Understanding and Recognizing Emotion

  • Alan Eppel


The objective of this chapter is to answer the highly complex question “what are emotions?”. " The nature of emotion is explored starting with Darwin’s powerful observations and descriptions of the fundamental emotions. Darwin’s descriptions still provide an enormously vivid portrayal that can heighten the therapist’s ability to recognize subtle changes in emotional expression. This is essential for effective psychodynamic psychotherapy. Based on a number of emotion theorists, the agreed-upon core human emotions are described and illustrated.

Theories of emotion are highlighted starting with Paul McLean’s heuristic concept of the triune brain and then moving into current understandings of the neurobiology of emotion informed by the work of Antonio Damasio, Jaak Panksepp, Joseph LeDoux and Beatrice de Gelder.

Emotional expression involves a sequence of signal, perception, fast appraisal or slow appraisal then action Emotions are revealed through facial expression and body language. Basic emotions include happiness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust and sadness.

Illustrations of joy, sadness, anger and fear can allow close analysis of facial expression.

Understanding of the neuroscience can prepare the therapist for anticipated future advances in clinical and neuroimaging research that will be of relevance to psychotherapy practice.


Emotion theory Affect Dual processing Damasio LeDoux Panksepp 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Eppel
    • 1
  1. 1.McMaster University St. Joseph’s HospitalHamiltonCanada

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