Emotions, individual differences and time course: Reflections

  • Frijda N
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I discuss the merits and demerits of the contributions to the present issue as I see them, and their implications for emotions research. The present issue of Cognition and Emotion represents a laudable project: publication of some current research and theoretical orientations on two important topics that have not received the attention in emotion study that they deserve, namely individual differences and time course. The contribu-tions to this Special Issue have in common that they question the status of verbal emotion categories like ''anger'' and ''fear'' that are often taken as cutting nature at its joints. In my comments, I first focus on the empirical and methodological contributions. I will then discuss the theoretical questions raised in the three papers with which this issue begins. The empirical papers all are all written from the perspective of multi-componential emotion theory. They all offer significant contributions to understanding emotional phenomena. I briefly indicate the major of these contributions. Smith and Kirby demonstrate how appraisals covary with an individual's interests. They thus examine one of the sources of individual differences in emotions, and also provide detailed evidence in support of the ''relational model for emotionÁantecedent appraisal'': emotions result from the relations between persons and events. Van Mechelen and Hennes provide arguments that it is the pattern of appraisal components that elicits a given emotion (anger, in their research), rather than some single decisive component. Moreover, the degree of completeness of someone's appraisal, as compared to the full average appraisal pattern for a given emotion in a subject group, varies from one individual to another. It determines the likelihood that the event leads to that emotion and to its intensity. These findings raise important questions regarding the process whereby this operates, and that have yet to be clarified. Silvia, Henson, and Templin introduce an innovative way of distinguish-ing subgroups of subjects that each show a slightly different type of appraisal connected with a given emotion (interest in this case). The average appraisal pattern over the entire group thus hides the somewhat different patterns in those subgroups. Moreover, different appraisal patterns thus evidently can converge on the same emotion (as identified by emotion ratings). Larsen, Augustin, and Prizmic show the surprisingly vast domain of phenomena in both emotion and personality that manifest changes over time, and time-linked patterns of change. They extensively demonstrate that their relationships can only be disentangled by a process approach: simultaneously studying within and between subject variability over time. Verduyn et al. enter the almost unexplored field of temporal phenomena of emotions proper. They apply analytical methods to objectively identify different parameters of temporal change, and their contributions to the variance of such change. They find indications that here, too, individual differences become manifest in a meaningful manner. Scherer shows glimpses of how a very precise and detailed analysis of appraisal components, and their causal effects on response parameters, can proceed. His paper shows how his approach is capable of providing a veritable anatomy of the processes leading to emotional response components.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Action and emotion
  • Basic emotions
  • Core affect
  • Emotion
  • Motivation

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  • Nico H. Frijda

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