Monday, January 10, 2011

Defining Emotion by Looking for Commonality

The selected readings represent the challenges, but also possible directions for determining a universal validity in emotion research.  Each of these papers presents emotion as a difficult concept to nail down.  Emotion, in and of itself, is complicated by the highly regulatory and compensatory nature of the human brain.  Not only do we have automatic responses (reflexes and impulses) to strange stimuli, but we also have cognitive responses to how we should feel about those feelings.  Nielsen and Kaszniak demonstrate that each stage of emotional response is judged and in turn those judgments are reflected upon and perhaps judged again, according to an individual’s past development or emotional awareness (as mention in #1 of the notes section).

This can be an alternate to the current definition of natural kinds.  We can look at the primitives of emotion without the over-layering of cognitive response.  In some ways, valence and arousal act in this manner to describe emotions along axes of intensity. 

In the Robinson and Clore paper, we can see that the extent to which a feeing, memory, or belief affects our self-report of emotion and alters an initial automatic response must be taken into account when comparing pre and post reports of an emotional experience. Due to the fact that we cannot literally “relive” an experience, self-report must deal with “accessibility principles.” Robinson and Clore present four types of knowledge that are accessed when individuals self-report.  Stereotypes imposed by culture as well as those developed by a person over the course of their lifetime represent a strong molding force in the report of emotion.  This represents a semantic driving force, as opposed to episodic influences.  The episodic influences have to deal with the tendency of the vividness of a memory to fade over time (evanescence) so experiential knowledge is not always accessible, leading to reliance on semantic beliefs (situation-based or identity-based).

Later on in the paper in the Literature Review, a paper related to my interests was introduced.  I find the results related to “online” versus noncurrent measurement of emotion as experienced by different genders to be non-intuitive.

In Moore, Romney, Hsia, and Rusch, we see that some terms that were researched more closely correlated across languages, such as happiness and sadness.  However, envy and shame represented different dynamics.  This could be because of the dependence of envy and shame on past acculturation, pointing to the “incommensurability among the languages”, but only, I would argue due to differences in the cultures that arises for non-natural kinds of emotions. 

So my main question from these readings is then:
If we were to train someone to not let past conditioning color their current experience, to fully feel in the moment, would they ever feel envy or shame? Anger?

--Christine Rosakranse

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