Emotions and Life: Perspectives from Psychology, Biology, and Evolution

Article excerpt

Emotions and Life: Perspectives from Psychology, Biology, and Evolution Robert Plutchik. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (www.apa.org/books/). 2003, 381 pp., $59.95 (hardcover).

Always a mainstay of interest in psychology, in recent years, our field has seen a spike in the study of emotions. Although we are usually able to articulate the whens and whys of our emotional experiences, emotions themselves remain an elusive medium through which we experience and react to our world. Emotions have been long studied, but few have attempted such a review of the topic as has Robert Plutchik in his book entitled Emotions and Life: Perspectives from Psychology, Biology, and Evolution. Plutchik has effectively created a comprehensive text on the history of emotion and society. All other books on the topic of emotions can effectively be considered a footnote to this text.

Plutchik offers a lifetime of experience in research and instruction on emotions. This comprehensive text begins by examining popular thought on emotions in humans and nonhuman animals. From there, the author provides a thorough review of the history of emotion research as well as major theories of emotions, and then moves on to the relationship between emotions and thought.

At this point Plutchik explores the mechanics involved in the study of emotion including various observational, paper, and self-report measures that are used historically in this pursuit. Plutchik continues by giving commentary on human emotional development in the life span, the evolution of emotions in nature, and how emotions mediate our interaction with the external environment. Following this is a discussion on the role the central nervous system plays in emotions. Finally, Plutchik offers information on the everyday emotions of love and sadness, as well as the role and function of emotional disorders.

This text critically reflects Plutchik's extensive history on the study of emotion through content, flow, and his exhaustive review of the subject matter. This book utilizes the formatting of a textbook, including testimonials, first-person examples, and detailed charts and figures in order to illustrate the theme and information of each section. This text reads, however, like a narrative in its language and flow of information. These two qualities make this text appropriate for classroom instruction as well as a personal reference for researchers and practitioners. …

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