Evolution & Emotion

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The topic of emotion and evolution typically brings to mind Charles Darwin’s classic treatise, Emotions in Man and Animals. He observed that certain emotions are expressed similarly across species, especially closely related species, suggesting that these emotions are phylogenetically conserved.

According to modern evolutionary theory, different emotions evolved at different times: primal emotions, filial emotions and, later on, social emotions.

Evolutionary psychologists consider human emotions to be best adapted to the life our ancestors led in nomadic foraging bands.

Improve your social skills and emotional intelligence by reading the best books about emotions and evolution you can find.

Featured Image for Paul Ekman's Theory of Emotions - collage artwork
Evolution & Emotion
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Paul Ekman’s Theory of Emotion

The framework described by Paul Ekman is influenced by Charles Darwin and Silvan Solomon Tomkins, although he himself stated that he did not accept in tot what either of them said. Ekman sustained there are three meanings for the term “basic” as you can read his argumentation in the article.

Ekman considers that emotional expressions are crucial to the development and regulation of interpersonal relationships. His studies demonstrated that facial expressions play an important role in the formation of attachments and are involved in the formation, acceleration or deceleration of aggressive behaviour. 

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Collage Artwork used as featured image for Robert Plutchik's Theroy of Emotions
Evolution & Emotion
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Robert Plutchik’s Theory of Emotion

Robert Plutchik proposed a psychoevolutionary classification approach for general emotional responses. He considered there to be eight primary emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. Plutchik argues for the primacy of these emotions by showing each to be the trigger of behaviour with high survival value, such as the way fear inspires the fight-or-flight response.

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Theories of Emotion in Psychology: Quick Guide featured image - Matt Cunningham Art
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Theories of Emotion in Psychology: Quick Guide

Emotion represents a complex of affective states that implies conscious or unconscious experiences which lead to psychological responses that either inhibit or facilitate the motivation of behaviour.

Emotions exert an incredibly powerful force on human behavior. Strong emotions can cause you to take actions you might not normally perform or to avoid situations you enjoy. Why exactly do we have emotions? What causes us to have these feelings?

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The James-Lange Theory of Emotions

William James, known as the father of American Psychology, developed along with his 19th Century fellow psychologist Carl Lange the James-Lange theory which considers that environmental events lead to the apparition of muscular and visceral responses, and that these responses eventually determine emotions. Instead of feeling an emotion and subsequent physiological (bodily) response, the theory proposes that the physiological change is primary, and emotion is after that experienced, as the brain reacts to the information received via the body’s nervous system.

The emotion follows the behaviour, and does not determine it.

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