Varieties and functions of human emotion
Robb O. Stanley and Graham D. Burrows
Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Australia
The concept of emotion is central to all aspects of human experience and yet the concept is quixotic when it comes to defining what emotion is precisely. Many aspects of emotion are described differently depending on the context. Like other aspects of human experience there are often common-sense understandings and theoretical definitions that do not precisely match, and yet without precision research into the nature of normal and abnormal emotional reactions is compromised.
When considering the nature of emotions, the components of subjective experience, verbal description, accompanying physiological response, motivational influences, behavioural expression, and consequences need to be considered. The components may be consistent with each other or there may be discrepancies between them. Depending on their orientation, some researchers view emotions as primarily biological and physiological (Panksepp, 1988) while others view them as primarily psychological (Lazarus, 1991).
The subjective experience of emotional states is only available to us via the verbal descriptions that are applied. The language used to describe emotions varies considerably from person to person, as do individual familiarity with emotional states. Some people are cut off from their emotions while other people are dominated by their emotions. Some are expressive of their emotions while others seldom show significant emotions. Does this mean they experience