tendencies to the same give problem of adaptation .

  1. Physical/survival stage. task: Avoiding predators/Foe. emotions useful: FEAR/Anxiety; personality trait : neuroticism (big 8) / Harm Avoidance )(cloninger).
  2. Impulsive/willfulness stage. task: finding food/exploration.  emotions useful: SEEKING; personality trait: conscentiousness (big 8)/ Novelty Seeking -I (relating to impulsiveness) (cloninger)
  3. interpersonal/dominance-hierarchy stage. task: forming friends/alliances. emotions useful: aggression/RAGE. personality trait: extraversion (big 8) / Novelty Seeking II (relating to anger) (cloninger)
  4. social/emotional stage: task:   providing help to kids/children. emotion useful :PANIC/ separation distress (to bond mother-child). personality trait :  agreeableness (big 5) / Reward-dependence (cloninger)
  5. cognitive /self-formation stage: task: helping kins or like minded folks. emotion useful: LUST/sexuality (of adolescence just like self-formation in adolescence). Personality trait: Conformity/rebellion(big 8)/ Persistence (perfectionists) (cloninger)
  6. Intimacy stage: task: reading others minds/ selecting a mate. emotions useful: CARE/love. personality trait: Trust/suspiciousness (big 8) /Cooperativeness (cloninger)
  7. Generativity stage. task: communicating with others/seducing a mate. emotions useful: PLAY/joy. personality trait: Activity (big 8)/ Self-Directedness (cloninger)
  8. integrity stage: task: Securing mate/ coming to terms with death. emotions useful: SELF. Personality trait : masculine-feminine (big 8)/ Self-Transcendence (cloninger)

In all of the above , the emotions capitalized are with respect to Jaak Panksepp’s model. So that is the long answer. what do you think of this? Do read the earlier mouse trap pots too for context and let me know whether the 8 factor model excites you as much as it does me or @vasusrini?

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