Emotions, Stress, and Health

Emotion is made up of three components; physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience. One of the oldest theoretical controversies regarding emotion focuses on the timing of our feelings in relation to the physiological responses that accompany emotion. William James and Carl Lange proposed that we feel emotion after we notice our physiological responses. Walter Cannon and Philip Bard believed that we feel emotion at the same time that our bodies respond. A third, more recent, theory, the Schachter-Singer two-factor theory, focuses on the interplay of the emotions rather than the timing of the emotions. It states that there are only two components of emotion, physical arousal and a cognitive label. Emotions are aspect of higher nervous activity that characterize subjective attitude of person to various stimuli arousal in surroundings. Emotional status reflects actual needs of man and helps in its realization.

Classification of emotions

According to subjective status there are positive and negative emotions. Negative emotions are sthenic (aggression, affect) that stimulate human activity and asthenia (horror, sadness, depression) that inhibit behaviour. Lower or elementary emotions are caused by organic needs of man or animal as hanger, thirst and survival, so on). In humans even lover emotions undergo to cortical control and are brining up. Social, historical and cultural customs cause also formation of higher emotions that regulates public and private relations in society. Higher emotions appear due to consciousness and may inhibit lower emotions.

Biological importance of emotions

Emotions are important element of human behaviour, creation of conditioned reflexes and mentation. Negative emotions give fusty evaluation of current situation does it useful or not. Mobilizing of efforts helps then to satisfy current needs of person. Positive emotions help to put in memory scheme of behaviour, which was useful and have lead to success.

Animal experiments have shown that a sensory experience causing neither reward nor punishment is remembered hardly at all. Electrical recordings from the brain show that newly experienced types of sensory stimuli almost always excite wide areas in the cerebral cortex. But repetition of the stimulus over and over leads to almost complete excitation of the cortical response, if the sensory experience does not elicit a sense or either reward or punishment. That is, the animal becomes habituated to the sensory stimulus and thereafter ignores it.  If the stimulus causes either reward or punishment rather then indifference, the cortical response becomes progressively more and more intense during repeated stimulation, and the response is said to be reinforced. An animal builds up strong memory traces for sensation that are either rewarding or punishing but, conversely, develops complete habituation to indifferent sensory stimuli.

Structure of behavioural act

According to theory of functional systems (Anochkin) there are such stages of behavioural act: 1) afferent synthesis; 2) taking of decision; 3) acceptor of result of action; 4) efferent synthesis (or programming of action); 5) performing of action; 6) evaluation of final result of action. Due to converging and processing of both sensory information and memory traces afferent synthesis in the brain is performed. Taking of decision is based on afferent synthesis by choosing optimal variant of action.

Neuronal mechanisms of behaviour.

In the very lowest animals olfactory cortex plays essential roles in determining whether the animal eats a particular food, whether the smell of a particular object suggest danger, and whether the odour is sexually inviting, thus making decisions that are of life-or-death importance. The hippocampus originated as part of olfactory cortex. Very early in the evolutionary development of the brain, the hippocampus presumably becomes a critical decision-making neuronal mechanism, determining the importance of the incoming sensory signals. Once this critical decision-making capability had been established, presumably the remainder of the brain began to call on it for the same decision making. Therefore, if the hippocampus says that a neuronal signal is important, the information is likely to be committed to memory. Thus, a person rapidly become habituated to indifferent stimuli but learns assiduously any sensory experience that causes either pleasure or pain. It has been suggested that hippocampus provides the drive that causes translation of short-term memory into long-term memory.

Walter Cannon viewed stress, the process by which we appraise and respond to events that challenge or threaten us, as a “fightor-flight” system. Hans Selye saw it as a three-stage (alarmresistance-exhaustion) general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Modern research on stress assesses the health consequences of catastrophic events, significant life changes, and daily hassles. The events that tend to provoke stress responses are those that we perceive as both negative and uncontrollable.

Coronary heart disease, North America’s number one cause of death, has been linked with the competitive, hard-driving, impatient, and (especially) anger-prone Type A personality. Under stress, the body of a reactive, hostile person secretes more of the hormones that accelerate the buildup of plaque on the heart’s artery walls. Type B personalities are more relaxed and easygoing. Chronic stress also contributes to persistent inflammation, which heightens the risk of clogged arteries and depression. Stress diverts energy from the immune system, inhibiting the activities of its B and T lymphocytes, macrophages, and NK cells. Although stress does not cause diseases such as AIDS and cancer, it may influence their progression.

Having a sense of control, developing a more optimistic explanatory style, and building our base of social support can help us cope with stress emotionally, cognitively, or behaviorally. Direct, problem-focused coping strategies alleviate stress directly; emotion-focused coping tries to alleviate stress by attending to emotional needs. Optimists seem to cope more successfully with stress and enjoy better health. Stress-management programs may include aerobic exercise, relaxation, and meditation. Learning to slow down and relax has helped lower rates of recurring heart attacks. Researchers are working toward understanding the active components of the religion-health correlation.


Theories of Emotion.

Three theories support different combinations of these responses. The James-Lange theory maintains that our emotional feelings follow our body’s response to the emotion-inducing stimuli. The Cannon-Bard theory proposes that our body responds to emotion at the same time that we experience the emotion (one does not cause the other). The two-factor theory holds that our emotions have two ingredients: physical arousal and a cognitive label.

Common sense tells most of us that we cry because we are sad, lash out because we are angry, tremble because we are afraid. First comes conscious awareness, then the physiological trimmings. But to pioneering psychologist William James, this commonsense view of emotion was backward. According to James, “We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble”. Perhaps you can recall a time when your car skidded on slick pavement. As it careened crazily, you countersteered and regained control. Just after the fishtail ended, you noticed your racing heart and then, shaking with fright, you felt the whoosh of emotion. Your feeling of fear  followed your body’s response. James’ idea, also proposed by Danish physiologist Carl Lange, is called the  James-Lange theory. First comes a distinct physiological response, then (as we observe that response) comes our experienced emotion.

This James-Lange theory struck U.S. physiologist Walter Cannon as implausible. Cannon thought the body’s responses were not distinct enough to evoke the different emotions. Does a racing heart signal fear, anger, or love? Also, changes in heart rate, perspiration, and body temperature seemed too slow to trigger sudden emotion. Cannon, and later another physiologist, Philip Bard, concluded that our physiological arousal and our emotional experience occur simultaneously: The emotion-triggering stimulus is routed simultaneously to the brain’s cortex, causing the subjective awareness of emotion, and to the sympathetic nervous system, causing the body’s arousal.

This Cannon-Bard theory implies that your heart begins pounding as you experience fear; one does not cause the other. Our physiological response and experienced emotion are separate. Let’s check your understanding of the James-Lange and Cannon-Bard theories. Imagine that your brain could not sense your heart pounding or your stomach churning. According to each theory, how would this affect your experienced emotions?

Cannon and Bard would have expected you to experience emotions normally because they believed emotions occur separately from (though simultaneously with) the body’s arousal. James and Lange would have expected greatly diminished emotions because they believed that to experience emotion you must first perceive your body’s arousal.

Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer proposed a third theory: that our physiology and our cognitions—perceptions, memories, and interpretations—together create emotion. In their  two-factor theory, emotions therefore have two ingredients: physical arousal and a cognitive label. Like James and Lange, Schachter and Singer presumed that our experience of emotion grows from our

awareness of our body’s arousal. Yet like Cannon and Bard, Schachter and Singer also believed that emotions are physiologically similar. Thus, in their view, an emotional experience requires a conscious interpretation of the arousal.

To assess the James-Lange, Cannon-Bard, and two-factor theories, we’ll consider in the next section the answers researchers have gleaned to three questions:

• Does physiological arousal always precede emotional experience?

• Are different emotions marked by distinct physiological responses?

• What is the connection between what we think and how we feel?

Biological theory of emotions (P.K. Anochkin) considers that life course includes two main stages of behavioural act: 1) formation of needs and motivations that results from negative emotions and 2) satisfaction of needs that leads to positive emotions it case of complete accordance of image and result of action. Incomplete compliance of suspected and real result of action cause negative emotions and continues behavioural act.

Information theory of emotions  (P.V. Simonov)considers that emotions reflect strength human of need and possibility of its satisfaction in current moment. In absence of needs emotions can’t arise. There is also not emotional excitation, if getting excess information about mode of satisfaction this need. Lac of information already causes negative emotions that help to recall to mind life experience and to gather information about current situation.


Emotions and the Autonomic Nervous System.

Emotions are both psychological and physiological. Much of the physiological activity is controlled by the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic (arousing) and parasympathetic (calming) divisions. Our performance on a task is usually best when arousal is moderate, though this varies with the difficulty of the task.

Emotions are both psychological and physiological. Much of the physiological activity is controlled by the autonomic nervous system’s sympathetic (arousing) and parasympathetic (calming) divisions. Our performance on a task is usually best when arousal is moderate, though this varies with the difficulty of the task.

Nerve substrate of emotions

Several limbic structures are particularly concerned with the affective nature of sensory sensations – that is whether the sensations are pleasant or unpleasant. The major rew3ard centres have been found to be located along the course of the medial forebrain bundle, especially in the lateral and ventromedial nuclei of the hypothalamus. Less potent reward centres are found in the septum, amygdala, certain areas of the thalamus, basal ganglia, and extending downward into the basal tegmentum of the mesencephalon. The most potent areas for punishment and escape tendencies have been found in the central grey area surrounding the aqueduct of Sylvius in the mesencephalon and extending upward into the periventricular zones of the hypothalamus and thalamus. Less potent punishment areas are found in some locations in the amygdala and the hippocampus. Electrical recording from the brain show that newly experienced types of sensory stimuli almost excite areas in the cerebral cortex.

Neurotransmission of emotional excitation

Emotional excitation is spread in the brain due to variety of neurotransmitters (noradrenalin, acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine and neuropeptides including opioides. Positive emotions may be explained by revealing catecholamines and negative emotions, aggression result from production acetylcholine in the brain. Serotonin inhibits both kinds of emotions. Decrease of serotonin in blood is followed by groundless anxiety and inhibition of noradrenergic transmission results in sadness.

Emotions may be similarly arousing, but there are some subtle physiological responses that distinguish them. More meaning ful differences have been found in activity in the brain’s cortical areas, in use of brain pathways, and in secretion of hor-

mones associated with different emotions. Polygraphs measure several physiological indicators of emotion, but they are not accurate enough to justify their widespread use in business and law enforcement. The use of guilty knowledge questions and new forms of technology may produce better indicationsof lying.


Physiological Similarities Among Specific Emotions.

Three emotions—fear, anger, and sexual arousal—produce similar physiological responses that are nearly indistinguishable to an untrained observer. However, the emotions are felt differently by those experiencing them.


Physiological Differences Among Specific Emotions.

Emotions stimulate different facial muscles. Additionally, scientists have discovered subtle differences in activity in the brain’s cortical areas, in use of brain pathways, and in secretion of hormones associated with different emotions.


Cognition and Emotion

A spillover effect occurs when our arousal response to one event spills over into our response to the following event. Arousal fuels emotion; cognition channels it. Emotional responses are immediate when sensory input goes directly to the amygdala via the thalamus, bypassing the cortex, triggering a rapid reaction that is outside our conscious awareness. 

Sometimes our arousal response to one event spills over into our response to the next event. Imagine arriving home after an invigorating run and finding a message that you got a longed-for job. With arousal lingering from the run, would you feel more elated than if you received this news after awakening from a nap?

To find out whether this  spillover effect exists, Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer aroused college men with injections of the hormone epinephrine. Picture yourself as one of their participants: After receiving the injection, you go to a waiting room, where you find yourself with another person (actually an accomplice of the experimenters) who is acting either euphoric or irritated. As you observe this person, you begin to feel your heart race, your body flush, and your breathing become more rapid. If told to expect these effects from the injection, what would you feel? Schachter and Singer’s volunteers felt little emotion—because they attributed their arousal to the drug. But if told the injection would produce no effects, what would you feel? Perhaps you would react, as another group of participants did, by “catching” the apparent emotion of the person you are with—becoming happy if the accomplice is acting euphoric, and testy if the accomplice is acting irritated.

This discovery—that a stirred-up state can be experienced as one emotion or another very different one, depending on how we interpret and label it—has been replicated in dozens of experiments. Insult people who have just been aroused by pedaling an exercise bike or watching rock videos and they will find it easy to misattribute their arousal to the provocation. Their anger will exceed that of people similarly provoked but not previously aroused. Likewise, sexually aroused people react with more hostility in anger-provoking situations. And, vice versa—the arousal that lingers after an intense argument or a frightening experience may intensify sexual passion. Just as the Schachter-Singer two-factor theory predicts, arousal + label = emotion. Emotional arousal may not be as undifferentiated as Schachter and Singer believed, but arousal from emotions as diverse as anger, fear, and sexual excitement can indeed spill from one emotion to another. The point to remember: Arousal fuels emotion; cognition channels it.

Cognition Does Not Always Precede Emotion

Is the heart always subject to the mind? Robert Zajonc has contended that we actually have many emotional reactions apart from, or even before, our interpretations of a situation. Imagine receiving some unsettling news. You discover that you’ve forgotten an important deadline, or that you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. As the ongoing conversation distracts your attention, you lose awareness of the bad news. Yet the feeling still churns. You feel a little bad. You know there’s a reason, but for the moment you can’t put your finger on it. The arousal lingers, but without a label.

A subliminally flashed stimulus, such as a smiling or angry face or a disgusting scene, can also prime a mood or specific emotion and lead us to feel better or worse about a follow-up stimulus. In one set of experiments, thirsty people were given a fruit-flavored drink after viewing a subliminally flashed (thus unperceived) face. Those exposed to a happy face drank about 50 percent more than those exposed to a neutral face. Those flashed an angry face drank substantially less.

Neuroscience research helps us understand these surprising findings. Like speedy reflexes that operate apart from the brain’s thinking cortex, some emotions take what Joseph LeDoux calls the “low road,” via neural pathways that bypass the cortex (which offers the alternative “high road” pathway). One low-road pathway runs from the eye or ear via the thalamus to the amygdala, bypassing the cortex. This shortcut enables our greased-lightning emotional response before our intellect intervenes. So speedy is the amygdala reaction that we may be unaware of what’s transpired. In one fascinating experiment, Paul Whalen and his colleagues used fMRI scans to observe the amygdala’s response to subliminally presented fearful eyes. Compared with a control condition that presented the whites of happy eyes, the fearful eyes triggered increased amygdala activity (despite no one’s being aware of seeing them).

The amygdala sends more neural projections up to the cortex than it receives back. This makes it easier for our feelings to hijack our thinking than for our thinking to rule our feelings, noted LeDoux and Jorge Armony. In the forest, we jump at the sound of rustling bushes nearby, leaving the cortex to decide later whether the sound was made by a predator or just the wind. Such an experience supports Zajonc’s belief that some of our emotional reactions involve no deliberate thinking.

Emotion researcher Richard Lazarus conceded that our brains process and react to vast amounts of information without our conscious awareness, and he willingly granted that some emotional responses do not require  conscious thinking. Much of our emotional life operates via the automatic, effortless, speedy low road. But, he noted, even instantaneously felt emotions require some sort of cognitive appraisal of the situation; otherwise, how would we know what we are reacting to? The appraisal may be effortless and we may not be conscious of it, but it is still a mental function. To know whether something is good or bad, the brain must have some idea of what it is. Thus, emotions arise when we appraise an event as beneficial or harmful to our well-being, whether we truly know it is or not. We appraise the sound of the rustling bushes as the presence of a threat. Later, we realize that it was “just the wind.”

To sum up, as Zajonc and LeDoux have demonstrated, some emotional responses—especially simple likes, dislikes, and fears—involve no conscious thinking (FIGURE 12.8). We may fear a spider, even if we “know” it is harmless. Such responses are difficult to alter by changing our thinking.

The emotional brain even influences people’s political decisions, leading many to vote for candidates they automatically like over a candidate expressing positions more like their own. When voters undergo brain imaging while watching candidates, their emotion circuits are more engaged than their rational frontal lobes.

But like other emotions—including moods such as depression and complex feelings such as hatred, guilt, happiness, and love—our feelings about politics are, as Lazarus, Schachter, and Singer predicted, greatly influenced by our memories, expectations, and interpretations. Highly emotional people are intense partly because of their interpretations. They may personalize events as being somehow directed at them, and they may  generalize their experiences by blowing single incidents out of proportion. In dealing with complex emotions, as you will see in Chapter 14, learning to  think more positively can help people feel better. Even though the emotional low road functions automatically, the thinking high road allows us to retake some control over our emotional life.

A dramatic testimony to the interplay of emotion and cognition comes from the brain-damaged, seemingly emotionless patients studied by Antonio Damasio. He devised a simple card-game task on which, over trials, people could make or lose money. Without brain damage, most people make money as the emotions generated by their unconscious brain figure things out ahead of their conscious reasoning. Without these feelings to inform their thinking, the emotionless patients typically lose money. This demonstrates once again that our two-track minds include a smart unconsciousness. Automatic emotion and conscious thinking together weave the fabric of our minds.


Expressed Emotion

Nonverbal Communication

Much of our communication is through the silent language of the body. Even very thin (seconds-long) filmed slices of behavior can reveal feelings. Women tend to be better at reading people’s emotional cues. Psychologists have studied people’s abilities to detect emotion, even from thin slices of behavior. Research has found that women are typically more sensitive to nonverbal clues than men.

Some gestures are culturally determined. Facial expressions, such as those of happiness and fear, are common the world over. Cultures differ in the amount of emotion they express.

External manifestations of emotions are revealed in motor acts, effects of autonomic and endocrine regulation. Motor manifestations of emotions are mimic, gesticulation, body posture and walk. Emotional excitation usually is followed by autonomic reactions as blush, dilation of pupils; increase of arterial pressure, rate of heartbeat and breathing. Level of catecholamines in blood and 17-oxycetosteroides in urine rises also. Positive emotion may activate parasympathetic division of autonomic nervous system. Severe emotional excitation may result in visceral disorders because of circulatory disturbances and excess hormones in blood.


Detecting and Computing Emotion

Discerning lies from truth is difficult for the untrained eye. There are certain professionals who are more skilled at detecting emotion. Researchers are studying the role of nonverbal communication during job interviews. In E-mail communications, nonverbal cues are missing which can lead to misinterpretation.

All of us communicate nonverbally as well as verbally. To Westerners, a firm handshake immediately conveys an outgoing, expressive personality. With a gaze, an averted glance, or a stare we can communicate intimacy, submission, or dominance.

Among those passionately in love, gazing into each other’s eyes is typically prolonged and mutual. Joan Kellerman, James Lewis, and James Laird wondered if intimate gazes would stir such feelings between strangers. To find out, they asked unacquainted male-female pairs to gaze intently for two minutes either at each other’s hands or into each other’s eyes. After separating, the eye gazers reported feeling a tingle of attraction and affection.

Most of us are good enough at reading nonverbal cues to decipher the emotions in an old silent film. We are especially good at detecting threats. Even when hearing emotions conveyed in another language, people most readily detect anger. When viewing subliminally flashed words, we more often sense the presence of a negative word, such as snake or bomb. And in a crowd of faces, a single angry face will “pop out” faster than a single happy one.

Experience can sensitize us to particular emotions, as shown by experiments using a series of faces that morphed from fear (or sadness) to anger. Viewing such faces, physically abused children are much quicker than other children to spot the signals of anger. Shown a face that is 60 percent fear and 40 percent anger, they are as likely to perceive anger as fear. Their perceptions become sensitively attuned to glimmers of danger that nonabused children miss.

Hard-to-control facial muscles reveal signs of emotions you may be trying to conceal. Lifting just the inner part of your eyebrows, which few people do consciously, reveals distress or worry. Eyebrows raised and pulled together signal fear.

Activated muscles under the eyes and raised cheeks suggest a natural smile. A feigned smile, such as one we make for a photographer, often continues for more than 4 or 5 seconds. Most authentic expressions have faded by that time. Feigned smiles are also switched on and off more abruptly than is a genuine happy smile.

Our brains are rather amazing detectors of subtle expressions. Elisha Babad, Frank Bernieri, and Robert Rosenthal discovered just  how amazing after filming teachers talking to unseen schoolchildren. A mere 10-second clip of either the teacher’s voice or face provided enough clues for both young and old viewers to determine whether the teacher liked and admired the child he or she was addressing. In another experiment, a glimpse of a face for even one-tenth of a second was enough

for people to judge someone’s trustworthiness. When researchers blur faces or hide them in distracting information, people still display remarkable skill at recognizing distinct emotions. Exposing different facial parts shows the eyes and mouth to be most revealing, with fear and anger read mostly from the eyes, and happiness from the mouth.

Despite our brain’s emotion-detecting skill, we find it difficult to detect deceiving expressions. People worldwide believe that one telltale sign of lying is averting one’s gaze. Perhaps this is what former President George W. Bush had in mind when telling U.S. troops in Baghdad that he had come “to look at Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes and determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are”. Yet in one digest of 206 studies of discerning truth from lies, people were just 54 percent accurate—barely better than a coin toss. Moreover, contrary to claims that some experts can spot lies, the available research indicates that virtually no one beats chance by much.

Some of us are, however, more sensitive than others to physical cues. Robert Rosenthal, Judith Hall, and their colleagues discovered this by showing hundreds of people brief film clips of portions of a person’s emotionally expressive face or body, sometimes accompanied by a garbled voice. For example, after a 2-second scene revealing only the face of an upset woman, the researchers would ask whether the woman was criticizing someone for being late or was talking about her divorce.

Rosenthal and Hall reported that, given such “thin slices,” some people are much better than others at detecting emotion. Introverts tend to excel at reading others’ emotions, although extraverts are generally easier to read. Gestures, facial expressions, and tones of voice are all absent in computer-based communication. E-mail communications sometimes include sideways  emoticons, such as ;-) for a knowing wink and :-( for a frown. But e-mail letters and Internet discussions otherwise lack nonverbal cues to status, personality, and age. Nobody knows what you look or sound like, or anything about your background; you are judged solely on your words. When first meeting an e-mail pen pal face to face, people are often surprised at the person they encounter.

It’s also easy to misread e-mailed communications, where the absence of expressive e-motion can make for ambiguous emotion. So can the absence of those vocal nuances by which we signal that a statement is serious, kidding, or sarcastic. Research by Justin Kruger and his colleagues shows that communicators often think their “just kidding” intent is equally clear, whether e-mailed or spoken. But they commonly exhibit egocentrism by not foreseeing misinterpretations in the absence of nonverbal cues.

The Effects of Facial Expressions

Expressions do more than communicate emotion. They also amplify the felt emotion and signal the body to respond accordingly. Emotions, then, arise from the interplay of cognition, physiology, and expressive behaviors.


Experienced Emotion

Among various human emotions, we looked closely at how we experience three: fear, anger, and happiness. Schachter and Singer’s two-factor theory of emotion contends that the cognitive labels we put on our states of arousal are an essential ingredient of emotion. Lazarus agreed that cognition is essential: Many important emotions arise from our interpretations or inferences. Zajonc and LeDoux, however, believe that some simple emotional responses occur instantly, not only outside our conscious awareness but before any cognitive processing occurs. The interplay between emotion and cognition again illustrates our dual-track mind.


Fear is an adaptive emotion, but it can be traumatic. Although we seem biologically predisposed to acquire some fears, what we learn through experience and observation best explains the variety of human fears.


Anger is most often evoked by events that not only are frustrating or insulting but also are interpreted as willful, unjustified, and avoidable. Blowing off steam may be temporarily calming, but in the long run it does not reduce anger. Expressing anger can actually make us angrier.


A good mood boosts people’s perceptions of the world and their willingness to help others. The moods triggered by the day’s good or bad events seldom last beyond that day. Even significant good events, such as a substantial rise in income, seldom increase happiness for long. We can explain the relativity of happiness with the adaptation-level phenomenon and the relative deprivation principle. Nevertheless, some people are usually happier than others, and researchers have identified factors that predict such happiness.

Culture and Emotional Expression

Although some gestures are culturally determined, facial expressions, such as those of happiness and fear, are common the world over. In communal cultures that value interdependence, intense displays of potentially disruptive emotions are infrequent.