What Scientists Who Study Emotion Agree About

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1 PPS 596992 XX What Scientists Who Study Emotion Agree About Ekman 10.1177/1745691615596992 X 2015 research-article Perspectives on Psychological Science –34 2016, Vol. 11(1) 31 What Scientists Who Study © The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Emotion Agree About DOI: 10.1177/1745691615596992 pps.sagepub.com Paul Ekman University of California, San Francisco and Paul Ekman Group, LLC Abstract In recent years, the field of emotion has grown enormously—recently, nearly 250 scientists were identified who are studying emotion. In this article, I report a survey of the field, which revealed high agreement about the evidence regarding the nature of emotion, supporting some of both Darwin’s and Wundt’s 19th century proposals. Topics where disagreements remain were also exposed. Keywords emotion survey, universality, basic emotions, facial expression and other issues as well. Recent years have also seen the In considering how emotions might be distinguished one rise of respected scientific journals devoted to emotion, from another, two approaches were proposed in the 19th , and anthologies (Evans & Cruse, 2004; Emotion such as century. Darwin (1872/1998) took for granted that emo- tions are modular (or discrete) and used terms such as Soloman, 2003) presenting the diverse views of philoso- phers, sociologists, psychologists, and neuroscientists. anger, fear, disgust, and so forth to specify separate mod- The purpose of the survey was to evaluate the status ules. Allport (1924), Ekman and Friesen (1969), Izard of this field of research today. Were disagreements (1971), Tomkins (1962), and Woodworth (1938) all uti- revealed in 1994 (albeit using different methods) resolved lized very similar approaches to organizing emotions and posited many of the same modules. by the evidence obtained since then? What topics remain Wundt (1896) proposed differentiating emotions via unsettled? The survey focused on those scientists using the quantitative methods to study emotion. of pleasant–unpleasant and low–high dimensions intensity. Plutchik (1962), Russell and Fernandez-Dols The participants in this email survey were identified (1997), and Schlosberg (1954) all advocated similar by multiple criteria: (a) They had published five or more times in the past 8 years within or across the following approaches. Wundt also described a modular organiza- tion of emotions, advocating the combination of both a scientific journals: Emotion, Journal of Experimental dimensional and modular approach. For example, the Psychology: General, Psychological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Psychological anger module differs from the fear module, but anger Review, Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Neuroscience, varies in how unpleasant it feels and in its strength. Whereas Plutchik set out to describe what emotions ; Science , or Neuron, Nature, Nature Reviews Neuroscience (b) they were on the editorial board or reviewed articles are and not just how language is used to represent them, for the journal Emotion ; (c) they had contributed to the Schlosberg’s focus was on how to best represent the information signaled by facial expressions. James A. , edited by P. Ekman Nature of Emotion first edition of the and R. A. Davidson (21 of the original 24 contributors Russell (personal communication, January 25, 2015) believes that his “dimensions are useful descriptors of the were still alive); or (d) they were invited by R. A. Davidson and associates to contribute to a second edition of the meaning of words and parts of emotions themselves”. . Nature of Emotion Fifty years ago, only a handful of scientists pursued the study of emotion, but in recent years, experiments in this field have grown enormously. Many of these experi- ments have focused on facial expression, but an increas- Corresponding Author: ing number have examined the physiology of emotion E-mail: [email protected] by guest on February 16, 2016 pps.sagepub.com Downloaded from

2 32 Ekman A re viewer of this report raised the possibility that the All those who chose both approaches, in addition to those who had chosen only the discrete choice (a total of selection criteria might have skewed the sample toward older, more established scientists. The age distribution 74% of those surveyed), were asked which emotion was examined and found to be normal, with as many labels (out of a list of 18) should be considered to have been empirically established. There was high agreement participants between 30 and 40 as there were over 60. about five emotions (all of which were described by both There were no significant differences in the answers to Darwin and Wundt): anger (91%), fear (90%), disgust the survey as a function of age. - (86%), sadness (80%), and happiness (76%). Shame, sur To guard against unwitting substantive bias in the selection process, the author of this report, who is an prise, and embarrassment were endorsed by 40%–50%. early and well-known contributor to emotion research Other emotions, currently under study by various investi- and has used a modular approach in studies of expres- gators drew substantially less support: guilt (37%), con- tempt (34%), love (32%), awe (31%), pain (28%), envy sion and physiology cross culturally, enlisted the help of a well-known scientific critic of the author’s findings and (28%), compassion (20%), pride (9%), and gratitude (6%). Finally, there was high agreement about whether “spe- theory. James A. Russell verified that the selection pro- cific moods may be related to specific emotions(s) such cess was free from bias, except for excluding those not as anger to irritability” (88%), whether “specific personal- using quantitative methods. Russell also vetted the survey ity traits are related in some way to specific emotions, questions and contributed one of the questions included in the survey (Question 2 in the Appendix). such as fear to shyness” (82%), and whether specific emotional disorders are related in some way to specific The survey was emailed to 248 scientists in mid-June emotions, such as disgust to anorexia (75%). of 2014. The cover letter explained how the participants were selected and the steps taken to guard against bias in When only those who responded to some but not all participant selection and questions asked. Participants of the questions, or just those who only met the frequent - publications criterion, were examined, the findings did were told that the survey had been kept brief to encour age their participation—only six questions plus a possi- not differ by more than 2 or 3 percentage points. None of the demographic responses—country, discipline, year ble nine follow-up questions. The responses offered were closed-ended. A follow-up reminder was sent 2 - Ph.D. was achieved, age, or sex—were related to the sur vey question answers. A comparison of a random sample weeks after the initial email. There was a moderately of 30 people who responded to the survey with a ran- high response rate of 60%. - dom sample of 30 nonrespondents revealed no differ The existence of “compelling evidence for universals ences in any of the demographic variables. in any aspect of emotion” was endorsed by 88% of the Comparing these findings to an investigation of the respondents. The evidence supporting universal signals views of the 24 most active emotion researchers 20 years (face or voice) was endorsed by 80%. There was less ago (Ekman & Davidson, 1994) reveals much more agree- agreement about whether there is compelling evidence ment now than then. There was no agreement then about for universals in the events that trigger an emotion (66%), universals or about what emotions should be considered. physiology (51%), or appraisal mechanisms (44%). Thus, Darwin’s claim in 1872 and the more recent work of The agreement now about the evidence for universals in Ekman and Friesen (1969) and Izard (1971) regarding the emotional signals and the evidence for five emotions is universality of some facial expressions were supported. robust. There was no agreement 20 years ago about In response to the question “which of the following whether moods differ from emotion. Today, most emo- best captures your orientation toward emotion in your tion scientists agree that moods are related to emotions, research?”, 49% chose “discrete emotions (anger, fear, but this survey did not explore how. In a similar fashion, etc.) combining both biological and social influences,” most scientists see personality and psychopathology related to each emotion, but the nature of that relation- 11% chose “emotions as constructed, either socially or psychologically to fit current conditions,” and 30% indi- ship was not explored in this survey. Twenty years of research has been productive, but as this short survey cated they used both approaches. Because there has been disagreement in the past lit- revealed, there are still many aspects of emotion that erature about the meaning of the phrase “basic emo- deserve further scrutiny to reduce the disagreements that tions,” the question “what is most basic about emotions” still persist. Perhaps most important, the question remains: Will compelling evidence for more than just five emo- was asked. In responses, 18% chose dimensions such as approach–avoidance, positive–negative, or a model tions be forthcoming in the coming decades, or is that all that can be empirically established? including two dimensions; 16% chose “discrete packages of emotional responses,” whereas the majority (55%) This survey should help to eliminate the confusion in reported both views to be most basic about emotions, the popular press about whether there is any agreement at the stance taken by Wundt (1896). all about the nature of emotion. Disagreements, which still by guest on February 16, 2016 pps.sagepub.com Downloaded from

3 What Scientists Who Study Emotion Agree About 33 very question asked, have been misinter - Approach-avoidance persist about e , February 2015) as a lack preted (for example, Circumplex model The Atlantic of agreement about anything (Beck, 2015). This survey has Positive-negative C. found broad areas of agreement about the evidence for es no I FIND both choices A and B useful y some of the major issues about the nature of emotion. D. Y ou have another answer to the question about what is most basic about basic emotions, please Also, most emotion scientists find both a modular and a dimensional view of emotions useful in their research, as provide it here. _________________________ 3. suggested by Wundt more than 100 years ago. Is there compelling e vidence for universals in any aspect of emotion? Y ES N O Because of the need to keep the survey short in order If th ey answered yes then the following appears to achieve a high response rate, questions did not address Is there evidence for any universals (check ALL that many current active areas of research. It should also be apply)? noted that those who study emotion using a qualitative approach may hold very different views about the nature Signals (face and/or voice) of emotion than what was found for those using a quan- Appraisal Mechanisms titative approach. Events that trigger an emotion Physiological changes which characterize emotion 4. Do y ou use the terms emotions and moods inter - Appendix changeably, seeing no difference between the two? YES NO Emotion Survey Emailed to 248 If your answer was NO, Do you believe specific Scientists moods may be related to specific emotion(s) such 1. Which of the following best captures your orientation as anger to irritability? toward emotion in your research? N ES Y O , fear, etc.) combining A. Discrete emotions (anger Do 5. you use the terms Personality traits and emotions both biological and social influences interchangeably, seeing no difference between the B. Emotions as constructed, either socially or psycho- two? Y NO ES logically to fit current conditions If your answer was NO, Do you believe specific C. Both A and B personality traits are related in some way to specific D. other ____________________ emotion(s), such as fear to shyness? YES NO 2. What is most basic about emotions? ou use the terms Emotional Disorders and emo- Do y 6. Discrete packages of emotional responses? If the A. tions interchangeable, seeing no difference between person clicks on A, then the follow-up question the two? YES NO appears If your answer was NO, do you believe specific Check one or more of the discrete emotions you emotional disorders are related in some way to consider or think should be considered: specific emotions, such as disgust to anorexia? Anger YES NO Awe Thank you very much for your participation. Unless you Compassion tell us differently we will send you the results. Contempt We will keep your email address in a file to receive Disgust the findings (if you indicated you want to receive them), Embarrassment but we will disconnect your name from your answers. Envy You can enable more interesting results from this survey Fear if you will tell us: Gratitude Guilt Your discipline or sub discipline__________________ Happiness The year you received your PhD___________________ Hatred Your Age__________ Love Your Sex________ Shame The country you reside in______________ Surprise x, approach-avoidance, Dimensions (circumple B. Author Note positive-negative)? Paul Ekman is professor emeritus at the University of California, : If the person check’s B then the follow-up appears San Francisco and President of the Paul Ekman Group, LLC. Check one or more of the dimensions listed below: by guest on February 16, 2016 pps.sagepub.com Downloaded from

4 34 Ekman Ekman, P., & Davidson, R. A. (Eds.). (1994). The nature of emo- Acknowledgments tion . New York, NY: Oxford University Press. I would like to acknowledge Eve Ekman, who gave valuable Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1969). The repertoire of nonverbal help in constructing the survey, and Matthew Fiorello, who ran , Semiotica behavior: Categories, origins, usage and coding. the survey. 1 , 49–98. Evans, D., & Cruse, P. (Eds.). (2004). Emotion, evolution and Declaration of Conflicting Interests . New York, NY: Oxford University Press. rationality The author declared no conflicts of interest with respect to the . New York, NY: Izard, C. E. (1971). The face of emotion authorship or the publication of this article. Appleton-Century-Crofts. Plutchik, R. (1962). The emotions: Facts, theories, and a new . New York, NY: Random House. model Funding The psy- Russell, J. A., & Fernandez-Dols, J. M. (Eds.). (1997). The Dalai Lama Trust provided funding as part of a larger proj- . New York, NY: Cambridge chology of facial expression ect that was guided by this survey’s findings on the scientific University Press. consensus about emotion. Psycho- Schlosberg, H. (1954). Three dimensions of emotion. logical Review , 81–88. 61 , References What is an emotion? Classic and Soloman, R. C. (Ed.). (2003). contemporary readings . New York, NY: Oxford University . Boston, MA: Houghton Social psychology Allport, F. (1924). Press. Mifflin. Affect, Imagery, Consciousness: Vol. 1. Tomkins, S. S. (1962). Beck, J. (2015, February 24). Hard feelings: Science’s struggle to . New York, NY: Springer. The positive affects The Atlantic define emotions. . Available from http://www . New York, Experimental psychology Woodworth, R. S. (1938). .theatlantic.com NY: Henry Holt. The expression of the emotions in man and Darwin, C. (1998). Grundriss der Psychologie, 13 Wundt, W. (1896). Emotions. In . (3rd ed.). London, England: John Murray. (Original animals Leipzig, Germany: Engelmann. work published 1872) by guest on February 16, 2016 pps.sagepub.com Downloaded from

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