Emotion is an amazing topic within cognitive psychology, how does our emotion affect our mental processes? That’s the topic of today’s great episode, if you love cognitive psychology you don’t want to miss it!
This episode has been sponsored by Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Neuroscience,
Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Extract From Cognitive Psychology Third Edition By Connor Whiteley.
Emotion and Cognition
In the last chapter, we looked at what causes emotion and we really focused on that area but now, I want to talk about the relationship between emotion and cognition. Since these do go hand in hand because you've read Abnormal Psychology then you'll see that in depression our cognitive influences our emotions and vice versa.
Therefore, let's recap from definitions because our cognition are mental processes. Like, our memory, attention, perception and language. Whereas our emotions are less easy to define as we saw in the last chapter, and these are different from the affective processes that are the feeling of the emotions.
In addition, we all know the feelings of emotions but what are they again?
To summarise the James-Lange theory proposed emotions are people's interpretations of physiological states like arousal, but some people thought emotions were related to our motivations, which in itself is related to rewards and punishment. Meaning these signals from a situation or stimuli have a negative or positive value to organisms, who should avoid or approach.
The last two theories about emotions are from Lazarus who prosed emotions are the results of our conscious or unconscious evaluation of events. Also, Darwin and Ekman believed different emotions are basic evolutionary ‘modules’ for different types of adaptive behaviour.
Additionally, to build upon the last chapter in terms of what comes first emotion or cognition, there are brain structures that are linked to emotion and these brain areas tend to be subcortical, automatic and they're consistent with Darwin's idea of emotions have evolutionarily “primitive” functions.
This is different to our cognitive functions because these are often linked to cortical regions of the brain.
However, the problem is for discrete categories of emotion is that several emotions have no strong association with unique brain regions whereas other emotions have a set of brain regions that are consistently activated at the same time these emotions are. (Lindquist et al., 2012).
Dimensions of Emotion
As a result of this problem other cognitive psychologists are focusing on how emotions can occur along a continuum (Feldmann Barrett & Russell, 1998) and our emotional reactions can be characterized by two different factors. The first factor is valence, which refers to how negative and unpleasant or how pleasant and positive the emotion is. Then the second factor is arousal and this is the intensity of the emotional response.
To test this we can use the Internal Affective Picture System which is a test where you basically show participants a series of pictures and you measure their behavioural responses. By using a 9-point scale to measure valence and you measure arousal to get a more detailed assessment. On the whole, this allows us to test how behaviour and a person's brain activity correlate with affect and emotional arousal.
Interestingly, results from this test show the older adults tend to have less negative affective experiences than younger adults. As well as Mather et al. (2004) showed participants negative, positive and neutral pictures from the test. Their results show for young adults, their Amygdala activity was enhanced by arousing negative images, but this relationship didn't happen for 'old' adults. Showing how a sensitive measure of arousal and affect can reveal the biological mechanisms underpinning emotional differences in ageing.
But the results also shown overlapping neural networks that perform different functions for adaptive behaviours.
Emotion and The Constructive, Predictive Brain
On a small side note, Lisa Feldman-Barrett in a 2018 TED Talk made some very interesting points about emotions because she talked about emotions are not categorical, but we perceive them as categories because the brain extracts a range of similarities from them because of our learned experiences. And she linked this to the “predictive brain framework” which is considered a paradigm shift in psychology (Hutchinson & Barrett, 2019) where our conscious experiences, like our cognition, perception and emotions, reflect our brain's constructed predictions that are confirmed or corrected by sensory evidence.
In other words, our brain takes in our learnt experiences and it makes predictions about situations and other experiences. Leading the brain to create our conscious experiences that we use daily. Like our emotional reactions are based on our past experiences with a particular situation or stimuli.
To summarise all this information quickly, there are a lot of different theories on how cognition and emotion relate to one another and the nature of our emotions. And this debate will continue on for a long time.
Also, findings about emotions and cognition effects from cognitive psychology can still be useful despite some unclear conceptual issues. As well as people tend to focus on the functional roles of our emotional states rather than the “feelings” (Adolphs & Andler, 2018)
Overall, I really hope you enjoyed today’s psychology episode and if you want to know more about cognitive psychology then I cannot recommend my new book enough. It goes into so much easy to understand depth about a wide range of cognitive psychology topics.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Neuroscience, Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology Third Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback, large print and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.
Cognitive Psychology References:
Whiteley, C. (2021) Cognitive Psychology: A Guide To Neuroscience, Neuropsychology and Cognitive Psychology Third Edition, CGD Publishing.
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