Emotions at Work: Theory, Research, and Applications in Management

By Roy L. Payne; Cary L. Cooper | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Emotions in the workplace:
biological correlates

M.G. King

Institute for Behavioural Research in Health, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia

We may reinforce a man with food whenever “he turns red” (but) we cannot in
this way condition him to blush.

(Skinner, 1938)

This chapter addresses the question of what, if any, are the biological correlates of the varied emotions which occur in the workplace? As a follow-up, the usefulness of psychobiological measures of workplace emotions in investigations is evaluated. In-depth discussions of “What is an emotion?” (James, 1884) can be found in Chapters 1–3 in this book. While avoiding the distraction of a linguistic analysis of workplace emotions, it must be noted from a psychobiological point of view that there is disturbing overlap in the connotation of similar terms such as sentiment, mood, hedonic tone, distress and eustress, affective state, and feeling tone. The reader is referred to Chapters 1–3 which deal with these definitions and boundary conditions. The starting point for the present chapter is that a person has a homeostatic feeling tone which can be indexed using a wide range of central and peripheral biological measures (see Table 4.1). This resting state is basically tonic and though it does fluctuate between normal limits over time (e.g. day/night and seasonal variations), it is not usually thought of as being elicited. In this context then, an emotion is seen here as phasic, a perturbation in the resting tone which is, by comparison to the resting tone, of relatively short duration. The emotion is more than likely to be a physiological reaction or behavioural response to a particular stimulus. In the context of biological measures, not only

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