- Emotion feeling (a) derives from evolution and neurobiological development, (b) is the key psychological component of emotions and consciousness, and (c) is more often inherently adaptive than maladaptive.
- Emotions play a central role in the evolution of consciousness, influence the emergence of higher levels of awareness during ontogeny, and largely determine the contents and focus of consciousness throughout the life span.
- Emotions are motivational and informational, primarily by virtue of their experiential or feeling component. Emotion feelings constitute the primary motivational component of mental operations and overt behavior.
- Basic emotion feelings help organize and motivate rapid (and often more-or-less automatic though malleable) actions that are critical for adaptive responses to immediate challenges to survival or wellbeing. In emotion schemas, the neural systems and mental processes involved in emotion feelings, perception, and cognition interact continually and dynamically in generating and monitoring thought and action. These dynamic interactions (which range from momentary processes to traits or trait-like phenomena) can generate innumerable emotion-specific experiences (e.g., anger schemas) that have the same core feeling state but different perceptual tendencies (biases), thoughts, and action plans.
- Emotion utilization, typically dependent on effective emotion-cognition interactions, is adaptive thought or action that stems, in part, directly from the experience of emotion feeling/motivation and in part from learned cognitive, social, and behavioral skills.
- Emotion schemas become maladaptive and may lead to psychopathology when learning results in the development of connections among emotion feelings and maladaptive cognition and action.
- The emotion of interest is continually present in the normal mind under normal conditions, and it is the central motivation for engagement in creative and constructive endeavors and for the sense of well-being. Interest and its interaction with other emotions account for selective attention, which in turn influences all other mental processes.
Elaboration and empirical support for principles 1–6 can be found in the following sources and their reference lists (Ackerman et al. 1998
; Izard 2002
; Izard et al. 2008a
; Silvia 2006
). Principles 1–3 apply to all emotions, and 4–6 primarily concern emotion schemas. Principle 7 consists of propositions about the most ubiquitous of all human emotions—interest-excitement. Specific empirical support does not exist for the hypothesis of continual interest in the normal mind.
In this article, I discuss the issues of defining the term “emotion” and types of emotion, emotion-cognition interactions, emotions and consciousness, relations among types of emotions and types of consciousness, and note some remarkable gains and losses from the evolution of emotions and multiple levels consciousness.
This article addresses a critical need for clear distinctions between basic positive and basic negative emotions and particularly between brief basic emotion episodes and emotion schemas. Unlike basic negative emotions that occur in brief episodes and involve very little cognition beyond minimal perceptual processes, emotion schemas involve emotion and cognition (frequently higher-order cognition) in dynamic interactions (Izard 1977
; cf. emotional interpretation, Lewis 2005
This article also contrasts phenomenal (primary) and access (reflective) consciousness, considers the construct of levels of consciousness, and questions the integrity of current conceptualizations of the unconscious mind. Typically, psychologists ignore the concepts of phenomenal consciousness and levels of consciousness and do not distinguish these constructs from the unconscious. I conclude by identifying some unanswered questions and briefly comment on a few emerging topics—continuous emotion-cognition interactions, memes and emotions, and the mirror neuron system and empathy—that seem destined to become more prominent in psychological science in the coming years.