The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions

The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions

The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions

The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions


The editors of this unique volume have selected 24 leading emotion theorists and asked them to address 12 fundamental questions about the subject of emotion. For example; Are there basic emotions? How do you distinguish emotions from moods, temperament, and emotional traits? Can we control our emotions? Can emotions be non-conscious? What is the relation between emotion and memory? What develops in emotional development? Each chapter addresses a different one of these fundamental questions about emotion, with often divergent answers from several of leading researchers represented here: James Averill, Gordon Bower, Linda Camras, Lee Clark, Gerald Clore, Richard Davidson, Judy Dunn, Paul Ekman, Phoebe Ellsworth, Nico Frijda, Hill Goldsmith, Jeffrey Gray, Carroll Izard, Jerome Kaga, Richard Lazarus, Joseph Le Doux, Robert Levenson, Jaak Panksepp, Mary Rothbart, Klaus Shere, Richard Shweder, David Watson, and Robert Zajonc. At the end of each chapter, the editors--Ekman and Davidson--highlight the areas of agreement and disagreement about each of the 12 questions about emotion. In the final chapter, Affective Science: A Research Agenda, the editors describe the research they believe would help answer each of the questions. Not a textbook offering a single viewpoint, The Nature of Emotion, uniquely reveals the central issues in emotion research and theory in the words of many of the leading scientists working in the field today. It is ideal for students, researchers, and clinicians interested in emotion.


A rapid growth in research and theory about emotion has occurred in the last decade. As should be expected, currently only a few widely replicated findings exist, and even those are subject to some controversy about how they can be explained. There are many promising findings, many more leads, a variety of theoretical stances, and even a few different, fairly complete theoretical accounts.

Our goal in this book is to move the field forward by focusing attention on some of the most important questions about the nature of emotion that confront research and theory alike. We consider the divergence of views and arguments in the psychology of emotion. There are no commonly accepted answers to the twelve questions that form this book--that is why they were chosen. Instead there are very different proposals and forecasts about what the answers may turn out to be.

We did not include all the questions that have been raised about the nature of emotion, nor all those who have become known by their research and theoretical work in this area. Certain topics within emotion research have attracted a considerable amount of activity, with multiple investigators working on similar questions. In such cases, we could not include all those active contributors, but rather had to select a representative exemplar.

We excluded some questions because little research or theory covers them. We excluded other questions because so much research exists that there is not much argument any longer about them, or the argument is limited to a single issue. We limited our questions to the psychology and biology of emotion, and our contributors to psychologists and neuroscientists. Our one exception is the lone anthropologist Richard A. Shweder, who contributed to the question about basic emotions. We omitted our colleagues in sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and psychiatry, not because of a lack of interest in their work but because including them would have made the book unwieldy. However, several scholars who have contributed to this volume have intellectual connections to and are informed by many of these border disciplines. However, those studying emotion in these other disciplines are, for the most part, raising other questions about emotion.

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