Measuring and Modifying Moods
The attempt to understand the nature of emotion has occupied scientists since Hippocrates’ theory of body fluids in the fourth century B.C. Modern scientists, from Charles Darwin and William James in the latter part of the nineteenth century, through the present day have sought to define, explain, and demonstrate the causes and meanings of the emotions. Various models of the purposes, sources, and interrelations of emotions have been proposed over the years. At the present time, however, there still is no consensus on the nature or even the number of emotions. This dissension among researchers may reflect the complexity of the phenomenon in question. As Plutchik points out in this volume (see also Averill’s paper), emotion is a hypothetical construct inferred from behavior, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, subjective report, and the reactions of others, to name just a few indicants. A large body of literature has been generated just on the issue of whether observers can identify what emotion a subject (or an actor) is feeling (or portraying). Although this literature does indicate that emotions can be recognized, the accuracy of this identification is far from perfect. Furthermore, research from our own laboratory at Erindale College (Polivy, Krames, & Bycio, 1979) indicates that, even when observers agree about which emotion a target subject is feeling, there is substantial disagreement about what that emotion means; that is, consensus about the emotion itself does not imply consensus about what the emoter wants, or is trying to communicate by expressing a particular feeling. Thus, emotions are neither especially obvious nor comprehensible in others.
KeywordsEmotional Behavior Mood Induction Laboratory Emotion Target Emotion Adjective Scale
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