Emotions Are Real

Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Emotion (Impact Factor: 3.88). 06/2012; 12(3):413-29. DOI: 10.1037/a0027555
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It is obvious that emotions are real, but the question is what kind of "real" are they? In this article, I outline a theoretical approach where emotions are a part of social reality. I propose that physical changes (in the face, voice, and body, or neural circuits for behavioral adaptations like freezing, fleeing, or fighting) transform into an emotion when those changes take on psychological functions that they cannot perform by their physical nature alone. This requires socially shared conceptual knowledge that perceivers use to create meaning from these physical changes (as well as the circuitry that supports this meaning making). My claim is that emotions are, at the same time, socially constructed and biologically evident. Only when we understand all the elements that construct emotional episodes, in social, psychological, and biological terms, will we understand the nature of emotion.

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