Emotions, Self-Control, and Your Brain

Psychology

Over a century ago, Ivan Pavlov published his infamous volume, which we are all familiar with through “Pavlov’s dogs,” The Work of the Digestive Glands. Building on this study, Pavlov spent his life trying to understand how, while functioning as essentially biological machines, our bodies process the external world – distinctively external to the bodily machine – and are effected by external stimuli. “For example, although food, through its chemical and physical properties, when placed in the mouth evokes the flow of saliva—this is the primary inborn reflex—at the same time the sight, odor or sound of food may release the same response. It is to these signalizing reflexes that Professor Pavlov has given the name conditioned reflexes to distinguish them from the inherited or unconditioned reflexes.”[1] There was confusion about how to explain the relationship between these two reflexes, a problem with a twin in philosophy, often termed “the mind-body problem,” or “philosophy of mind.”[2]

Only recently, neurologists Kevin N. Oschner and James J. Gross sought to explore the same question, but with almost a century of neuroscience on Pavlov. Oschner and Gross juxtapose two approaches to the relationship between conditioned and unconditioned reflexes through an everyday example: emotion and neurology (your feelings and your brain).

The two approaches are:

  1. The Bottom-Up Approach emphasizes affective stimuli in the brain as the source of emotions, and other higher-end cognitive processes are understood as secondary, derivative aspects of emotions, which are at base simply stimulated neural correlates.
  2. The Top-Down Approach begins with a person’s higher-end cognitive functions, which means that the scientist of emotions must begin with man’s interpretative procedures of the world around him, and only derivatively treat emotions as a secondary, responsive mechanism to these higher-level neural phenomena.

In terms of neurology, the two approaches may be charted this way:[3]

Top_Down_BrainOschner and Gross seek to integrate Bottom-Up and Top-Down approaches by associating the Bottom-Up Approach (starting with affective, emotional neural organs) with emotion generation, and the Top-Down Approach (starting with appraising, interpretative organs) with emotion regulation. The authors explain,

In contrast to controlled generation, which concerns the initiation of an emotional response in the absence of affective cues, controlled regulation refers to the use of higher cognitive processes to alter or change a response triggered by a stimulus with innate or acquired emotional properties. Broadly speaking, higher cognitive processes may be used to regulate emotion in two ways—by either (1) using top-down processes to change the way one mentally describes a stimulus, which leads appraisal systems to respond to this new description, or (2) directly experiencing a change in the emotional outcomes associated with an action or stimulus event and subsequently using top-down processes to update these predictive relationships. In both cases, top-down processes change the way in which one represents the relationship between a stimulus and one’s emotional response to it.[4]

Oschner and Gross make some interesting practical applications:

One important extension of our heuristic framework for understanding the normative functional architecture for emotion control is to clinical populations suffering from various kinds of emotional disorders. More than half of the clinical disorders described in DSM-IV are characterized by emotion dysregulation. What is more, resting metabolic and structural imaging studies have suggested abnormalities in emotional appraisal and cognitive control systems in numerous disorders, ranging from depression and anxiety to posttraumatic stress disorder and sociopathy. . .

Each of these disorders may be characterized as reflecting an imbalance, or dysregulation, of interactions between bottom-up and top-down processes involved in emotion control. For example, resting brain metabolic studies of depressed individuals often show relative hyper activation of the amygdala and hypoactivation of left prefrontal cortex. . . . Strikingly, this pattern is the opposite of the pattern of brain activation shown when normal participants effectively downregulate[5] negative emotion using reappraisal[6] . . . Future work may determine whether depression reflects an increased strength of bottom-up negative responses, weakened capacity to regulate these responses top down, or some combination of the two.”[7]

Can Theology Help?

Is it any surprise that scientists cannot (1) explain whether internal or external stimuli influence neurology, and (2) why external stimuli coordinate in a 1:1 way with internal neural capacities? For, when we are confronted with the world – when we experience external stimuli – we do not merely experience things, but the person of God himself, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). And also, the divine investiture of being in his image includes the ability to refer to the external world on the basis of that “clear perception” (Gen. 2:19).

Calvin might say, “Nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.”[8] Cornelius Van Til comments on this passage from Calvin, “. . . the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God is . . . included in one act of thought.”[9] It is no wonder, then, that neurologists cannot classify, in terms of physiology, which comes first – the external or the internal. Perhaps theology declares, even of the internal and external aspects of of man’s psychology: “equally ultimate” (a declaration that seems to be supported by Oschner and Gross’s theory).[10] Therefore, whether suffering comes from either end – internal (neurological malfunction, emotional dysregulation, etc.) or external (broken relationships, loss, etc.) – we know that the personal God who sustains our most basic cognitive and emotional capacities (Heb 1:3)  is present with his guiding and holding hand on our lives, on our bodies, and on our experiences (Psalm 139:10).


[1] Franklin Fearing, Review of Conditional Reflexes. An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. By I. P. Pavlov. Translated and edited by G. V. Anrep Oxford University Press, Oxford 1927,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 20, no. 1 (May, 1929): 153 [153-155].

[2] See Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012),

[3] Kevin N. Oschner and James J. Gross, “The Neural Architecture of Emotion Regulation,” in Handbook of Emotion Regulation, ed. James J. Gross (New York: Guilford Press, 2007), 92.

[4] Ibid., 97-98.

[5] By “downregulate,” the authors refer to the process of moving emotions from hyperactivity (e.g., anxiety) to an equilibrium (e.g., of valid concern and emotional homeostasis).

[6] By “reappraisal,” the authors simply refer to the process of reinterpreting your situation in order to achieve a more positive outlook, and therefore a better emotional response, to external stimuli.

[7] Oschner and Gross, “Neural Architecture,” 104.

[8] Calvin, Institutes, I, i, 2. Lane Tipton notes Dowey’ observation that the 1560 French edition of the Institutes makes this even clearer: “in knowing God each of us also knows himself” The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994), 18. Cited in Lane G. Tipton, “The Triune Personal God: Trinitarian Theology in the Thought of Cornelius Van Til,” (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertaiton, Completed at Wesmtinster Theological Seminary, 2004), 153.

[9] Cornelius Van Til, Survey of Christian Epistemology (Phillipsburgh, NJ: P&R, 1961), 99

[10] For a defense of this equal ultimate anthropology in terms of human relationships, see Ben Dunson, Individual and Community in Paul’s Letter to the Romans Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2, Reihe 332 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012).

Review of Nagel in the Journal of Psychology & Theology

Apologetics, Psychology, Theology

The Journal of Psychology & Theology was gracious enough to publish my review of Thomas Nagel’s recent work Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.

Read my review here.

Also, if you’re trying to budget your time, James Anderson‘s recent review of the same book on Ref 21 is a much more worthwhile read than mine (follow him on twitter, too). Seriously, Anderson slices and dices like no one else can. I just summarize and make generic comments.

Anderson also puts all of the back-and-forth between Nagel and Plantinga about the book in one place here.

Why and How Traumatic Amnesia Occurs

Psychology

The question of “recovered memories” often carries with it a (often harmful and misguided) stigma of fabrication in conversations about abuse trauma and its effects. Many ask “Why 20 years later? Did it really take that long just to get the courage to come forth about these things?”[1] Such a question betrays, at a very fundamental level, a complete lack of understanding of trauma and its effects. For some, yes, it did take twenty years. And that is a greater feat than many accomplish in their lifetime.

And for others, it is not an issue of courage, but of complex cognitive structures that were disrupted in their experience of abuse, which can produce (a) an area of memory in which interpretative capacities have been trained not to function, or (b) various levels of amnesia. I want to give people a picture of what happens psychologically in a person who experiences abuse that can cause legitimate amnesia by giving you a few examples delineated by betrayal trauma theorist (see footnote 3) and psychology professor at University of Oregon, Jennifer J. Freyd.

But first, one must understand that, often times, traumatic amnesia is a function of dissociation. Richard Gartner helpfully defines and describes dissociation this way:

Dissociation is the opposite of association. It means to sever or disconnect one set of mental contents from other sets. When certain thoughts, feelings, memories, sensations, behaviors, and knowledge would normally be associated with one another, dissociation “deassociates” them. When you dissociate, your mind disconnects an unpleasant memory from the feelings you had about it, or detaches some of the facts from others, or separates the memory from your awareness altogether so that you don’t have to think about it while you go about the business of your life. Dissociation takes the ingredients of a trauma and freezes them in time and space. This prevents them from combining and overwhelming you. Instead, the frozen memory elements remain out of contact with your consciousness, protecting you from a devastating emotional experience.[2]

Traumatic amnesia, by extension, for various reasons and in many ways, freezes those experiences either in the subconscious (or in cognitive obscurity) such that they are inaccessible. Freyd gives us a few pictures of what that can look like in terms of the person’s psychology:

1. If the person who has betrayed us is someone we need to continue interacting with despite the betrayal, then it is not to our advantage to respond to the betrayal in the normal way. If we process the betrayal in the normal way, we will be motivated to stop interacting with the betrayer. Instead, we essentially need to ignore the betrayal. . . . It would be dangerous for a child to withdraw from a caregiver he or she is dependent on, even if that caregiver has betrayed the child. It would be dangerous for a child to withdraw from a caregiver he or she is dependent on, even if that caregiver has betrayed the child. . . . One does not need to posit any particular avoidance of psychic pain per se here; instead, what is of function significance is the control of social behavior. Presumably an abusing caregiver can increase the probability of this adaptive reaction by communicating to the child that silence is necessary in order to maintain the relationship.

2. The cognitive mechanisms that underlie this blockage of information are modular dissociations between normally connected, or integrated, aspects of processing and memory. These cognitive dissociations lead to the more global phenomenology and symptomology of clinical dissociation. Most traumatic amnesia can be understood in terms of low-level failures of integration that lead to reports of ‘memory repression.’ . . . Consistent blockage of information about abuse could presumably lead to profound amnesia.

3. However, in no way does this suggest that the information will not be processed by other less conscious mechanisms. For instance, sensory stores may well be laid for traumatic events, but without connectivity to declarative stores. More tragic, the information may be processed for learning certain adaptive strategies, and later in life this learning may lead to highly maladaptive behaviors. For instance, if there are mechanisms that exist in early childhood for learning parenting skills . . . these mechanisms may operate at full potential during abusive events, despite the blockage of information into more immediate control of social behavior and representation.

4. Another way the dissociation and amnesia may occur is in blocking, not the initial entry of information into modules, but the repeated processing of that information through feedback loops of various kinds. To the extent that episodic memory for complex events depends on cognitive computations that take place over time, this sort of blockage could be very effective in producing amnesia for conscious episodic memories coupled with intact sensory and affective memories . . . One could essentially hypothesize that this lack of integration could lead to the storage of essentially unprocessed information, so that when memories are later ‘recovered’ they are initially experiences as immediate events or ‘flashbacks’ lacking episodic interpretation.

5. Finally, amnesia can logically result even if initial event processing is not disrupted. In this case, which would perhaps most closely resemble the classic concept of repression, the forgetting occurs after the event is fully encoded and a memory is successfully stored. This might be adaptive if an event only became identifiable as a betrayal some time after the occurrence.[3]

In any future conversations about abuse cases that are made public, I hope that these psychological descriptions have made you a more educated advocate of victims of abuse who, oftentimes, do not even understand these experiences themselves.


[1] A question which Sandusky’s lawyers hoped might convince the jurors of his innocence. Thankfully, the three-judge Superior Court that reviewed the appeal would have none of it.

[2] Richard B. Gartner, Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2005), 55 (emphasis mine).

[3] Excerpts from Jennifer J. Freyd, “Betrayal Trauma: Traumatic Amnesia as an Adaptive Response to Childhood Abuse,” Ethics & Behavior 4, no. 4 (1994): 307-329. Freyd comments, “I propose that the core issue [of trauma] is betrayal – a betrayal of trust that produces conflict between external reality and a necessary system of social dependence. Of course, a particular event may be simultaneously a betrayal trauma and life threatening. Rape is such an event. Perhaps most childhood traumas are such events.” in “Memory repression, dissociative states, and other cognitive control processes involved in adult sequelae of childhood trauma.” Invited paper given at the Second Annual Conference on A Psychodynamics – Cognitive Science Interface, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco, August 21-22, 1991.

Metaphor and Self, Part 2: The Emotional World of Romantic Love

Philosophy, Psychology

Our emotional life is not constituted by crass literalism, but is strewn with – composed of, even – literary devices. Don’t believe me? When your lover asks you to express your feelings about them in words, you will bend the knee. Zoltán Kövecses explains, “Emotion concepts are composed of a number of parts: metaphors, metonymies, [and] ‘related concepts.’”[1] What do these categories look like in terms of the “love” concept? Kövecses gives us a helpful start.

Metaphor:

  • love is a nutrient: I am starved for love. 
  • love is a journey: It’s been a long, bumpy road.

  • love is a unity of parts: We’re as oneThey’re breaking up. We’re inseparableWe fused together.
  • love is a bond: There is a close tie between them.

  • love is a fluid in a container: She was overflowing with love.
  • love is fire: I am burning with love.

  • love is an economic exchange: I’m putting more into this than you are.

  • love is a natural force: She swept me off my feet.

  • love is a physical force: I was magnetically drawn to her.

  • love is an opponent: She tried to fight her feelings of love.
  • 
love is a captive animal: She let go of her feelings.

  • love is war: She conquered him.

  • love is insanity: I am crazy about you. 
  • love is a social superior: She is completely ruled by love.
  • 
love is rapture/a high: I have been high on love for weeks.

  • the object of love is a small child: Well, baby, what are we gonna do?

  • the object of love is a deity: Don’t put her on a pedestal. He worships her.

Metonymy:

  • increase in body heat stands for love: I felt hot all over when I saw her.
  • 
increase in heart rate stands for love: He’s a heart-throb.
  • blushing stands for love: She blushed when she saw him.

  • dizziness stands for love: She’s in a daze over him. I feel dizzy every time I see her.

  • sweaty palms stand for love: His palms became sweaty when he looked at her.
  • inability to breathe stands for love: You take my breath away.

  • interference with accurate perception stands for love: He saw nothing but her.

  • inability to think stands for love: He can’t think straight when around her.
  • physical closeness stands for love: They are always together.
  • 
intimate sexual behavior stands for love: She showered him with kisses. He caressed her gently.
  • sex stands for love: They made love.
  • loving visual behavior stands for love: He can’t take his eyes off of her. She’s starry-eyed.

Related Concepts:

“Some of the most important related concepts for love include liking, sexual desire, intimacy, longing, affection, caring, respect, and friendship. Related concepts can be placed along a gradient of their centrality in the definition of an emotion concept, such as love; some of them appear to be inherent parts of the conception of love (such as liking and affection), some of them are only loosely associated with it, in that they are a part of some idealized model of love (such as friendship or respect), and some fall in between (such as caring).”[2]


[1] Zoltán Kövecses, “Metaphor and Emotion,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, ed. Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr. (New York: Cambridge, 2008), 380.

[2] Ibid., 382.

Feminists on the Trauma of Abuse Research

Psychology

For the past month and a half, I have been writing a review essay on a recently released evangelical book on sexual abuse (SA). I have performed a considerable amount of research in the areas of SA, trauma, the effects of trauma, the sociology of SA, its many statistics, its many causes, etc. During this time, I felt a spiritual darkness creeping into my life. And, in my research, I came across some wisdom on the psychology of SA research that was very helpful. Two feminist scholars in particular – Judith Herman, who wrote a famous book on trauma called Trauma and Recovery, and also Jennifer Beste’s God and the Victim – provide helpful observations for those who are immersed in researching and writing about this complex issue.

Each author observed a similar darkness creep into their lives as they performed original research and tried to articulate creative and helpful constructs for thinking about the intersection of human life and SA trauma healing and recovery.

Regarding her experience as a mental health intern during her M.Div. working with SA victims, and performing extensive trauma research, Beste says, “Throughout graduate school and particularly while writing this book, I learned that supportive relationships are not just essential for recovery from trauma; they are also crucial for sustaining one through the trails of the writing process.”[1]

Herman dives even deeper into why this is so. For Herman, one can’t even encounter theories about SA and its trauma without entering into a derivative version of the very trauma itself. The very history of our society’s encounter with trauma proves this point, as Herman comments that we have experienced societal dissociation in encountering the idea that such evil is in our midst:

“The knowledge of horrible events periodically intrudes into public awareness but is rarely retained for long. Denial, repression, and dissociation operate on a social as well as an individual level. The study of psychological trauma has an ‘underground’ history. Like traumatized people, we have been cut off from the knowledge of our past. Like traumatized people, we need to understand the past in order to reclaim the present and the future. Therefore, an understanding of psychological trauma begins with rediscovering history.”[2]

And even beyond the social, broaching our very own human individuality, an encounter with the reality of SA, even in literature, forces someone to make a decision: to believe or not to believe; to credit or discredit; to choose the perpetrator (who asks for silence, and in return promises nicety, unity, and peacefulness) or the victim (who asks for justice, and in return promises nothing except the possibility of disruption and chaos).

“The study of psychological trauma has repeatedly led into realms of the unthinkable and foundered on fundamental questions of belief. To study psychological trauma is to come face to face both with human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature. To study psychological trauma means bearing witness to horrible events. When the events are natural disasters or ‘acts of God,’ those who bear witness sympathize readily with the victim. But when the traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and perpetrator. It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The bystander is forced to take sides.”[3]

I am relieved that my research and writing is nearly over. Yet, despite its difficulty, it is an issue that needs more work, both because of the severity of its nature and effects (rupturing the core of personhood), and because of its pervasiveness (approx. 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 6 men experience SA before the age of 18).


[1] Jennifer Erin Beste, God and the Victim: Traumatic Intrusions on Grace and Freedom, AAR (New York: Oxford, 2007), vii (Emphasis mine).

[2] Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 2.

[3] Ibid., 7.

The Science of Emotions and Embarrassment

Psychology

“Emotions are a primary idiom for defining and negotiating
social relations of the self in a moral order.”
Catherine Lutz & Geoffrey White

I recently read an article on the relationship between emotions and a person’s ability to function in society.[1] Throughout the entire thing, I thought, “This is a perfect description of the world of blogging.” And it applies immediately, with almost 1:1 correspondence, to the world I live in: the world of evangelical blogging and writing. If you’re a seminary student, this will make sense of seminary culture. If you’re a scholar, this will be sadly (and hopefully a bit humorously) informative. I’ll leave the connections for you to make, but I wanted to provide the basic framework for those who are interested.

The authors of the article are Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt (K&H), and they explore the concept of human emotions through the lens of social function theory, which simply means that the way we organize our understanding of emotions all comes down to how our emotions inform our understanding of relationships.[2] K&H are dissatisfied with teleological reductionism (evolutionary models), both in its biological form (emotions are animalistic coping mechanisms in the evolutionary apparatus of death and life) and its cultural form (the emotions that most benefit the good of society are promoted naturally, and those that exist to society’s detriment are marginalized and eventually die). Contrary to these forms of reductionism, Keltner and Haidt propose a “social-functional account” of emotions, which presupposes three primary tenants (508-9):

1. Social functional accounts of emotions assume that people are social by nature, and encounter the problems associated with personal survival in the context of relationships.

2. Social-functional accounts portray emotions as means of coordinating social interactions and relationships to address those problems. Emotions are thought of as relatively automatic, involuntary, and rapid responses that help humans regulate, maintain, and use different social relationships, usually (though not always) for their own benefit.

3. Emotions are portrayed as dynamic processes that mediate the individual’s relation to a continually changing social environment, although the length of time that emotions are said to last varies from seconds or minutes to weeks or years.

K&H apply these three tenants of social functionality to four spheres of psychological analysis (506):

1. Individual (intrapersonal)
2. Dyadic (between two individuals)
3. Group (a set of individuals that directly interact and has temporal continuity)
4. Cultural (within a large group that shares beliefs, norms, and cultural modes).

For K&H, in each of these four levels of sociality, emotions have different functions in empowering the mechanism of a person’s social capacities. That is, each sphere – individual, dyadic, group, and cultural – functions for the purpose of aiding “the self” to relate to “the other.” Each sphere functions differently:

1. Individual (509-510):

(a) The conscious feeling of emotion produced by appraisal processes[3] is believed to inform the individual about specific social events or conditions, typically needing to be acted upon and changed. Affect is a kind of information. What you feel tells you about yourself.

(b) Certain emotion-related physiological and cognitive processes prepare the individual to respond to problems or opportunities that arise in social interactions, even in the absence of any awareness of an eliciting event.[4]

2. Dyadic (511):

(a) Emotional expressions help individuals know others’ emotions, beliefs, and intentions, thus rapidly coordinating social interactions. For example, one persons’ expressed recoiling in fear toward a certain location (perhaps because they saw a snake) elicits fear, suspicion, and similar physical functioning toward that same location in the other person in the dyad.

(b) Emotional communication evokes complementary and reciprocal emotions in others that help individuals respond to significant social events. For example, the ability to experience sympathy (e.g., to meet sadness with sadness) assists social functionality.

(c) Emotions serve as incentives or deterrents for other individuals’ social behavior. For example, a certain kind of laughter from the one person rewards desirable social functioning of the other person, and another kind of laughter punishes undesirable behavior.

3. Group (512):

(a) Emotions help individuals define group boundaries and identify group members. Collective ecstasy and awe may give group members the sense of communal identity.

(b) Within groups, the differential experience and display of emotion may help define and negotiate group-related roles and statuses.

(c) Collective emotional behavior may help group members negotiate group-related problems.[5]

4. Cultural (513-14):

(a) Emotions play a critical role in the processes by which individuals assume cultural identities. For example, embarrassment motivates conformity and the proper playing of one’s roles, whereas disgust motivates the avoidance and shunning of people who violate key values within a culture.

(b) Emotions are embedded in socialization practices that help children learn the norms and values of their culture. For example, emotional conflicts engage individuals in conversations about cultural notions of right and wrong and redressing wrongdoing.

(c) Cultural constructions of emotional experience reify and perpetuate cultural ideologies and power structures. For example, cultural discourses about female emotionality regulate women to positions of subordinate status.

K&H then apply this model to a case study: embarrassment (515-16).

Individual: Embarrassment is defined by the sense of personal failure and lowered status, which may signal to the individual which specific social actions should be avoided, thus motivating participants to stay within the bounds of appropriate behavior. Moreover, people forego personal gain to avoid embarrassment, and once embarrassed, they engage in corrective behavior that restores their social standing.

Dyadic: Social transgressions require some form of appeasement or repair. Embarrassment is signaled by blushing, a controlled smile, face touching, downward movements of the head and eyes, and inhibited speech. These behaviors have been shown to signal the embarrassed person’s commitment to social norms, and to prompt forgiveness in others.

Group: Embarrassment helps establish and maintain group hierarchies and norms. Group practices, such as teasing and shaming, produce different levels of embarrassment in group members. For individuals, the differential experience of embarrassment in group contexts may signal their positions in the group hierarchy.

Cultural: Self-conscious emotions related to embarrassment are involved in the assumption of culturally appropriate identities and the perpetuation of cultural norms and values. Embarrassment for Americans seems to lack the element of virtue.

Again, I’ll leave it to the reader to make applications to his or her own blogging subculture.


[1] Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, “Social Functions of Emotions at Four Levels of Analysis,” Cognition and Emotion, 13, no. 5 (1999): 505-521.

[2] In academic-speak, functional explanations for emotions in general hinge on “interpreting data by establishing their consequences for larger structures in which they are implicated.” Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (New York: Free Press, 1968), 101.

[3] Appraisal processes are the individual’s procedures for interpreting events, sometimes causing emotions (e.g., interpreting betrayal as offensive, thus causing anger) and other times responding to them (e.g., responding to the anger of betrayal with a reformatted interpretation of the offender, thinking, “He was a loser anyway.”).

[4] For example, when anger is elicited, the body naturally shifts blood away from the internal organs and towards the hands and arms. See R. W. Levenson, P. Ekman, and W. V. Friesen, “Voluntary Facial Action Generates Emotion-Specific Autonomic Nervouse System Activity,” Psychophysiology 27 (1990): 363-384. Basically, when you get angry in your heart, your body goes into battle-mode in ways that you have no control over.

[5] K&H support this statement by citing a study that found that chimpanzees were observed to engage in exuberant, celebratory affiliation just prior to the allocation of valuable resources. I don’t know why they had to study chimpanzees to make this observation, or how that is relevant to anything.