Emotions are mental states brought on by neurophysiological changes, variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure.[1][2][3][4][5] There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition.[6] Emotions are often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, or creativity.[7]

Sixteen faces expressing the human passions – coloured engraving by J. Pass, 1821, after Charles Le Brun

Research on emotion has increased over the past two decades with many fields contributing including psychology, medicine, history, sociology of emotions, and computer science. The numerous theories that attempt to explain the origin, function and other aspects of emotions have fostered more intense research on this topic. Current areas of research in the concept of emotion include the development of materials that stimulate and elicit emotion. In addition, PET scans and fMRI scans help study the affective picture processes in the brain.[8]

From a mechanistic perspective, emotions can be defined as "a positive or negative experience that is associated with a particular pattern of physiological activity." Emotions produce different physiological, behavioral and cognitive changes. The original role of emotions was to motivate adaptive behaviors that in the past would have contributed to the passing on of genes through survival, reproduction, and kin selection.[9][10]

In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. Other theories, however, claim that emotion is separate from and can precede cognition. Consciously experiencing an emotion is exhibiting a mental representation of that emotion from a past or hypothetical experience, which is linked back to a content state of pleasure or displeasure.[11] The content states are established by verbal explanations of experiences, describing an internal state.[12]

Emotions are complex. There are various theories on the question of whether or not emotions cause changes in our behaviour.[5] On the one hand, the physiology of emotion is closely linked to arousal of the nervous system. Emotion is also linked to behavioral tendency. Extroverted people are more likely to be social and express their emotions, while introverted people are more likely to be more socially withdrawn and conceal their emotions. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation.[13] On the other hand, emotions are not causal forces but simply syndromes of components, which might include motivation, feeling, behaviour, and physiological changes, but none of these components is the emotion. Nor is the emotion an entity that causes these components.[14]

Emotions involve different components, such as subjective experience, cognitive processes, expressive behavior, psychophysiological changes, and instrumental behavior. At one time, academics attempted to identify the emotion with one of the components: William James with a subjective experience, behaviorists with instrumental behavior, psychophysiologists with physiological changes, and so on. More recently, emotion is said to consist of all the components. The different components of emotion are categorized somewhat differently depending on the academic discipline. In psychology and philosophy, emotion typically includes a subjective, conscious experience characterized primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states. A similar multi-componential description of emotion is found in sociology. For example, Peggy Thoits[15] described emotions as involving physiological components, cultural or emotional labels (anger, surprise, etc.), expressive body actions, and the appraisal of situations and contexts.

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