Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion

By Nancy L. Stein; Bennett Leventhal et al. | Go to book overview

16
Emotions in Relation to Systems of Behavior

James R. Averill University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first, to present a general model for the explanation of emotional behavior, and second to explore some of the implications of that model for the analysis of emotional development. The study of emotion is plagued by terminological confusion. Therefore, I begin by distinguishing emotional syndromes (the primary focus of this analysis) from emotional states and reactions. I then illustrate how the origins and functions of emotional syndromes might be explained by reference to broader systems of behavior, defined in terms of biological, psychological, and social principles of organization. Although no one kind of principle is more "fundamental" than another in an absolute sense, the involvement of social principles of organization means that emotional syndromes are, to a significant degree, social constructions. Hence, the relation of emotional syndromes to social systems is explored in some detail, with special emphasis on the socialization of emotion.


SOME PRELIMINARY DISTINCTIONS

Emotional concepts (e.g., anger, fear, joy, contempt, jealousy, love, grief, and so forth) refer to syndromes. The dictionary ( Webster's New World) defines a syndrome as "a set of characteristics regarded as identifying a type." Like most definitions, this one is ambiguous, especially with regard to the meaning of "type." Syndromes are theoretical entities; they exist "out there," so to speak, but only as abstractions. As such, emotional syndromes must be distinguished from emotional states, which are temporary (episodic) dispositions on the part of

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