Chapter 3: Basic Emotion Theory and Social Constructivist Theory

Summary of Basic Emotion and Social Constructivist Theories

In this chapter, we defined the difference between the basic emotion perspective and social constructivist perspective. Basic emotions researchers believe emotions solved adaptive problems, and thus the changes in the emotion components should be universally expressed.  Conversely, social constructivists believe emotions are construed by the situation – by culture, by context, and even by gender! Thus, according to social constructivists the emotion components should be expressed differently across cultures.

In our review of the four component changes, we found evidence for both universality and cultural differences. It may be that some emotions (like joy) are consistently expressed in the same way across cultures, whereas more complex emotions show cross-cultural differences.

So, if emotions are basic, then how many basic emotions exist? In general, basic emotions theorists agree that five emotions are basic: joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear. Ekman (Ekman & Cordaro, 2011) adds two more to this list – surprise and contempt. But, others believe more than seven exist and label emotions such as awe, love, and pride as basic.

In the video below, Lisa Feldbam Barrett talks about Darwin’s view of emotions and questions whether Darwin himself actually took an evolutionary view of emotions.

Watch the Yale Expert Interview from 17:00 – 24:17.

 

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Psychology of Human Emotion by Michelle Yarwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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