Trends and developments: research on emotions Courants et tendances: recherche sur les émotions - PDF

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Trends and developments: research on emotions Courants et tendances: recherche sur les émotions Klaus R. Scherer What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Abstract. Defining emotion is a notorious

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Trends and developments: research on emotions Courants et tendances: recherche sur les émotions Klaus R. Scherer What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Abstract. Defining emotion is a notorious problem. Without consensual conceptualization and operationalization of exactly what phenomenon is to be studied, progress in theory and research is difficult to achieve and fruitless debates are likely to proliferate. A particularly unfortunate example is William James s asking the question What is an emotion? when he really meant feeling, a misnomer that started a debate which is still ongoing, more than a century later. This contribution attempts to sensitize researchers in the social and behavioral sciences to the importance of definitional issues and their consequences for distinguishing related but fundamentally different affective processes, states, and traits. Links between scientific and folk concepts of emotion are explored and ways to measure emotion and its components are discussed. Key words. Affective processes Emotion Feeling Folk concepts of emotion Measurement of emotion Scientific concepts of emotion Résumé. Définir les emotions est un problème bien connu. Sans consensus quant à la conceptualisation et l opérationnalisation du phénomène exact que l on étudie, tout The elaboration of the design feature definition of different affective phenomena has been conducted as part of the HUMAINE Network of Excellence (6th European Framework). The development of the Geneva Emotion Wheel was supported by a grant from the Daimler- Benz Foundation. The development of the Geneva Affect Label Coder was supported by the University of Geneva. The work of the Geneva Emotion Research Group is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The writing of this article has been supported by the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences. The author acknowledges important contributions to the development of the instruments by Tanja Baenziger, Etienne Roesch, Ursula Scherer, and Véronique Tran. Social Science Information & 2005 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi), DOI: / Vol 44(4), pp ; 696 Social Science Information Vol 44 no 4 progrès en termes de théorie et de recherche se révèle difficile et il est vraisemblable que l on assiste à des débats infructueux. Un exemple particulièrement malheureux en est la question posée par William James Qu est-ce qu une émotion alors qu en réalité il s interrogeait sur ce qu était un sentiment, malheureuse dénomination qui lança un débat qui plus d un siècle plus tard perdure encore. Cet article souhaite sensibiliser les chercheurs en sciences sociales et sciences du comportement à l importance des problèmes de définitions et à leurs conséquences pour opérer une distinction entre des processus, des états et des traits affectifs liés, mais fondamentalement différents. L article examine les relations entre les concepts scientifiques des émotions et les concepts populaires et discute les manières de mesurer les émotions et leurs composantes. Mots-clés. Concepts populaires des émotions Concepts scientifiques des émotions Emotion Mesure des émotions Processus affectifs Sentiment One of the major drawbacks of social science research is the need to resort to everyday language concepts in both theory and empirical investigation. The inherent fuzziness and the constant evolution of these language categories as well as inter-language, inter-cultural, and inter-individual differences make it difficult to define central working concepts in the universal, invariant, and consensual fashion generally required by a systematic scientific approach. Isolated attempts to artificially create more appropriate concepts that are unaffected by the multiple connotations of natural language terms (e.g. Cattell s attempt to create a new taxonomy of personality traits using synthetic labels; Cattell, 1990) seem doomed to failure, not only because of the difficulty of obtaining widespread consensus in the scientific community but also because of the need of much of social science to work with lay persons self-report, which makes it mandatory to employ lay or naive concepts. The concept of emotion presents a particularly thorny problem. Even though the term is used very frequently, to the point of being extremely fashionable these days, the question What is an emotion? rarely generates the same answer from different individuals, scientists or laymen alike. William James tried to give an authoritative answer in 1884, but only started a continuing debate which is currently finding renewed vigor (Niedenthal et al., 2005). The number of scientific definitions proposed has grown to the point where counting seems quite hopeless (Kleinginna and Kleinginna already reviewed more than one hundred in 1981). In frustration, Scherer Trends and developments: research on emotions 697 scientists have attempted to have recourse to the analysis of the everyday use of the folk concepts: emotions are what people say they are (e.g. Averill, 1980; Frijda et al., 1995). However, as the debate in this journal, following the report of the first quasirepresentative study of emotional experience (Scherer et al., 2004; Scherer, 2004a) has shown, scholars from different disciplines in the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences rarely agree on how to use this evidence. While this kind of conceptual and definitional discussion can have a stimulating effect in the short run, it can have stifling consequences for the advancement in the field and for collaborative research between different disciplines. At a time when it is increasingly recognized that affective and emotional phenomena need to be addressed in a genuinely interdisciplinary fashion (see the Handbook of the Affective Sciences; Davidson et al., 2003b), it becomes imperative to generate a minimal consensus about the defining features of the different types of affective phenomena. In this piece I do not systematically review these issues. Rather, I want to describe and defend a programmatic statement of a component process definition of emotion that I first proposed in 1982 in this journal (Scherer, 1982; see also Scherer, 1984a, 2001). Mention of componential theories of emotion is quite widespread today and the notion of emotions as component processes seems to gain increasing acceptance. Following a brief description of the component process definition, I examine what the defining characteristics of emotion are and how these differ from other affect states. In addition, I explore the problem of linking folk concepts of emotion to a scientific, component process conceptualization. Finally, I discuss how emotions can best be measured empirically and introduce two new instruments. A component process definition of emotion and feeling In the framework of the component process model, emotion is defined as an episode of interrelated, synchronized changes in the states of all or most of the five organismic subsystems in response to the evaluation of an external or internal stimulus event as relevant to major concerns of the organism (Scherer, 1987, 2001). The components of an emotion episode are the respective states of the five subsystems and the process consists of the coordinated changes 698 Social Science Information Vol 44 no 4 over time. Table 1 shows the relation between components and subsystems as well as presumed substrata and functions. Three of the components have long-standing status as modalities of emotion expression, bodily symptoms and arousal, and subjective experience. The elicitation of action tendencies and the preparation of action have also been implicitly associated with emotional arousal (e.g. fight flight tendencies) but it is only after explicit inclusion of these motivational consequences in componential theories (and Frijda s forceful claim for the emotion-differentiating function of action tendencies, see Frijda, 1986, 1987), that these important features of emotion episodes have acquired the status of a major component in their own right. The inclusion of a cognitive, information processing component, as I have suggested above, is less consensual. Many theorists still prefer to see emotion and cognition as two independent but interacting systems. However, one can argue that all subsystems underlying emotion components function independently much of the time and that the special nature of emotion as a hypothetical TABLE 1 Relationships between organismic subsystems and the functions and components of emotion Emotion function Evaluation of objects and events System regulation Preparation and direction of action Communication of reaction and behavioral intention Monitoring of internal state and organism environment interaction Organismic subsystem and major substrata Information processing (CNS) Support (CNS, NES, ANS) Executive (CNS) Action (SNS) Monitor (CNS) Emotion component Cognitive component (appraisal) Neurophysiological component (bodily symptoms) Motivational component (action tendencies) Motor expression component (facial and vocal expression) Subjective feeling component (emotional experience) Note: CNS ¼ central nervous system; NES ¼ neuro-endocrine system; ANS ¼ autonomic nervous system; SNS ¼ somatic nervous system. Scherer Trends and developments: research on emotions 699 construct consists of the coordination and synchronization of all of these systems during an emotion episode, driven by appraisal (Scherer, 2004b). How can emotions, as defined above, be distinguished from other affective phenomena such as feelings, moods, or attitudes? Let us take the term feeling first. As shown in Table 1, the component process model reserves the use of this term for the subjective emotional experience component of emotion, presumed to have an important monitoring and regulation function. In fact, it is suggested that feelings integrate the central representation of appraisal-driven response organization in emotion (Scherer, 2004b), thus reflecting the total pattern of cognitive appraisal as well as motivational and somatic response patterning that underlies the subjective experience of an emotional episode. Using the term feeling, a single component denoting the subjective experience process, as a synonym for emotion, the total multi-modal component process, produces serious confusions and hampers our understanding of the phenomenon. In fact, it can be argued that the long-standing debate generated by William James s peripheral theory of emotion is essentially due to James s failure to make this important distinction: when in 1884 he asked What is an emotion?, he really meant What is a feeling? (see Scherer, 2000a). Using a design feature approach to distinguish emotion from other affective phenomena Having clarified the distinction between emotion and feeling, it remains to differentiate emotion (with feeling as one of its components) from other types of affective phenomena. Instances or tokens of these types, which can vary in degree of affectivity, are often called emotions in the literature (or at least implicitly assimilated with the concept). Examples are liking, loving, cheerful, contemptuous, or anxious. I have suggested four such types of affective phenomena that should be distinguished from emotion proper, although there may be some overlap in the meaning of certain words: preferences, attitudes, affective dispositions, and interpersonal stances. How can we differentially define these phenomena in comparison to emotion? The difficulty of differentiating emotion from other types of affective phenomena is reminiscent of a similar problem in defining the 700 Social Science Information Vol 44 no 4 specificity of language in comparison with other types of communication systems, human or animal. The anthropological linguist Charles Hockett made a pioneering effort to define 13 elementary design features of communication systems, such as semanticity, arbitrariness, or discreteness, that can be used for the profiling of different types of communication, allowing him to specify the unique nature of language (Hockett, 1960; see summary in Hauser, 1996: 47 8). I suggest that we use some of the elements of the definition of emotion suggested above for such a distinction. These elements of features can be seen as equivalent to design features in Hockett s sense. These features will now be described in detail. Event focus The definition given above suggests that emotions are generally elicited by stimulus events. By this term I mean that something happens to the organism that stimulates or triggers a response after having been evaluated for its significance. Often such events will consist of natural phenomena like thunderstorms or the behavior of other people or animals that may have significance for our wellbeing. In other cases, one s own behavior can be the event that elicits emotion, as in the case of pride, guilt, or shame. In addition to such events that are more or less external to the organism, internal events are explicitly considered as emotion elicitors by the definition. These could consist of sudden neuroendocrine or physiological changes or, more typically, of memories or images that might come to our mind. These recalled or imagined representations of events can be sufficient to generate strong emotions (see also the debate between Goldie, 2004, Parkinson, 2004, and Scherer, 2004a, in this journal). The need for emotions to be somehow connected to or anchored in a specific event, external or internal, rather than being free-floating, resulting from a strategic or intentional decision, or existing as a permanent feature of an individual, constitutes the event focus design feature. Appraisal driven A central aspect of the component process definition of emotion is that the eliciting event and its consequences must be relevant to Scherer Trends and developments: research on emotions 701 major concerns of the organism. This seems rather obvious as we do not generally get emotional about things or people we do not care about. In this sense, emotions can be seen as relevance detectors (Frijda, 1986; Scherer, 1984a). Componential theories of emotion generally assume that the relevance of an event is determined by a rather complex yet very rapidly occurring evaluation process that can occur on several levels of processing ranging from automatic and implicit to conscious conceptual or propositional evaluations (Leventhal and Scherer, 1987; van Reekum and Scherer, 1997). The component process model postulates that different emotions are produced by a sequence of cumulative stimulus evaluation or appraisal checks with emotion-specific outcome profiles (Ellsworth and Scherer, 2003; Scherer, 1984a, 1993, 2001). For the purposes of design feature analysis I suggest distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic appraisal. Intrinsic appraisal evaluates the feature of an object or person independently of the current needs and goals of the appraiser, based on genetic (e.g. sweet taste) or learned (e.g. bittersweet food) preferences (see Scherer, 1987, 1988). Transactional appraisal (see Lazarus, 1968, 1991) evaluates events and their consequences with respect to their conduciveness for salient needs, desires, or goals of the appraiser. The design features event focus and appraisal basis are linked, highlighting the adaptational functions of the emotions, helping to prepare appropriate behavioral reactions to events with potentially important consequences. Response synchronization This design feature of the proposed emotion definition is also implied by the adaptational functions of emotion. If emotions prepare appropriate responses to events, the response patterns must correspond to the appraisal analysis of the presumed implications of the event. Given the importance of the eliciting event, which disrupts the flow of behavior, all or most of the subsystems of the organism must contribute to response preparation. The resulting massive mobilization of resources must be coordinated, a process which can be described as response synchronization (Scherer, 2000b, 2001). I believe that this is in fact one of the most important design features of emotion, one that in principle can be operationalized and measured empirically. 702 Social Science Information Vol 44 no 4 Rapidity of change Events, and particularly their appraisal, change rapidly, often because of new information or due to re-evaluations. As appraisal drives the patterning of the responses in the interest of adaptation, the emotional response patterning is also likely to change rapidly as a consequence. While we are in the habit of talking about emotional states these are rarely steady states. Rather, emotion processes are undergoing constant modification allowing rapid readjustment to changing circumstances or evaluations. Behavioral impact Emotions prepare adaptive action tendencies and their motivational underpinnings. In this sense they have a strong effect on emotionconsequent behavior, often interrupting ongoing behavior sequences and generating new goals and plans. In addition, the motor expression component of emotion has a strong impact on communication which may also have important consequences for social interaction. Intensity Given the importance of emotions for behavioral adaptation, one can assume the intensity of the response patterns and the corresponding emotional experience to be relatively high, suggesting that this may be an important design feature in distinguishing emotions from moods, for example. Duration Conversely, as emotions imply massive response mobilization and synchronization as part of specific action tendencies, their duration must be relatively short in order not to tax the resources of the organism and to allow behavioral flexibility. In contrast, lowintensity moods that have little impact on behavior can be maintained for much longer periods of time without showing adverse effects. Scherer Trends and developments: research on emotions 703 Following Hockett s example of characterizing different animal and human communication systems with the help of a set of design features, Table 2 shows an attempt to specify the profiles of different affective phenomena and the emotion design features described above (the table shows a revised version of the matrix first proposed in Scherer, 2000c). Based on these assumptions, one can attempt as follows to differentially define affective phenomena in distinguishing them from emotions. 1) Preferences. Relatively stable evaluative judgments in the sense of liking or disliking a stimulus, or preferring it or not over other objects or stimuli, should be referred to as preferences. By definition, stable preferences should generate intrinsic appraisal (intrinsic pleasantness check), independently of current needs or goals, although the latter might modulate the appraisal (Scherer, 1988). The affective states produced by encountering attractive or aversive stimuli (event focus) are stable and of relatively low intensity, and do not produce pronounced response synchronization. Preferences generate unspecific positive or negative feelings, with low behavioral impact except tendencies towards approach or avoidance. 2) Attitudes. Relatively enduring beliefs and predispositions towards specific objects or persons are generally called attitudes. Social psychologists have long identified three components of attitudes (see Breckler, 1984): a cognitive component (beliefs about the attitude object), an affective component (consisting mostly of differential valence), and a motivational or behavioral component (a stable action tendency with respect to the object, e.g. approach or avoidance). Attitude objects can be things, events, persons, and groups or categories of individuals. Attitudes do not need to be triggered by event appraisals although they may become more salient when en
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