An Attempt Toward A Naturalistic Description of Emotions II

Jacob Robert Kantor
Indiana University


The Utility of Emotional Behavior.—One of the effects resulting from the growing influence which biological theories' began to exert upon psychology in the middle of the past century, was the conception that emotions are definite adaptational reactions which promote the conservation of the individual. More than closely linked is this assumption of the self-preservative character of emotional conduct with the idea that emotions are inherited forms of response. Not the least surprising, then, is the fact that the utilitarian doctrine of emotional behavior is more prescriptive than descriptive, and brings in its train results that are most remarkable.

It is entirely possible that even the most careful observer of emotional behavior may needs come to the conclusion that much of such action must be interpreted as adaptational and useful. In particular, this might be the case with the glandular secretions which are so prominent in emotional behavior. But what right have we to base our conclusions upon a limited number of features? What of the looseness of the bowels, the retching and vomiting, the violent heartbeat and the innumerable other symptoms of emotional shock? Are these too of use in the organism's adaptations? And is there anything in the nature of a psychological act which prohibits us from considering the glandular reflexes as entirely fortuitous occurrences in the total complex pattern of response?

Further indications of the invalidity of the utilitarian theory come to the surface when we consider that in the cultural emotions organic functions are not nearly so promi-

( 121) -nent, and apparently do not produce energy-giving secretions. And it is hardly convincing to say that in these secondary emotions the organic reflexes are not present because they are not needed, for by so doing one clearly makes utility synonymous with presence, and in consequence assumes what is to be established, since as a matter of fact even when the organic activities are present their utility is questioned.

Unfortunately the apparent serviceability of various strongly excited organic activities under certain circumstances has induced several writers to indulge in much indifferent speculation concerning the utility or general adaptive character of emotions.[1] Aside from the question whether these writers are observing emotions at all,[2] the objectionable feature of such speculation is the implication that organisms possess general mechanisms with definite purposive functions to meet unfavorable specific circumstances. The consequence of holding such a view is that it inevitably results in overlooking facts, such as the substituted character of the organic processes, which are not compatible with such a preconception.

The writer submits that, on the whole, observational evidence does not support the view that emotional disruptive shock is always or even in most cases beneficial to the organism, either at the moment or in the long run. As a record of fact, all that the study of emotions enables us to say is that under certain circumstances the emotional behavior is apparently a useful reaction in the sense that a very rapid and immediate response seems necessary, and it occurs. But, in just as many cases the dissociating and disruptive character of the emotional act may be the occasion for a very harmful result to the organism, and not infrequently the cause of its death. What chance would a person have in a difficult situation if he should be deprived even for a moment of the opportunity to offer a definitely centered and directed response to a pressing stimulus? It is evident, then, that

( 122) emotional behavior is not always adaptable activity and consequently we must reject summarily any utility interpretation, especially since such an interpretation appears not to be based upon actual observation but upon the belief in a mental force or entelechy manifesting itself by physiological conduct.


The Relation of Emotions to Instincts.—Current psychological opinion appears unanimously agreed that there is a very close connection between emotional and instinctive behavior. And the basis for the belief in such a connection lies in the observation that emotions are very direct and even elementary forms of behavior. It is only the fact of connection, however, that is concurred in, otherwise there is wide divergence of opinion concerning the precise relation between instincts and emotions. Thus, McDougall conceives of an instinct as a fundamental system of action including an emotion, whereas Shand thinks of instincts as being parts of the fundamental emotion.[3] In passing, we might suggest that the disagreement between McDougall and Shand is made possible by the fact that the distinctive feature of emotional behavior is a form of dissociation, a fact which makes possible differing views as to the specificity or generality of such psychological acts.

Still another disagreement between those who believe in the close relation between instincts and emotions concerns the exact stimulation of them to action. On the one hand, it is held that emotions are the affective accompaniments of instincts in some form (McDougall), while on the other, emotions are presumed to arise when there is delay or obstruction in the way of instincts toward carrying on their predetermined goal (Shand). Let it be noted, however, that in all cases the implication is forced upon us that our action is predetermined by some innate power. Now such a view

( 123) of human activity is entirely incompatible with any observation of behavior and leaves no place for the development of action and the conditioning of it by specific surrounding objects and persons. Our activities are not as a matter of fact the unfolding of purposes and ends but the responses to stimuli and their settings as they actually are found in our surroundings. Because we have no instincts in the sense of biological ends there can be no connection between instincts and emotions; this connection is impossible also, because actual instincts as found in animals and infants are definite response-patterns called out by specific stimulating objects; they are not in any sense tendencies which can conflict with each other.

No less significant than brilliant was the formulation which Dewey[4] made of the relation of emotions and instincts. Let us recall that Dewey was interested in the problem of substantiating James's doctrine of the priority of the organic changes (expressions) to the emotion proper by a reformulation of Darwin's statement of emotions and their expression. The reader will recall that Dewey interprets Darwin's expressions as "the reduction of movements and stimulations originally useful into attitudes," attitudes which apparently are conditioned by instincts. For Dewey the specific seizure or affect in an emotional situation is a conflict and tension of instincts or tendencies to action. "The emotion is psychologically the adjustment or tension o{ habit and ideal,[5] and the organic changes in the body are the literal working out in concrete terms of the struggle of adjustment." [6]

For us the significance of Dewey's doctrine lies precisely in the fact that it glaringly reveals the inevitable consequence of injecting into psychology such metapsychological entities as instincts. For mark you, Dewey cannot allow that the person is stimulated by a concrete object, for without the inhibiting tension an organism would not be making a response 'at' or towards an 'object,' [7] and so the conflict of instincts takes

(124) place as a mysterious ebullition in 'consciousness' out of which are differentiated both the stimulus and the response.[8]

Obviously the theory we have been summarizing cannot be employed to interpret the concrete disruptive behavior of actual human organisms, but we are interested to point out that possibly this is true of all instinct doctrines. The idea that emotions are conflicts of instincts or result from the conflict seems to us purely fanciful; and being based on so-called inner states it is in consequence entirely out of touch with concrete reaction conditions. Such a doctrine makes of emotions in some sense the inner side of instincts, while the latter are presumed to be the external phases of certain acts. In all theories of the close or inseparable relation between emotions and instincts, the former are presumed to be 'mental,' while the latter sometimes are and sometimes are not.

But after all such a widespread conception as that of the relation of emotions and instincts must have some factual basis, and truly enough a diligent search is rewarded by the means to account both for the asserted relation, and the belief in a conflict of tendencies.

And first as to the relation between emotions and instincts, the writer submits that the mentalists arrive at their interpretation by miscalling the substituted reflexes, in the emotional pattern of response, instincts. The motive for such a misinterpretation may be sought in the utilitarian conception of emotions, according to which all that occurs to the person must be looked upon as necessary happenings and never as fortuitous processes.

The conflict theory of emotions no doubt is based upon the observation that in some emotional situations a seizure occurs in the presence of a multiplicity of confusing objects; so that a simple response pattern cannot function without interference. Now the crude fact here is a conflict between stimulus objects and the concrete responses of the individual in contact with them, such stimuli and such responses being

( 125) natural objects and events. From an objective standpoint it seems a far cry from this crude fact to a conflict of mentalistic states. An interpretation of concrete movements of an organism can never be made out to be a conflict of permanent mental tendencies.


The Classification of Emotions.—If we agree to reject the belief in the relation of emotions and instincts, we at the same time renounce the latest of the perennial attempts to classify emotions.[9] And perhaps here we find a clue to the failure of all those attempts to segregate emotions under convenient rubrics. The clue is this, that psychologists could not find any common factor between the complex behavior of an organism and a presumed mental state, a fact which is otherwise expressed in the statement that there is no definite subjectivistic criterion for the classification of emotions.

From an organismic behavior standpoint, there is strictly speaking, of course, but one kind of emotion; that is to say, emotions constitute a class or type of action. The most obvious means, therefore, of classifying the various emotional activities is to correlate them with the exact circumstances under which they occur, and while the extreme complexity of these stimulating circumstances militates against our attaining at present any well rounded and compact classification, such a correlation will serve to give some behavior-content and meaning to the various divisions. Moreover, to describe an emotional act under the circumstances in which it occurs is to give it its stimulus-response setting and to keep our classification from resembling an enumeration of specific faculties.

The problem of ordering and arranging emotional acts involves us in precisely the same difficulties as the classification of thinking acts. In each case, however, the specification of the exact circumstances under which the person is responding will give us an insight into the operation of human reactions, besides helping us to understand the precise details

(126) involved in building up reaction systems. For instance, a comprehensive behavioristic study of the more subtle or refined emotions will afford us some insight into the intricate details of social behavior and the social modification of human action. Further, unless we plan to make such a comprehensive study of emotional activity we can find little promise of obtaining additional information about such behavior by the mere analysis of the secretory functions which play a prominent part in emotional acts as well as in other types of behavior. More value there would be in such an analysis if we considered the glandular secretions as integral parts of a large general response system in correlation with definite stimulating circumstances. It is something other than scientific wisdom to place one's hope for the classification of emotional conduct entirely in the physiological factors of behavior, as some writers do, to the neglect of the other components, and the stimulating conditions of the whole response.

Of cardinal importance it is for the classification of emotional conduct to be fully cognizant of the fact that whenever we persistently cling to a name as though it were something more significant than a name, we will inevitably falsify essential facts. Perhaps in no other domain of psychological science does a name mean quite so little or do so much harm as in the study of emotions. It is not surprising, then, that the literature on the subject amply reveals many difficulties of description and interpretation because such terms as fear, anger, joy, and sorrow are presumed to represent unique sorts of psychological facts. The truth of the matter is, that these names as commonly used stand not only for genuine emotional reactions but also for various other acquired human responses, such as feelings, besides the connate organized responses of animals and infants. Furthermore, let us not forget that besides standing for widely different forms of actual behavior, the names found in the writings on emotions represent mental states, each of which has a variety of expressions. Because names are so treacherous in the psychology of emotions, the needs of the science dictate that a closer examination be made of the behavior which is to be

( 127) classified, and that slighter attention be given to conventional names.


Determining Conditions of Emotions.—Incomplete must always be the description of psychological phenomena unless we add to our report of the facts of stimulus and response also the conditions under which the latter interact. The necessity to investigate the precise conditions influencing responses appears from the fact that any reaction depends as much upon the constitution of the individual and the character of the surroundings as upon the bare presence or absence of reaction systems and stimuli. In the case of the emotional situation the disruptive chaos can obviously be avoided by the substitution of an overt response for one that is lacking, provided that the surroundings are propitious, and the person is in a prepared condition for such an emergency.

Although there is great difficulty in specifying the exact determining conditions of emotional conduct we can, however, isolate a few factors which have a contributory effect in bringing about or preventing an emotional reaction. We may call these constitutional and stimulating conditions, respectively, inasmuch as they refer primarily to the condition of the person or the surroundings.

1. Among the constitutional conditions we might enumerate the following. (a) The primary constitutional condition of emotional behavior involves the fact of psychological equipment. A person who is thoroughly equipped with response patterns for the various situations in which he finds himself will be decidedly less liable to be thrown into a situation of no-response. Further, the student who had previously prepared himself in his learning task would be much less liable to suffer a surprise emotion when confronted with a difficult examination. (b) Closely related to the previous condition is the speed of reaction of the person. Ordinarily an individual who is not quick to improve upon a situation confronting him will be liable to be caught in a dangerous or undesirable position. The person who would begin to act rapidly in the presence of a dangerous object, possibly to

( 128) inhibit movement, or to substitute another overt adjustment, would be much less apt to suffer disruption of his actions. The person who is clever at repartee will seldom if ever suffer an embarrassing moment. In this type of situation as in some of the elemental situations the self-confidence of the person is an extremely potent factor in the prevention of emotional disturbance. (c) The ability to avoid an emotional shock depends upon the general physiological condition of the person, since the capacity of the person to handle his reactional equipment varies with his physiological states. A person who is just recovering from an illness may be for the time being inadequately equipped to grapple with a dangerous natural situation. Similarly, to be overworked, nervous, or discouraged, means a special liability to undergo emotional shock. In these cases as in all others we must observe that the constitutional condition only has direct reference to the stimulations at hand. (d) Another influence of emotional conduct is the present condition of an individual which is due to the circumstances of an immediately preceding emotional situation. Thus the same or a similar stimulus may now influence the person not to suffer an emotional disturbance at all, or to experience a mild rather than a violent seizure.

2. The stimulation conditions of emotional behavior are very numerous as we might expect. (a) One of the outstanding conditions would be the familiarity of the person with the stimulating objects and their settings. When stimuli are known and not strange they are less liable to bring about a dissociation or disturbance in the person. One is seldom overawed or overwhelmed by familiar surroundings, and in a sense this is obvious when we consider that familiar surroundings mean that we have developed definite integrations of stimuli and responses. (b) Prominent as a contributory factor to social emotions is the presence of certain 'persons; a reproof or a faux pas in the presence of some relation, loved, or admired or feared individual will often result in an emotional behavior, whereas the absence of such persons may mean the avoidance of such a result. In general, the

( 129) emotional disturbance is conditioned by the setting of the stimulus object, so that while the person may know what reaction to make to an object alone or under certain circumstances he may have no response for the object in its present setting. (c) It follows then from the character of the conditions of emotional behavior that a potent preventive of emotional seizure is a frequent contact with any given situation and especially a situation which, through recent experience, has shown itself capable of inducing an emotional disturbance.


Emotions in Animals and Infants.—Throughout the entire modern subjectivistic tradition psychologists have always assumed that animals have emotions as well as other states of consciousness. Especially since Darwin's time, in which the continuity of species became the dominant motive in the biological domain, the view has prevailed that human emotions are really vestigial remnants of the emotions which the animal ancestors had acquired. Naturally enough such a mental states doctrine conduces to obliterate the distinction between emotional actions proper, and other types of feeling behavior, and as a consequence animals are endowed with reactions which, because of their organization and development, they, in common with infants, obviously cannot have. How anyone can ascribe to animals and infants such complex reactions as can only be acquired in a long social experience, is suggested to us in the thought that probably psychologists are reading back into the actions of children and animals motives and conditions of behavior which they find in themselves. How illegitimate such a proceeding is may be judged  from the fact that a critical observation of the actual responses to stimulating circumstances convinces us not only that animals never have any social emotions, but also that they seldom if ever develop to the stage of performing even elemental emotional behavior.

Since the present status of psychological opinion concerning emotions in animals has its roots in the Darwinian

( 130) influence upon psychology, it would not be amiss to digress at this point in order to trace out the growth of the conception that man and animals have the same types of mental states. And first let us observe that Darwin accepted the biological similarity between the human and animal organism as the basis for a correlation between the expressions of emotions in the two cases. What seemed to be similar 'expressions' were then taken to refer to similar mental states. What Darwin and the other writers overlooked in their thinking was that they were not observing expressions of any mental state but rather direct animal responses of an instinct sort to specific stimuli. They, however, named these responses by applying conventional terms,[10] and in this way animals began to be endowed with all types of emotions and other sorts of feelings. Finally, this mode of thinking developed to the extent that Darwin [11] could write that 'man himself cannot express love and humility by its external signs, so plainly as does a dog.' Clearly we have here as flagrant a piece of anthropomorphism as one would care to find, even in such a culpable writer as Darwin is in this direction .[12] An excellent example of Darwin's uncritical views concerning the psychology of animals is found in his acceptance of Mr. Bartlett's statement concerning the knowledge and cautiousness of hyenas. "They well know that if one of their legs were seized, the bone would instantly be crushed to atoms." What one gathers from such a statement as was just quoted, and Darwin's remark about the value of observing infants in order to ascertain how far particular movements and gestures are really expressions of certain states of mind,[13] is that he was probably dealing with two different sorts of phenomena. He was considering human feeling behavior on the one hand and animal instincts on the other, but Darwin is misled by

(131) his conception of emotions and expressions to make the two identical.[14]

Among the many evidences which we might quote from the 'Expressions' to indicate this identification is Darwin's statement, that because the tender feelings are compound states and not simple feelings he could mention only weeping as their expression.[15] Also to the point here is the statement that blushing is the expression of many 'emotions' (shyness, shame, modesty) which are grouped under a single heading, namely, self-attention, no doubt, mainly as a heroic effort at correlation.[16] Do not these facts typify Darwin's inappreciation of the incongruity between critical observation of behavior and of forced injection of the continuity doctrine into the conventional and anecdotal tradition concerning emotions and their expressions?

If such be the case, is it not strange that current psychologists so readily accept the mentalistic continuity doctrine with its implication that emotions are persisting potencies which operate as properties of men and animals.[17] Here is evidence that about as much violence can be done to scientific facts by the uncritical acceptance of a continuity as of a discontinuity doctrine. A careful study of actual behavior discloses definite continuities in the activities of man and animals occasioned by similar organization and common external surroundings, but there are none the less just as definite discontinuities between the two types of organisms due to disparities of biological and psychological development and differences in surroundings. At the point of emotional behavior it is safe to say that observation discloses indefinitely more discontinuity than continuity.

In fairness we must add that Darwin did not entirely

( 132) miss the difficulty of his views, for he says that love (maternal)[18] and practically all the complex feeling acts[19] have no characteristic expressions. But although this admission on Darwin's part implied a doubt as to whether the crude activities of animals and the refined behavior of human individuals are similar, his authority seems to be so incontestable as not to arouse comment when he implies that abstraction, denial, affirmation, and meditation are emotions, the expressions of which can be analyzed.[20] A slighter indication that Darwin suspected that all was not well with his formulation, to the effect that characteristic expressions exist for the emotions, is found in his report that when persons are confronted with photographs of expressions, they are not always able to attach the expressions to the emotions which they are supposed to express. For fear, however, that this would be too great a disturbing factor in his work, Darwin ascribed this inconstancy of the relation between the emotions and its expression to the misguidance of the imagination.[21]

Most incomprehensible it is that psychologists are not more sceptical of the doctrine that animals have emotions, if it is true that such a doctrine is based upon the sort of thinking we have been indicating. Surely there can be no question as to the vulnerability of Darwin's psychology. To indicate but a few weak spots we might ask how plausible it is that animals should voluntarily acquire emotional expressions. Further, what value can a theory have that fails to distinguish between thinking, and emotions and other types of feeling behavior. Again, we might ask whether such crude transmission of acquired behavior as Darwin supposes is consonant with observable facts. Hence, we might conclude that if the belief that animals have emotions is based upon the Darwinian foundation, it lacks much in scientific validity.

( 133)

But let us turn to the actual observations themselves, for we must not dismiss the problem without an attempt to examine some types of animal behavior which appear to have some resemblance to the emotional activity in human beings. Consider the action of the chipmunk stimulated by footsteps approaching from the rear, while he is calmly nibbling at some garden green. Immediately there is a start and shift of position while the animal turns to face squarely the approaching object; then scampers towards his hole or other place of safety. Now much as the activity just described may resemble an emotional situation, a careful examination of the details indicates no breakdown of stimulus-response coordination. The start observed is nothing but the ordinary change of attitude which we find in all attention responses. In fact this attention start, which superficially appears like an emotional phase of behavior, is always found present and in addition to the emotional phase in all actual emotional conduct; in sequence it precedes the emotion-initiating perceptual or ideational process. Far from proving the presence of emotional behavior in animals, the attention-start points to the possibility of describing whatever activity we find in animals in their ordinary surroundings by referring to the practically full complement of congenital response systems with which they adapt themselves. Such acts as the attention-start the animal is uninterruptedly performing during each hour of its active life, and this fact would seem to indicate that these responses are due to a definite form of response system.

And now we may inquire into the findings of physiological research for light upon the problems of emotions. In particular, we might expect to gain some information from such experiments as are designed to test the Jamesian theory of emotions.

Unfortunately physiologists are parallelists and their work is seriously compromised by the assumption that in an emotional activity the organic changes are either the cause or the outcome of a psychic state called the emotion. Cannon [22] proposes to discover by the study of animals what

( 134) bodily results follow the functioning of the fundamental 'agencies which determine the actions of organisms.' And Sherrington [23] aimed to test the view 'that the psychical process of the emotion is secondary to a discharge of nervous impulses into the vascular and visceral organs of the body.' The unhappy feature of such work done on the parallelistic basis is the immediate setting aside of the so-called psychic factor and the confining of one's efforts to the exclusive investigation of the organic phases of behavior. In consequence, the essential differences in behavior are entirely overlooked and the assumption of a continuity in the behavior of man and animals results in endowing the latter with activities that are really found only in the former. In general, we might say that the physiologists have really been studying (i) visceral reflexes in pain, hunger, and fear-rage instinct behavior,[24] and (2) the relative functioning of the cephalic and more posterior portions of the organism in instinct action,[25] but not emotions.

Sherrington's conclusion from his experiments not only does not militate against the James-Lange-Sergi theory of the emotions, but on the contrary offers some evidence that he is not occupied with emotions at all. His discussion reads much like a tremendous overemphasis of psychocephalic parallelism and nothing more. The transaction of cord and vagus cannot prove that emotions are cerebral processes, since the supposition that there exists an emotion in the form of a psychical adjunct has absolutely no basis in any observable fact. On the contrary, physiological experiments do appear to confirm the view that psychological behavior is the activity of the whole complex organism. Now the experiments seem to indicate that depending upon the intricacy of the behavior, the reaction systems may function when the organism is only partially coordinated. This fact is substantiated by Goltz's [26] decerebrate dog which 'showed' anger, but not fear, joy, and affection. May we

(135) not then assume that the animal behavior studied by Sherrington was really a series of instinct responses and not at all emotions similar to those found in the human species? The writer hastens to add that he accepts in its entirety the description of the behavior of the dogs which Sherrington has published, but reserves the right to reinterpret the terms joy, disgust, friendliness, so as to exclude completely the objectionable anthropomorphic implications. This reservation is necessary in view of the unfortunately extreme poverty of psychological language with which to describe animal reactions. Indeed, could Sherrington set aside his psychocephalic parallelism, he would be very sympathetic with our view concerning the absence of emotions in animals, since he writes that 'there is no wide interval between the reflex movement of the spinal dog whose foot attempts to scratch away an irritant applied to its back, and the reaction of the decerebrate dog that turns and growls and bites at the fingers holding his hind foot too roughly.[27] Is it not true that in both cases we have the operation of truncated response mechanisms of precisely the same sort which Sherrington himself describes as pseudo-affective reflexes? [28]

When we turn to the problem of emotions in infants we find a similar dearth of conditions capable of giving rise to emotional disturbances. Watson's studies of infants demonstrate the absence in the conduct histories of young children of the characteristic chaotic or no-response conditions, with the replacement of visceral and other reflexes. Watson does not agree with this view, however, and indeed believes he has found in infants three types of emotions, but our reading of his material convinces us that he has looked for and found only some specific instinct responses. The names he gives to these instinct responses, 'fear,' 'rage,' 'love,' seem to us to be arbitrarily applied and interchangeable.[29] In fact, when Watson's descriptions of the infant's responses are read to various persons, there is no general agreement as to the

(136) appropriateness of the names he applies.[30] Although Watson [31] definitely asserts that an emotional act differs from an instinct by the occurrence of a momentary shock, his disregard of the differences between emotions and other feeling acts, not involving disruptive shocks, betrays him into making emotions into hereditary patterns of response. In this manner he obliterates the boundary between emotions and instincts, and moreover by invoking the criterion of non-training for hereditary acts he achieves the result that we have already described, namely, a discovery in infants of three kinds of emotions. The upshot of this procedure is that Watson veers considerably from the objective position and tends to interpret infant behavior, not from the standpoint of actually occurring responses to specific stimulating conditions, but as the manifestations of hereditary tendencies. What observer can overlook the differences between actual emotional behavior and comparatively simple positive responses which are offered to such stimuli as restraining, pulling a blanket away, striking, etc., responses which may just as well be called habits as emotions. We insist that while the failure of a stimulus-response coordination among older infants begins to be possible, because they have been acquiring responses to stimuli, yet it is true that as a matter of fact genuine emotional conduct will be an extremely rare occurrence.


Emotions and Expressions.—As we have previously intimated some of the difficulties we encountered in the study of emotions in animals and infants are due to the still prevalent implication that in emotional reactions what we observe is an outward expression of a mental state called an emotion. Singularly enough, although Dewey [32] had long ago pointed out that expressions could have no meaning so far as the acting

(137) individual was concerned, the parallelistic conception of psychological behavior has to this day kept alive the inner-outer conception of emotions.

Illustrative of the influence which subjectivism exerts upon our minds is the fact that in the same papers [33] in which Dewey abjures emotional expressions, he employs himself in the defense of James' 'paradox' concerning the order of apparition of the invisible emotion and its visible physiological colligate. No doubt the reader recalls that the motive for this defense was Dewey's attempt to translate a philosophical conception into the biological terms which James's theory supplied. Dewey really meant to demonstrate that feelings are the internalizing of activity or will in the sense that an emotion is a report (feeling) in consciousness of an act previously performed.

But our purpose is not to revisit the scene of former battles; rather we wish to point out that when we stray from a description of actual behavior, the 'expressions' remain in our thinking, much disguise them as we may. Has Dewey avoided an unpsychological dualism by calling an emotion not an expressed entity, but a repercussion in consciousness of an organic happening? It is our opinion that Dewey has merely placed in relief a psychophysiological parallelism which at the point of emotions inspired James very little. For this reason Dewey could write [34] that "Prof. James himself does not seem to me to have adequately realized the inconsistency of Darwin's principles, as the latter states them, with his own theory." From that day to this the dualism has persisted through a multivaried modification of the expressions of the emotions to a serious neglect of the actual behavior of the person under the various conditions of emotional stimulation.

When emotions are studied as concrete behavior, we find absolutely no warrant for including in our description of them any dichotomy between the emotional acts and their expression. Moreover, there is no meaning in the question whether emotions precede or follow the expression. We

( 138) might just as well ask whether the perceptual action of another person precedes or follows our observation of it. It is obvious, therefore, that the emotion-expression dichotomy may be entirely rejected irrespective of the specific interpretation one makes of emotional behavior. We are inclined to believe that this dichotomy goes back in the final analysis to a nonnaturalistic psychological hypothesis.


Summary.—Unlike any other type of behavior the emotional reaction is not a positive response to a stimulus, but rather a failure of a stimulus-response coordination to operate. What happens is that the organism is left in a crucial situation (in the most striking cases) without certain expected or desirable means of adaptation, either because of not having a response system for the particular stimulating circumstances or because of some failure of such an acquired response system to operate. Emotions are therefore essentially 'no response' activities. The individual thus left without a directed mode of adjustment is thrown back upon primary responses, namely, organic reflexes. It is these replacement reflexes which give emotional conduct the appearance of positive adjustments. From this it follows that emotional conduct must not be interpreted as hereditary forms of adaptational activity, since emotions are either due to the break-down of an acquired stimulus-response situation or the absence of such a coordination which should have been developed to meet the needs of the present situation. The criterion for what reaction systems should have been developed depends upon the observation of those definite reactions the individual has actually acquired, namely, the precurrent perceptual responses. The latter, however, are not complete for the present situation without the consummatory reaction systems that are not operating at the time, but which apparently should have been acquired contemporaneously with the precurrent responses. Our criterion is of course based upon the apparent concrete needs of the individual at the moment, and is therefore frankly ephemeral, since the needs of the indi-

(139) -vidual can only be determined by a field observation of the emotional reaction.

One of the significant results of the reactional interpretation of emotional conduct is that it forces to the front the distinction between emotions and feeling behavior. Fundamental in such a distinction is the fact that, unlike emotional conduct, feeling behavior of every type always involves the operation of definite response systems. A fact it is that almost every segment of behavior in which is found an emotional phase, will also include one or more feeling reactions, but in every instance the observer can adequately discriminate between the two types of conduct.

A natural consequence of the negative character of emotional behavior is that such action cannot be of general and necessary utility to the organism. In no sense can emotions be considered as determining adjustments of any kind whatsoever. Although it may sometimes occur that the disruptive dissociation of the emotional reaction may turn out to be a benefit to the person, yet such a consequence must be considered as a wholly fortuitous circumstance, and in general emotions must never be thought of as permanent directive agents which serve to carry the person through the intricate maze of daily events. On the contrary, emotional conduct is always truncated and ineffectual action, and can be useful only in elementary situations where the replacement reflexes can be of service.

Because emotions are negative or 'no response' actions, they cannot very readily be classified. Although the psychologist has trouble in grouping and correlating such behavior, this very fact is of extreme importance to the student of psychological phenomena, in that he is necessarily forced to study the emotional situation precisely as it occurs; and so the classification of emotional conduct must be based upon definite stimulus-response conditions, a fact making for exact and accurate, though extremely difficult, classification. Probably the most valuable result to be derived from such a work is the freeing of emotional conduct from their presumed dependence upon those teleological entities called instincts.


It follows from the dissociative and disruptive character of emotional behavior that emotions are seldom if ever found in animals and young children, since such organisms have not reached the stage of acquiring sufficient response systems to become disrupted. In animals and in infants the organic reflexes and other factors common to emotional reactions are parts of behavior segments which are positive responses to stimuli and are not replacement acts at all. An analysis of the behavior of animals and infants does not reveal conditions of a precurrent response failing to elicit its appropriate consummatory reaction, with the consequent replacement of this final act by organic reflexes as the only available mode of adjustment.

On the whole, it is hoped that such an organismic hypothesis as we have proposed will throw into clearer relief what has always appeared as an extremely baffling psychological phenomenon. Upon the basis of such a naturalistic standpoint emotions become familiar to us not as products of theory, but as vital modes of an organism's responses to disrupting conditions of its environment.


  1. Cf. Cannon, 'Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage,' 1915.
    Note Cannon's hortatory defense of the martial virtues.
  2. Note the grouping of phenomena—pain, hunger, fear, rage.
  3. All this for both in terms of mental structures. Cf. Shand, Proc. of Arist. Soc., 1915, 15, 74. "Primary emotion is at first a biological force pursuing its innately determined end by means of instincts and other dispositions organized with it." Ibid., p. 75.
  4. PSYCHOL. REV., 1894, 1, 553; 2, 13.
  5. Apparently the conflict of two or more instincts brings about the emotion.
  6. PSYCHOL. REV., 1895, 2, 30
  7. Ibid., 2, 28.
  8. "The frightful object and the emotion of fear are two names for the same experience." Ibid., p. 20.
  9. Cf. McDougall, 'Social Psychology.'
  10. What can be meant by 'insulting' a monkey? Darwin, 'Expressions of the Emotions,' p. 137.
  11. Loc. cit., p. 10.
  12. One is strongly reminded here of Darwin's violent assumptions concerning the exalted aesthetic development in animals as described in connection with his theory of sexual selection.
  13. Loc. cit., pp. 13, 122.
  14. As Dewey (PSYCHOL. REV., 1894, 1, 555) so well expresses it, "In the discussion of movements in animals (PP. 42-48), the reference to emotions is not even nominal. It is a matter of 'satisfaction of desire' and 'relieving disagreeable sensations'—practical ends."
  15. Loc. cit., p. 214.
  16. At the basis of the difficulties here is an implied acceptance of a structuralistic psychology.
  17. When not based upon observed facts such a doctrine would of course be a metaphysical proposition.
  18. Loc. cit., p. 213.
  19. Called by him states of mind, loc. cit., p. 26r.
  20. From a subjectivistic standpoint, Darwin's performance is much mitigated, since after all what he is attempting to do in this book is to correlate the 'mental' and the 'physical.'
  21. Ibid., p. 14.
  22. 'Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage,' 1915.
  23. Proc. of the Royal Society, London, 1900, p. 390.
  24. Cannon.
  25. Sherrington.
  26. Quoted by Sherrington.
  27. 'Integrative Action of the Nervous System,' p. 266.
  28. Ibid., p. 251 ff.
  29. We are here reminded of Sir Charles Bell's assertion that animals 'seem chiefly capable of expressing rage and fear' (quoted by Darwin, op. cit., p. 10).
  30. That is to say, when the persons who hear the description take the names to refer to emotional reactions. It is true, of course, that the names may be entirely appropriate for the reactions studied, but in that case we assume that the names symbolize a variety of behavior.
  31. 'Psychology,' p. 196.
  32. PSYCHOL. REV., 1894, 1, 555.
  33. PSYCHOL. REV., 1894, 1; 1895, 2.
  34. PSYCHOL. REV., 1894, I, 554.

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