Researchers have wondered how the brain creates emotions since the early days of psychological science. With a surge of studies in affective neuroscience in recent decades, scientists are poised to answer this question. In this target article, we present a meta-analytic summary of the neuroimaging literature on human emotion. We compare the locationist approach (i.e., the hypothesis that discrete emotion categories consistently and specifically correspond to distinct brain regions) with the psychological constructionist approach (i.e., the hypothesis that discrete emotion categories (...) are constructed of more general brain networks not specific to those categories) to better understand the brain basis of emotion. We review both locationist and psychological constructionist hypotheses of brain–emotion correspondence and report meta-analytic findings bearing on these hypotheses. Overall, we found little evidence that discrete emotion categories can be consistently and specifically localized to distinct brain regions. Instead, we found evidence that is consistent with a psychological constructionist approach to the mind: A set of interacting brain regions commonly involved in basic psychological operations of both an emotional and non-emotional nature are active during emotion experience and perception across a range of discrete emotion categories. (shrink)
A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions that could revolutionize psychology, health care, law enforcement, and our understanding of the human mind Emotions feel automatic, like uncontrollable reactions to things we think and experience. Scientists have long supported this assumption by claiming that emotions are hardwired in the body or the brain. Today, however, the science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology--and (...) this paradigm shift has far-reaching implications for us all. Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and shedding new light on what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions are housed in different parts of the brain and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, she has shown that emotion is constructed in the moment, by core systems that interact across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning. This new theory means that you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. Its repercussions are already shaking the foundations not only of psychology but also of medicine, the legal system, child-rearing, meditation, and even airport security. Why do emotions feel automatic? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent? How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain. (shrink)
This volume presents cutting-edge theory and research on emotions as constructed events rather than fixed, essential entities. It provides a thorough introduction to the assumptions, hypotheses, and scientific methods that embody psychological constructionist approaches. Leading scholars examine the neurobiological, cognitive/perceptual, and social processes that give rise to the experiences Western cultures call sadness, anger, fear, and so on. The book explores such compelling questions as how the brain creates emotional experiences, whether the "ingredients" of emotions also give rise to other (...) mental states, and how to define what is or is not an emotion. Introductory and concluding chapters by the editors identify key themes and controversies and compare psychological construction to other theories of emotion. (shrink)
According to the conceptual act theory, emotions emerge when physical sensations in the self and physical actions in others are meaningfully linked to situations during a process that can be called both cognitive and perceptual (creating emotional experiences, and emotion perceptions, respectively). There are key four hypotheses: (a) an emotion (like anger) is a conceptual category, populated with instances that are tailored to the environment; (b) each instance of emotion is constructed within the brain’s functional architecture of domain-general core systems; (...) (c) the workings of each system must be holistically understood within the momentary state of the brain, the body, and the surrounding context; (d) being emergent states, emotional episodes have functional features that physical states, alone, do not have. Similarities and differences to other theoretical approaches to emotion are discussed. (shrink)
Experiences of emotion are content-rich events that emerge at the level of psychological description, but must be causally constituted by neurobiological processes. This chapter outlines an emerging scientific agenda for understanding what these experiences feel like and how they arise. We review the available answers to what is felt (i.e., the content that makes up an experience of emotion) and how neurobiological processes instantiate these properties of experience. These answers are then integrated into a broad framework that describes, in psychological (...) terms, how the experience of emotion emerges from more basic processes. We then discuss the role of such experiences in the economy of the mind and behavior. (shrink)
Emotion regulation has the odd distinction of being a wildly popular construct whose scientific existence is in considerable doubt. In this article, we discuss the confusion about whether emotion generation and emotion regulation can and should be distinguished from one another. We describe a continuum of perspectives on emotion, and highlight how different (often mutually incompatible) perspectives on emotion lead to different views about whether emotion generation and emotion regulation can be usefully distinguished. We argue that making differences in perspective (...) explicit serves the function of allowing researchers with different theoretical commitments to collaborate productively despite seemingly insurmountable differences in terminology and methods. (shrink)
In this paper, we suggest that affect meets the traditional definition of “cognition” such that the affect–cognition distinction is phenomenological, rather than ontological. We review how the affect–cognition distinction is not respected in the human brain, and discuss the neural mechanisms by which affect influences sensory processing. As a result of this sensory modulation, affect performs several basic “cognitive” functions. Affect appears to be necessary for normal conscious experience, language fluency, and memory. Finally, we suggest that understanding the differences between (...) affect and cognition will require systematic study of how the phenomenological distinction characterising the two comes about, and why such a distinction is functional. (shrink)
Psychological construction constitutes a different paradigm for the scientific study of emotion when compared to the current paradigm that is inspired by faculty psychology. This new paradigm is more consistent with the post-Darwinian conceptual framework in biology that includes a focus on (a) population thinking (vs. typologies), (b) domain-general core systems (vs. physical essences), and (c) constructive analysis (vs. reductionism). Three psychological construction approaches (the OCC model, the iterative reprocessing model, and the conceptual act theory) are discussed with respect to (...) these ideas. (shrink)
According to models of objectification, viewing someone as a body induces de-mentalization, stripping away their psychological traits. Here evidence is presented for an alternative account, where a body focus does not diminish the attribution of all mental capacities but, instead, leads perceivers to infer a different kind of mind. Drawing on the distinction in mind perception between agency and experience, it is found that focusing on someone's body reduces perceptions of agency but increases perceptions of experience. These effects were found (...) when comparing targets represented by both revealing versus nonrevealing pictures or by simply directing attention toward physical characteristics. The effect of a body focus on mind perception also influenced moral intuitions, with those represented as a body seen to be less morally responsible but more sensitive to harm. These effects suggest that a body focus does not cause objectification per se but, instead, leads to a redistribution of perceived mind. (shrink)
Within the discipline of psychology, the conventional history outlines the development of two fundamental approaches to the scientific study of emotion—“basic emotion” and “appraisal” traditions. In this article, we outline the development of a third approach to emotion that exists in the psychological literature—the “psychological constructionist” tradition. In the process, we discuss a number of works that have virtually disappeared from the citation trail in psychological discussions of emotion. We also correct some misconceptions about early sources, such as work by (...) Darwin and James. Taken together, these three contributions make for a fuller and more accurate account of ideas about emotion during the century stretching from 1855 to just before 1960. (shrink)
Theories of emotion have often maintained artificial boundaries: for instance, that cognition and emotion are separable, and that an emotion concept is separable from the emotional events that comprise its category (e.g. “fear” is distinct from instances of fear). Over the past several years, research has dissolved these artificial boundaries, suggesting instead that conceptual construction is a domain-general process—a process by which the brain makes meaning of the world. The brain constructs emotion concepts, but also cognitions and perceptions, all in (...) the service of guiding action. In this view, concepts are multimodal constructions, dynamically prepared from a set of highly variable instances. This approach obviates old questions (e.g. how does cognition regulate emotion?) but generates new ones (e.g. how does a brain learn emotion concepts?). In this paper, we review this constructionist, predictive coding account of emotion, considering its implications for health and well-being, culture and development. (shrink)
Psychological research on emotion perception anchors heavily on an object perception analogy. We present static “cues,” such as facial expressions, as objects for perceivers to categorize. Yet in the real world, emotions play out as dynamic multidimensional events. Current theoretical approaches and research methods are limited in their ability to capture this complexity. We draw on insights from a predictive coding account of neural activity and a grounded cognition account of concept representation to conceive of emotion perception as a stream (...) of synchronized conceptualizations between two individuals, which is supported and shaped by language. We articulate how this framework can illuminate the fundamental need to study culture, as well as other sources of conceptual variation, in unpacking conceptual synchrony in emotion. We close by suggesting that the conceptual system provides the necessary flexibility to overcome gaps in emotional synchrony. (shrink)
In our response, we clarify important theoretical differences between basic emotion and psychological construction approaches. We evaluate the empirical status of the basic emotion approach, addressing whether it requires brain localization, whether localization can be observed with better analytic tools, and whether evidence for basic emotions exists in other types of measures. We then revisit the issue of whether the key hypotheses of psychological construction are supported by our meta-analytic findings. We close by elaborating on commentator suggestions for future research.
In various guises (usually referred to as the “basic emotion” or “discrete emotion” approach), scientists and philosophers have long argued that certain categories of emotion are natural kinds. In a recent paper, Colombetti (2009) proposed yet another natural kind account, and in so doing, characterized and critiqued psychological constructionist approaches to emotion, including our own Conceptual Act Model. In this commentary, we briefly address three topics raised by Columbetti. First, we correct several common misperceptions about the discrete emotion approach to (...) emotion. Second, we discuss misconceptions of our Conceptual Act Model. Finally, we briefly comment on Columbetti's Dynamical Discrete Emotion model. (shrink)
Lindquist et al. convincingly argue that the brain implements psychological operations that are constitutive of emotion rather than modules subserving discrete emotions. However, the nature of such psychological operations is open to debate. I argue that considering appraisal theories may provide alternative interpretations of the neuroimaging data with respect to the psychological operations involved.
We propose that learning has a top-down component, but not in the propositional terms described by Mitchell et al. Specifically, we propose that a host of learning processes, including associative learning, serve to imbue the representation of the conditioned stimulus (CS) with affective meaning.
Grossmann proposes the “fearful ape hypothesis,” suggesting that heightened fearfulness in early life is evolutionarily adaptive. We question this claim with evidence that (1) perceived fearfulness in children is associated with negative, not positive long-term outcomes; (2) caregivers are responsive to all affective behaviors, not just those perceived as fearful; and (3) caregiver responsiveness serves to reduce perceived fearfulness.
In this commentary, we review evidence that production-based (perceiver-independent) measures reveal few consistent sex differences in emotion. Further, sex differences in perceiver-based measures can be attributed to retrospective or dispositional biases. We end by discussing an alternative view that women might appear to be more emotional because they are more facile with emotion language.
We agree that conceptualisation is key in understanding the brain basis of emotion. We argue that by conflating facial emotion recognition with subjective emotion experience, Lindquist et al. understate the importance of biological predisposition in emotion. We use examples from the anxiety disorders to illustrate the distinction between these two phenomena, emphasising the importance of both emotional hardware and contextual learning.
Media exposure influences mental health symptomology in response to salient aversive events, like terrorist attacks, but little has been done to explore the impact of news coverage that varies more subtly in affective content. Here, we utilized an existing data set in which participants self-reported physical symptoms, depressive symptoms, and anxiety symptoms, and completed a potentiated startle task assessing their physiological reactivity to aversive stimuli at three time points over a 9-month period. Using a computational linguistics approach, we then calculated (...) an average ratio of words with positive vs. negative affective connotations for only articles from news sources to which each participant self-reported being exposed over the prior 2 weeks at each wave of data collection. As hypothesized, individuals exposed to news coverage with more negative affective tone over the prior 2 weeks reported significantly greater physical and depressive symptoms, and had significantly greater physiological reactivity to aversive stimuli. (shrink)