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Feelings and EmotionsReview - Feelings and Emotions
The Amsterdam Symposium
by Antony S.R. Manstead, Nico H. Frijda and Agneta Fischer (Editors)
Cambridge University Press, 2004
Review by Sam Brown, M.A., M.Phil.
Dec 15th 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 51)

Feelings and Emotions offers a pleasing snapshot of current scientific thinking and research on emotions. It accurately depicts the contemporary status of feelings in psychological research by largely downplaying them. Feelings, to most theorists, are the "tip of the iceberg" (e.g. Scherer, p.139): a minor facet, passive component or even a distraction in emotion theory. There are indications, however, that the study of feelings may soon make a resurgence from an unlikely quarter: neuroscience. There are also hints that previously fundamentalist positions on the notorious cognition-emotion debate are converging at last. These are the subtle trends, more implied than declared, that help to distinguish Feelings and Emotions from similar anthologies.

For many people, feelings are the sine qua non of emotions. Yet in the emotion renaissance of the last thirty years or so, feelings have largely escaped attention, apart from a few scoffs about their confounding subjectivity, or occasional laments about their perpetual neglect.

This book scarcely redresses the balance. One gets the distinct feeling that feelings are still being left out. To illustrate, the description of the book's contents on the cover mentions emotions six times but says nothing about feelings. In the closing summary, discussion of emotions dominates discussion of feelings by a ratio of about 10:1, and the editors confess that "most of the work relevant to this issue was not featured in our symposium". So why mention feelings in the title, then?

The editors proudly align this book with a tradition of previous publications of the same name--dating from 1928, 1950 and 1970. In 1928, emotion research was just beginning to emerge from its prescientific era and feelings had much more theoretical currency. Since then, under increasing demands for scientific respectability, greater emphasis was placed on objective measures at the expense of subjective states. This book is partly a product of that objectivist legacy.

The majority of the contributors are well known figures in emotion theory, and here they are mostly peddling their customary fare with only token deference to the first word in the title. Most of the contributions ignore or sideline phenomenological issues, reflecting the traditional preoccupation with observable events or cognitive states. Appraisals, action tendencies, facial expressions, cultural norms and biological roles dominate the discussions.

So where have all the feelings gone? Are they too subjective for sober scientific study? Not any more, it seems. The phenomenological nettle has been grasped with considerable zeal by neuroscientists. Joel Winston & Raymond Dolan report on functional imaging studies of the brain showing which neural areas are responsible for the perception of autonomic activity and its conscious representation. You can now see feelings on a monitor, it seems. After all, what more can there be to feelings than feeling what is happening in the body?

The neurologist Antonio Damasio, author of The Feeling of What Happens, offers a sophisticated and ecumenical answer. Addressing the distinction between feelings and emotions most clearly and directly, he accepts a potential role for appraisals and thoughts in coloring the feeling experience. Critics who attack him for holding a simplistic Jamesian conception would do well to take note.

Importantly, Damasio departs from some other neuroscientists by prioritizing the functional role of feelings in cognition. Providing a rich classification scheme for different varieties of feelings and emotions, he argues that feelings offer us valuable input to the reasoning process, allowing us to draw on our well-honed evolutionary instincts to guide our decisions and actions.

Jaak Panksepp also recognizes the importance of feelings, and discusses how self-report and arousal relate to his work on the brain substrates of affect modules.

Thankfully, there is little evidence of the customary bickering about the essence of emotion. Disparities remain, though, particularly on the notorious Zajonc-Lazarus debate about the autonomy of affect and cognition. Zajonc offers further empirical data in favor of a functional separation, and in the same vein Öhman & Wiens marshal an array of studies to challenge standard appraisal theories. Scherer, however, champions appraisal theory as the only robust and comprehensive theory in town. This dissonance is a symptom of the continuing polarity in emotion studies, but thankfully these disputes have lost their bitter edge and the critical tone is more sympathetic.

In a summary of his position in Not Passion's Slaves, Solomon sounds a cautionary note that we have more control over our emotions than some biologists might lead us to believe. We cannot disclaim responsibility for our own emotions. We are, to a degree at least, responsible for understanding and changing our dispositions and for choosing which emotive situations to promote or avoid. This echo of Aristotelian wisdom is a retreat from his previous radical existentialism, but still serves as a useful antidote to the lack of agency in deterministic science.

Richard Schweder draws on cross-cultural studies to argue that emotions are complex and arbitrary concepts, and cannot be treated as cultural universals. He suggests feelings and the other components should be regarded as fundamentals for the purposes of research.

Berridge addresses the difference between pleasure and wanting and examines the function of the nucleus accumbens, the well-known dopaminergic "pleasure center".

Other notable offerings from Frijda, Ekman and others make this book worth more than a casual browse. Some of the debates require a previous acquaintance with the material, and might be quite challenging for a general readership.

The latter portion of the book contains a spread of more specialized papers, dealing with positive affect, culture, animal empathy and social transactions. There are advantages to an interdisciplinary mix, but this assemblage of disparate interests somewhat disrupts the thematic focus of the book.

Professionals and graduates should be pleased with the contents of this resource, though it can be a little disorienting to read sequentially.

Contents

1:  Introduction. Antony S. R. Manstead, Nico H. Frijda and Agneta H. Fischer. (pp.1-4).

 

PART I. THE NATURE OF FEELINGS AND EMOTION

2:  On the Passivity of the Passions. Robert C. Solomon. (pp.11-29).

3:  Emotions and Rationality. Jon Elster. (pp.30-48).

4:  Emotions and Feelings: A Neurobiological Perspective. Antonio R. Damasio. (pp.49-57).

5:  The Concept of an Evolved Fear Module and Cognitive Theories of Anxiety. Arne Ohman and Stefan Wiens. (pp.58-80).

6:  Deconstructing the Emotions for the Sake of Comparative Research. Richard A. Shweder. (pp.81-97).

7:  From the Emotions of Conversation to the Passions of Fiction. Keith Oatley. (pp.98-115).

 

PART II. BASIC PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS

8:  What We Become Emotional About. Paul Ekman. (pp.119-135).

9:  Feelings Integrate the Central Representation of Appraisal-driven Response Organization in Emotion. Klaus R. Scherer. (pp.136-157).

10:  Emotions and Action. Nico H. Frijda. (pp.158-173).

11:  Basic Affects and the Instinctual Emotional Sustems of the Brain: The Primordial Sources of Sadness, Joy, and Seeking. Jaak Panksepp. (pp.174-193).

12:  Exposure Effects: An Unmediated Phenomenon. Robert B. Zajonc. (pp.194-203).

13:  Feeling States in Emotion: Functional Imaging Evidence. Joel S. Winston and Raymond J. Dolan. (pp.204-220).

 

PART III. FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS: THE PLACE OF PLEASURE

14:  The Affect System: What Lurks below the Surface of Feelings? John T. Cacioppo, Jeff T. Larsen, N. Kyle Smith and Gary G. Bernston. (pp.223-242).

15:  Pleasure, Unfelt Affect, and Irrational Desire. Kent C. Berridge. (pp.243-262).

16:  Some Perspectives on Positive Feelings and Emotions: Positive Affect Facilitates Thinking and Problem Solving. Alice M. Isen. (pp.263-281).

17:  Pleasure, Utility, and Choice. Barbara A. Mellers. (pp.282-300).

 

PART IV. FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS IN THE SOCIOCULTURAL CONTEXT

18:  The Development of Individual Differences in Understanding Emotion and Mind: Antecedents and Sequelae. Judy Dunn. (pp.303-320).

19:  Emotional Intelligence: What Do We Know? Peter Salovey, Marja Kokkonen, Paulo N. Lopes and John D. Mayer. (pp.321-340).

20:  Culture and Emotion: Models of Agency as Sources of Cultural Variation in Emotion. Batja Mesquita and Hazel Rose Markus. (pp.341-358).

21:  Emotion norms, Emotion Work, and Social Order. Peggy A. Thoits. (pp.359-378).

 

PART V. FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, AND MORALITY

22:  On the Possibility of Animal Empathy. Frans B. M. de Waal. (pp.381-401).

23:  Emotional Gifts and "You First" Micropolitics: Niceness in the Socioemotional Economy. Candice Clark. (pp.402-421).

24:  Introducing Moral Emotions into Models of Rational Choice. Robert H. Frank. (pp.422-440).

25:  Virtue and Emotional Demeanor. Nancy Sherman. (pp.441-454).

26:  Epilogue: Feelings and Emotions – Where Do We Stand? Nico H. Frijda, Antony S. R. Manstead and Agneta H. Fischer. (pp.455-467).

 

© 2004 Sam Brown

 

Sam Brown is currently completing a PhD on the cognitive science of emotion. He has an MA in Philosophy and an MPhil in Cognitive Science.


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Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7900 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

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Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716