Chapter 4: Feeling and Emotion
Floyd Henry Allport
The Nature of Emotion.
Let us imagine a man crossing a busy thoroughfare with the consciousness of moderate safety, when, from an unexpected quarter, an automobile horn sounds loudly at his elbow. He dodges in a reflex manner away from the source of danger, and makes for a place of safety. This is the outward, or somatic, portion of the response, belonging to the class of prepotent reflexes discussed in the preceding chapter, and brought about by the cerebrospinal nervous system. There is another component, however, a visceral, or internal, response produced by efferent impulses through the autonomic system to the smooth muscle of the internal organs. Referring to Figure 7 (p. 36), we may illustrate this component by connecting the afferent neuron from SR with the efferent VE. The visceral response includes changes in rate of the heartbeat, stopping of digestive activities, and liberation into the blood of energizing products of ductless glands. There may also be effects of the sympathetic nervous system on the outer surface of the body, such as pallor and erection of the hairs. The face likewise assumes an expression of alarm, a response innervated, perhaps, by the cerebrospinal and the autonomic fibers together.
A diffuse pattern of response, invading both the somatic and the visceral regions of the body, is thus the immediate result of a sudden, unexpected, prepotent stimulus. But this is only half the story. We are equipped with receptors which are capable of being stimulated by these movements of the body and by changes within the body (see p. 18). Afferent neurons carry these excitations to the appropriate sensory areas of the cortex, a process accompanied by sensory awareness_of the bodily movements and changes involved. There enter consciousness: (1) kinaesthetic sensations from the movements of the arms, legs, and trunk; (2) kinaesthetic sensations from the movements of facial expression; (3) organic
(85) sensations from the visceral responses; and (4) cutaneous sensations from the effects of sympathetic control in the blood vessels and other structures of the skin. These sensory qualities fuse into a mass of vaguely discriminated organic and bodily experiences, which, having its focus in the interior of the body, seems to spread out and pervade our whole being. This fused complex of sensory experience is what we call an emotion. In the illustration used it is the emotion of fear.
The emotion does not come directly upon the perception of the danger signal, nor with the realization of its meaning. It is connected rather with the response (visceral and somatic) to the signal, and is not felt until the response is made. The emotion of fear is the way the body feels upon reacting to a terrifying situation. It depends upon this reaction, but it in no way initiates nor directs it. This statement of the case is called the James-Lange theory. Theory it is, to be sure; but it contains so much truth that it has been able to hold its ground against eminent critics. Its main defect is one of omission, in that it fails to differentiate the patterns of visceral and somatic response giving rise to the different emotions of common experience. It does not distinguish, for example, between the patterns of response capable of arousing the consciously distinct emotions of anger and fear. We shall presently suggest a theory which will remedy this defect. First, however, it will be necessary to ascertain what distinct types of emotion exist, and then take account of the physiological mechanisms at their service.
The Classification of Emotions. Introspection upon emotional consciousness reveals two characteristic facts: (1) Every emotion has an affective element; that is, it may be classed as either pleasant or unpleasant. (2) Every emotion has some distinctive quality by which it may be recognized apart from its affective aspect. Disgust and rage, for example, are both unpleasantly toned states; but they can be clearly distinguished in consciousness. There is, in other words, some differentiating factor which serves to distinguish between emotions which are alike in respect to the affective component. The principal emotions having an unpleasant feeling element are disgust, fear, rage, grief, and the somewhat emotional
(86) quality of intense bodily pain. Pain and disgust are relatively simple conditions, involving little specialized somatic activity. The chief emotions characterized by pleasant affectivity are elation, mirth, and love both of the conjugal and consanguineal sort. The unpleasantly toned emotions, such as fear and rage, represent the return afferent impulses from prepotent activities of the avoiding type; while the pleasant states attend the preparatory or consummatory phases of the approaching activities.
The Physiology of Feeling and Emotion. If we search for some physiological mechanism suitably correlated with the antagonistic poles of pleasantness and unpleasantness, upon which our emotional classification is based, we shall find it in the autonomic nervous system and the viscera. The physiological antagonism between the cranio-sacral and the sympathetic portions of the autonomic is admirably suited to be the correlate of this antithesis of affective quality. It was stated on page 35 that these two divisions innervate the same organs, and produce in them exactly opposite types of reactions. It may now be further stated that it is the sympathetic portion which functions during the intense and unpleasant emotional excitements of anger, fear, and bodily pain. During the pleasantly toned activities of digestion and sex behavior, it is the cranio-sacral division which holds sway. It is worth while to describe these antagonistic visceral effects somewhat more in detail. They are summarized diagrammatically in Figure 10. During the process of digestion a state of toms is maintained in the smooth muscle which facilitates the movements required for. this work. Fibers from the cranial nerves bear to the viscera the nervous impulses which produce this tonicity. The salivary and gastric glandular secretions necessary for eating and digesting are also augmented by the cranial division. Suppose now the individual sees a mortal enemy, or is faced with the fear of imminent destruction. The visual stimulus will arouse impulses which, entering the central nervous system, will be discharged through the efferent sympathetic fibers to the smooth visceral muscle. These impulses are inhibitory in character. They reduce the muscle tone of the digestive organs and bring their processes to an end. A similar inhibitory effect is produced upon the salivary and digestive,
(88) glands. The parched condition of the mouth in fear, which results from the suppression of the salivary secretions, is well known. The cranio-sacral division dilates the muscular walls of the blood vessels, thus facilitating the absorption of food materials, or allowing the external genital organs to be engorged with blood in the erectile condition necessary for copulation. In fear, anger, and acute pain, on the other hand, the sympathetic impulses dominate and drive the cranio-sacral responses from the field. The blood vessels are constricted, and the blood is driven from the interior of the body to the limbs where it is needed for violent exertion. It is commonly known that fear (for example, fear of the consequences or fear of impotence) prevents the free flow of blood to the sex organs, and thus inhibits the tumescence necessary for the sex act. Fear has likewise an inhibitory effect upon micturition, a process normally brought about by the sacral efferent fibers. Constriction of the blood vessels is accompanied by increase in blood pressure. By the use of an instrument for reading these fluctuations of blood pressure, one can often detect in a witness the presence of a fear emotion, otherwise concealed, a state usually indicative of guilty knowledge which the subject is afraid of disclosing.
The heart is retarded by the vagus nerve (cranial), and accelerated by the sympathetic, the latter effect forcing a liberal supply of blood to the arms and limbs where it is needed in the bodily struggles likely to be involved in conditions of violent emotion. The sympathetic fibers also convey impulses to the liver, releasing stored sugar so that it can be distributed by the blood to the peripheral organs engaged in combat or flight. These functions have already been described in Chapter II (pp. 32-35). One of the most important effects of the sympathetic impulses is the exciting of the adrenal glands, small bodies lying near the kidneys, causing them to pour their secretion, adrenin, into the blood stream. Professor Cannon found that adrenin acts directly upon the heart, arteries, digestive organs, and other tissues, in precisely the same manner as the impulses of the sympathetic fibers. It serves, therefore, in the strong unpleasant emotions as an aid to the sympathetic by augmenting and prolonging its effects. It helps to maintain the body "upon a war footing."
A Theory of Feeling and Emotion. It is evident that the two antagonistic mechanisms which we have been considering, the cranio-sacral and sympathetic divisions, are allied with two groups of emotions having opposed qualities of feeling, pleasant and unpleasant respectively. The unpleasant group, exemplified by pain, fear, and rage, results from bodily changes which serve the ends of withdrawing and defense, and which are brought about by the sympathetic division. There is no difficulty theoretically in concluding that all conscious states tinged with unpleasant feeling derive that feeling from the invasion of the various bodily organs by impulses from the sympathetic.
The chief pleasures of mankind, on the other hand, center about the cranio-sacral functions of nutrition and sex. The digestive operations induced by the cranial division are probably the reactions whose return afferent impulses convey much of the feeling of pleasure in eating. Salivary and other digestive reactions come by conditioned reflex to be attached to stimuli which accompany the taste of the food, such as the sight of the food or surrounding objects. The pleasure reaction is therefore transferred to these attendant stimuli, and our preparatory as well as our consummatory approaching reactions become fraught with pleasant feeling. The same extension applies to the pleasures of the sex life, controlled by the sacral division. The facilitating sacral discharge into the pelvic organs becomes conditioned by the sight of the loved one, or even by a token or remembrance, so that the pleasure reaction is habitually experienced as the affective core of the emotion of love. It is not improbable that consanguineal as well as true sexual love derives its pleasantness component in a similar fashion.
A certain exception must be made to the statement that cranio-sacral impulses underlie pleasant emotional states generally. There are several sources of pleasant affectivity, such as bodily exercise and habit, excitement of games, elation, and mirth, which possess no discoverable relation to the cranio sacral function, nor (with the exception of excitement and mirth) to autonomic activities of any sort. These pleasant states appear to be due to afferent impulses from reactions carried out by unimpeded cerebrospinal impulses. They are somatic rather than visceral in origin.
To recapitulate: Emotions are fundamentally distinguishable as pleasant and unpleasant. The first part of our theory undertakes to explain this affective basis. Finding a certain physiological process to be present in the entire group of unpleasant emotions, and an antagonistic process common to pleasant emotions, we infer that these processes form the basis of conscious unpleasantness and pleasantness respectively. The cranio-sacral division of the autonomic, supplemented under certain conditions by the cerebrospinal system, innervates those responses whose return afferent impulses are associated with the conscious quality of pleasantness. The sympathetic division produces visceral responses which are represented in consciousness as unpleasantness. Before proceeding to the second portion of the theory, we shall review a few additional lines of evidence confirming the hypothesis just stated.
Evidence from Introspection and Latent Period. In conscious experience unpleasantness is usually a more definite, identifiable, and imperative quality than pleasantness. The unpleasant emotions are more numerous and characteristically emotional than the pleasant. We shall observe later that they are also represented by a far greater variety of facial expressions than are pleasant states. On the physiological side there are analogous conditions. The sympathetic motor impulses are necessarily stronger than the cranio-sacral, and are prepotent over the latter. They are more widely diffused through the viscera, and they reinforce somatic motor activities of a more violent, varied, and characteristic sort.
The length of time required for arousal (latent period) is another point in the evidence. We should expect, according to the theory, that unpleasantness would be slower of arousal than pleasantness. The synapses of the sympathetic ganglia have a higher resistance than those of the cranio-sacral division. If this were not so, our digestive and other vital functions would be subject to continual interruption through minor emotional excitements. Dr. Cannon regards the sympathetic ganglia as protective barriers, which can be crossed by invading impulses only in case of unusual need for defense or escape. They are thus a protection against harmful excess of emotion. There are also longer stretches of unmedullated post-ganglionic fibers (see Fig. 10) in the sympathetic than in the
(91) cranio-sacral division; and conduction is slower in non-medullated than in medullated neurons. These conditions — namely, greater synaptic resistance and slower rate of transmission — both indicate that the effects produced by the sympathetic fibers must be slower to appear than those of the cranio-sacral.
Common experience justifies this inference. Compare, for example, the latency of unpleasant feelings with the quick thrill of pleasure derived from pleasant tastes or erotic sensations. The case of stumbling on the stairs is a good example. In the writer's experience there is a sudden reflex recovery of balance; and then, when several steps have been descended, there wells up gradually a mass of unpleasant organic sensations. Annoyance and anger also have a long latent time. A characteristic non-emotive 'foreperiod' has been found in extensive collections of introspection upon anger. In babies a good anger cry may take as long as a half-minute, or longer, to develop. The laughter response to the pleasant stimulus of tickling is, on the other hand, immediate.
The sharp antagonism which exists between the two divisions of the autonomic, when considered in connection with the introspective oppositeness of pleasantness and unpleasantness, offers further support for the theory we are discussing. Fear inhibits pleasant emotions. And on the pleasant side the drive of sexual love is one of the strongest agencies in dispelling the unpleasant anger in family quarrels.
To sum up, we find the first part of our theory supported from both the introspective and behavioristic viewpoints by definiteness, imperativeness, latent period, and antagonistic character of the 'emotional responses.
How are the Emotional Reactions further Differentiated? There remains to be explained the differentiating factor, through which the emotions within a single affective class — for example, fear and anger — may be physiologically distinguished. Since the autonomic functions for all the unpleasant emotions are of the same type, we must look elsewhere for our distinguishing mechanism. . We propose that the differentiating factor arises from the stimu-
(92) -lation of the proprioceptors in the muscles, tendons, and joints of the somatic part of the organism; and that afferent impulses from these somatic patterns of response add to the autonomic core of affectivity the characteristic sensory complexes by which one emotion is distinguished from another of the same affective class. Somatic postures and attitudes are generally taken, or overt responses made, in nearly all emotional situations. Different, and somewhat antagonistic, somatic effector groups are brought into play according to whether the individual attacks or flees. The facial expressions as well as bodily movements are strongly differential. Return afferent impulses from these responses add in consciousness the distinguishing qualities which serve to differentiate the emotion of anger from that of fear. Without these impulses the two states would be simply unpleasant, and indistinguishable. As to the pleasant emotions, we may ascribe the differentiating factors — for example, in the various types of love — to the habits of adjustment toward the loved object. To love a baby is to fondle it, or at least to assume the attitude of fondling it, in a lover-like fashion. This is an abridgment of the complete set of responses which affords the full emotion of sexual love. In friendship the somatic component may be reduced to a touch of the hand or a half-embrace. Some facilitation of the sacral and allied mechanisms probably forms the pleasant affective core of all these experiences.
The temporal relations of the two components in the proposed theory offer some corroboration. When the objective situation arousing anger or embarrassment has been removed, the visceral component, being more sluggish than the somatic, outlasts the latter in the form of a purely unpleasant affective (not emotional) state which delays the recovery of composure. In the case of stumbling on the stair, the starting (somatic) response was completed before the sympathetic affective component was felt. The emotion, therefore, was not true fear, but simply an intense unpleasantness. When an anima( pr a child is pursued and brought to bay, the shift from intense fear (in flight) to intense rage (in attack) is too sudden to admit of a complete change in the visceral pattern. We may plausibly attribute it to the quicker change in the response pattern of the striped muscle, superimposed upon the
(93) constant visceral undercurrent of unpleasant affectivity. Bodily pain and grief also o pass quickly into anger through a change in the nature of the somatic responses.
Evidence from Genetic Development. The emotional states of the newborn baby appear to be undifferentiated. Judging from behavior alone, they have no further character than pure unpleasant affectivity. The first prepotent stimuli which act upon the infant are usually those for which the somatic responses are diffuse and undifferentiated. Internal pains of hunger and colic, and unfavorable temperatures, are among such stimulations. The somatic responses, crying, kicking, etc., are the same for all of them. At the beginning, therefore, of the life of feeling there is little to differentiate the emotional states beyond the mere qualities of pleasantness and unpleasantness. The child has feelings of unpleasantness, but not yet definite unpleasant emotions. We may call this simple, unpleasant experience of the newborn the 'protopathetic' state. The affective component, then, is not only the fundamental basis of classification, but also the most primitive ingredient of human emotion. Before long (probably as soon as the appropriate stimuli are brought to bear) the child brings into play the various prepotent somatic responses, such as struggling, rejecting, and withdrawing. Thus the differentiating factors are added to the sympathetic pattern, and anger and fear emerge as distinct emotions.
Conditions Favoring the Arousal of Unpleasant Emotions. A fuller comprehension of the subject may be obtained by stating the neural conditions necessary for the arousal of the unpleasant emotions. The discussion will, at the same time, be brought more definitely into the social field. The conditions referred to are those which help in breaking through the high resistance of the sympathetic synapses and sending inhibitory impulses to the smooth muscle. (1) The first condition is that of the intensity of the stimulus. Almost any sensation becomes unpleasant if it is made sufficiently intense for the energy of the impulse to cross the sympathetic threshold. The peal of thunder continues to arouse fear through out adult life. Our theory at this point offers a good basis for distinguishing physiologically between pains which are unpleasant
(94) and those which are not. It is well known that light pains on the skin are far from unpleasant. Unpleasant pains are severe ones: their efferent impulses are powerful enough to break through into the sympathetic. The same consideration explains the pseudo-emotional quality often ascribed to intense bodily pain. (2) Repetition or insistence, such as repeatedly touching on a `sore point,' or the neural summation of petty annoyances in producing anger, is another condition favoring the arousal of unpleasant emotion. (3) Suddenness of the stimulus, or lack of proper somatic adjustment of the cerebrospinal system, often causes the impulse to be discharged through the sympathetic efferents. The fear aroused by the strange, the uncanny, or the extraordinarily large (that is, objects toward which we have no developed habits of response) belongs in this class. (4) Blocking of the usual somatic responses to the powerful drives, such as those of food and sex, usually through social agencies, is a potent factor in bringing about an invasion of the sympathetic. Thwarting of the vital needs, as in industrial conflicts, evokes not only overt struggle reactions, but also violent emotions of fear and anger. Grief results from blocked, or thwarted, love reactions in situations where overt responses, such as attacking others, would do no good. (5) Finally, the state of visceral tonus or preparation may be an important factor in lowering the sympathetic threshold and increasing unpleasant emotionality. Irritability, and other emotional attitudes indicate a permanent lowering of the resistance. Transitory effects, or moods, also increase susceptibility to fear or anger. When feeling fine, a baby will enjoy a vigorous roughing which at another time would throw him into a fit of rage. Petitions for money are tactfully withheld from the pater familias until the close of a good dinner.
Complex Emotional States in Social Behavior. The foregoing account has dealt with the physiology of the more elementary emotional reactions. Our subjective lives, however, would be of a primitive sort if we were limited to these few basic types. There are many nuances of feeling which comprise a large number of combinations of the elementary emotions under varying conditions. There are, moreover, states in which both pleasant and unpleasant
(95) elements may be identified. A simple object or situation acting upon a limited area of smooth muscle can, of course, produce but one type of affective response, either pleasant or unpleasant. If the control is assumed by the cranio-sacral, the antagonistic sympathetic effects are inhibited, and vice versa. If, however, the situation is complex, that is, if we are apt to respond with varying reactions to different aspects of it, we may expect that certain regions of the viscera may be under the control of the cranio-sacral, while other regions will have been invaded by the sympathetic impulses. The result will be a mixed emotion, containing representatives of both the pleasant and unpleasant divisions of our classification. Grief is an example of such an emotion. It contains (1) the pleasant feeling-tone of the love reaction, and (2) the unpleasant thwarted feeling of sadness because it is impossible for the habitual love response to be fully carried out. This explanation of `mixed' emotional states is, of course, purely tentative. Since it affords a possible manner in which to conceive the physiological factors, it may be useful in our present lack of more precise knowledge.
There are many complex emotional states which are familiar in daily life. Varying degrees of the affective qualities combine with the major emotions of fear, anger, and love, and also with somatic attitudes for all possible reactions toward self and others. The main attitudes in which fear seems to be important are awe, reverence, bashfulness, surprise, wonder, suspicion, loathing, and anxiety. Anger is recognizable in resentment, remorse, jealousy, envy, reproach, scorn, and hatred. Love plays a part in gratitude, grief, pity, sorrow, fascination, and perhaps humility. A number of bodily attitudes, other than attacking, fleeing, and caressing, combine with pleasantness and unpleasantness to produce special emotional reactions. These states are represented by numerous varieties of approach and avoidance, as well as by joy, elation, pride, conceit, shame, domination, submission, and feelings of inferiority.
The range of human feelings is indeed extensive. There are
(96) probably hundreds of nuances of emotional attitude which contribute to the richness as well as the delicacy of social intercourse. Modern fiction is primarily a play upon these attitudes. They are of interest for social psychology because they indicate the complexity of inter-individual adjustments in society. Almost every emotional nuance represents an attitude not only to feel but to react in a highly specific fashion toward some other human being.
The Social Conditioning of Emotional Response. A certain college professor relates a story of an unaccountable liking which he took for a man in whom he could discover no qualities to merit such affection. Upon analyzing this feeling, he fancied that it was chiefly the peculiar chuckle of the man that attracted him. This clue led to the recall of a former roommate of college days with whom the professor had spent many a pleasant hour. The roommate had possessed a chuckle almost identical with that of the new acquaintance. We find here the mechanism of the conditioned response in the emotional sphere. The pleasure responses experienced with the roommate had been attached (transferred) to a particular social stimulus which was present at the time, namely, the sound of the chuckle. This conditioned emotional reaction persisted for years and formed the basis of a new friendship upon purely emotional grounds. Many, if not most, of our likes and dislikes in first impressions are due to similar transfers of feeling through identical elements of social stimulation. Our pleasure at seeing old classmates is like that which we experience in revisiting the haunts and byways of childhood. We are led back through the present stimulus to the old, but not obliterated, habits of emotional response.
Fetishes and other tokens operate upon human feelings by the same principle of conditioning. The savage attaches to an effigy all the awe and mystery which he feels for the spirit it is supposed to embody. To a lover a lock of hair is sacred because it calls forth a wave of tender feeling of the same kind as that evoked by the entire person of the beloved. For the same reason wedding gowns are treasured, and attics are filled with trunks lined with keepsakes and similar hoarded treasures.
Sentiments are another important class of conditioned emotions
(97) and attitudes. The political orator has only to mention the 'orphan children' or the ‘rights of the people' to reduce his audience to a state of tender compassion or righteous indignation. The names of national heroes, the standard of colors, slogans such as 'Liberty' and `Equality,' and reiterated lofty ideals are great rallying points for the popular emotions. The spoken word is here used to evoke all the feeling associated with it through ages of tradition and custom. As a means of social control, whether for good or for ill, this arousing of sentiment through language stimuli is a process of inestimable significance.
The Control and Direction of Emotion as a Social Problem. Professor Cannon has pointed out the energizing effects of emotion, if not too extreme, upon the bodily activity which the situation demands. Through the sympathetic impulses, and especially through adrenin, the effects of fatigue are removed, metabolism increased, and the whole body energized to a degree unknown in calmer moods. These ‘unknown reservoirs of power' are, however, more of an asset to primitive than to civilized man. They are Nature's provision for strength in the violent emotions attending pursuit and flight and mortal combat. The needs of civilized society are of another order: physical struggles and the violent emotions which accompany them are a menace rather than a benefit to modern man. The anger emotion cannot be used to support overt violence, because we must repress this form of reaction in favor of a more socialized 'competition.' We cannot even yield ourselves to fear and precipitate flight regardless of the consequences to others. On every hand we find that the needs of society have set up barriers to those exertions in which the visceral components of emotion raise the body to its highest level of attainment. It is only in such abnormal and destructive phenomena as wars and racial and industrial riots that the primitive fury of the emotional energy can fully expend itself. While endowed, therefore, with a capacity fur highest efficiency in war, civilized man is normally committed to a regime of peace. How can we reconcile these opposed requirements and utilize the emotional reservoirs of energy for constructive purposes? This is one of the greatest social problems.
It is not only for the acquisition of power, the superman ideal, that the emotional problem is a socially important one. At many points the social pressure is so great as to threaten all activity through which the emotion may find its release. If somatic responses are totally inhibited, the visceral energizing effects can be discharged only inwardly. There is produced an extended, intensified, and lasting state of unpleasant internal feeling. If social and familial ties are too strong, there will result a complete blocking of overt anger release, leading to the development of an introverted, moody, and ineffective personality. Love emotions are often iniquitously repressed by austere social influences. In this case auto-eroticism, erotic day-dreaming, and symptoms of neurotic dissociation may appear. How shall we steer successfully between the evils of anti-social violence and libertinism on the one hand, and the suppression of the life processes of the individual on the other? This is a second great problem in the field of social adjustments.REFERENCES
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