Theories of emotion causation: A review

Cognition and Emotion 23 (4):625-662 (2009)
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Abstract

I present an overview of emotion theories, organised around the question of emotion causation. I argue that theories of emotion causation should ideally address the problems of elicitation, intensity, and differentiation. Each of these problems can be divided into a subquestion that asks about the relation between stimuli and emotions (i.e., the functional level of process description, cf. Marr, 1982) and a subquestion that asks about the mechanism and representations that intervene (i.e., the algorithmic level of process description). The overview reveals that theories of emotion causation sometimes differ with regard to the kind of process that they hold responsible for emotion causation. More precisely, they hold different assumptions regarding the conditions under which the process is supposed to operate (optimal versus suboptimal), the format of the representations involved (propositional versus perceptual), and the object or input of the central process (stimulus versus responses/experience). Further, the overview reveals that theories of emotion causation sometimes differ with regard to the level of process description that they focus on. Finally, the overview brings to light several similarities among the theories discussed.

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