Unit 8B: Emotions, Stress, and Health
  1. Introduction
    1. One thing that makes us all human, other than our errors, is the emotions we feel.
    2. Emotions are complex.
      1. Think of hearing a “bogey-man” outside. The emotion of fear is made up of (1) physiology (heart pounding), (2) our behaviors (grabbing a baseball bat), and (3) our thoughts (imagining what all might happen).
      2. There are two debates on emotions…
        1. The first wonders which comes first, physiology or feeling? It asks, does the physiology arouse the emotions, or do the emotions arouse the physiology?
        2. The second wonders if thinking always comes before feeling? It asks, do I think about it and therefore create my feelings?
    3. There are 3 main theories on emotions…
      1. James-Lange theory – Henry James and Carl Lange built the James-Lange theory which says our bodies react first, then we experience the emotional feeling.
        1. For example, a baseball pitcher suddenly sees a batted ball screaming for his face. He reacts and catches the ball. Then he feels a rush of fear/surprise/emotion. Thinking and acting came before feeling.
      2. Cannon-Bard theory – Walter Cannon and Philip Bard disagreed with this theory. They came up with the Cannon-Bard theory saying our bodies reaction and our emotional feeling occur at the same time.
      3. Singer-Schachter Two-factor theory – Stanley Schacter and Jerome Singer came up with the two-factor theory saying emotions are made up of (1) physical arousal and (2) a cognitive label (we must be actually aware of the physical arousal).
        1. This one says that we feel our bodies react, we’re aware of this reaction, then we feel the emotion associated with it.
  2. Emotions and the autonomic nervous system
    1. Anyone who has experienced the death of a close loved-one or falling in love knows that the body and emotions work together.
    2. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is our “auto-pilot nervous system” – it works on its own to protect us, such as when a dog attacks. The ANS alerts us to action then calms us when the crisis is over. The ANS has two main subdivisions…
      1. Sympathetic division – this “hypes us up” when there’s a danger. It gets us ready to fight.
        1. Hormones are released (epinephrine AKA adrenaline, and norepenephrine).
        2. The liver shoots sugar into your blood.
        3. Respiration and pulse go up, digestion slows, blood moves to your muscles.
        4. Pupil dilate, perspiration starts to cool us.
      2. Parasympathetic division – this calms us down when the danger’s over.
        1. The opposite of everything above takes place.
        2. But, with things already in the system, calming down is gradual.
    3. Arousal affects performance.
      1. The Yerkes-Dodson law says that optimum arousal yields peak performance.
        1. This means that being under-aroused/alert yields low performance. Or, being over-hyped yields low performance. The trick is to be just right.
        2. Performance is often graphed like a hump. The top of the hump is the optimum arousal level.
      2. If a task is easy, you perform better if arousal is high.
        1. For instance, a runner finds running easy (because it’s been learned over and over). Having competition in a race would lead to a high state of arousal and force the runner to perform better and run faster.
      3. If a task is difficult, you perform better if arousal is low.
        1. For instance, taking the SAT is difficult. Being in a low state of arousal (being calm) leads to better performance but being in a high state of arousal (being nervous) leads to poor performance.
  3. Physiological similarities among specific emotions
    1. When experiencing different emotions, there are no major physical differences shown by the body.
    2. Put another way, by simply reading the body, a researcher can’t tell the difference between fear, anger, and sexual arousal.
  4. Physiological differences among specific emotions
    1. Different emotions do yield some differences between emotions.
      1. In the body…
        1. Finger temperature and hormone secretions are different for fear and anger.
        2. Fear and joy perk different facial muscles
      2. In the brain the emotions show more differences…
        1. The amygdala reacts differently when responding to different emotions. The amygdala could be considered the “headquarters of emotion.”
        2. EEG scans show that emotions “light up” different parts of the brain.
        3. Depression shows up more in the right frontal lobe, positive moods in the left frontal. This may be due to lots of dopamine receptors in the left lobe. Essentially, right is cranky, left is happy.
    2. This evidence, that the brain handles emotions differently, seems to support the James-Lange theory (the body acts, then our feelings react).
    3. The other two theories still stand though. How we think about what we physically feel still matters.
      1. Consider a lie-detector test. If our thoughts about our physical reactions did not matter, a lie-detector test would never fail. In reality, they’re sometimes wrong.
  5. Cognition and emotion
    1. What goes on in our head (cognition) can impact what we feel.
    2. Cognition can outline our emotions.
      1. If we’re in a state of arousal (hyped up from exercise or adrenaline) we might get different emotions depending on how we label a situation.
        1. If we see the situation as joyful, we feel joy. If we see the situation as testy, we get testy.
      2. If we’re in a state of arousal, we might react with aggression, like a soccer riot.
      3. These facts supports the Two-factor theory that says arousal + a label = emotions.
    3. Cognition can also come after emotion.
      1. Studies have shown that people can emotionally feel something to which they can’t “put a finger on it” or label. We’re fine-tuned to emotionally sensitive information.
      2. For instance, people were flashed pictures so fast they couldn’t consciously see them. But, depending on the picture, responded accordingly to things like happy or frown faces.
      3. There are two pathways that sensory input takes when dealing with emotions, like fear…
        1. The “high road” – sensory input (from say the eyes)→ thalamus→sensory cortex→prefrontal cortex→amygdala→creating a fear response. This is slower and we actually think about it. It’s like the calm person who never shows any emotion and calmly reacts to situations.
        2. The “low road” – sensory input (from say the eyes)→amygdala→fear response. This is super-fast. It usually involves fear or likes/dislikes. It’s like the person who “wears his emotions on his sleeve” and reacts to any situation immediately.
        3. Much of our emotions occur on auto-pilot, without us actually thinking about it or being conscious of it. But, making a conscious effort to switch to the “emotional high road” helps us get some control over our emotions.
  6. Detecting emotion
    1. People also communicate without words. “Body language” speaks volumes.
      1. We’re better at picking out danger, like the word “bomb” or an angry face.
    2. Facial muscles tell our emotions, usually involuntarily.
      1. Raising the inner part of your eyebrows reveals worry.
      2. Eyebrows raised and together shows fear.
      3. Tensed muscles under the eyes and raised cheeks show a genuine smile. A “for-the-camera” smile often doesn’t have this.
    3. Studies have shown that we can usually decode these things pretty easily.
      1. The eyes and mouth are the most important for picking up the emotions.
      2. Extraverts’ emotions are easier to read; introverts are better at reading them.
    4. We’re not so good at detecting lies. The idea that “a person looks away when lying” may not hold up. People could detect lying only 54% of the time.
    5. Emails and text messages usually don’t have any non-verbal clues to communication. Thus, we’re judged only by our words and our meaning is sometimes misinterpreted. We may be “just kidding”, but the person may not know that and therefore take it seriously.
  7. Gender, emotion, and nonverbal behavior
    1. The notion of “women’s intuition” just may be real. Women tend to be better at sensing emotional cues and identifying lies.
    2. Women seem to have more depth and complexity in sensing emotions; men tend to keep emotions pretty simple.
    3. Anger is an exception to the “women are more emotional than men” rule. Anger is a male-dominated emotion.
      1. In one experiment, a computer-generated gender-neutral face was given either an angry and a smiling face. People usually saw the angry face as a male, the smiling face as a female.
    4. Women see themselves as empathetic (they can imagine being in another’s shoes).
      1. Objective measurements show the gap isn’t as wide as women say.
      2. Still, women are much more likely to show their empathy and emotions. It’s okay for a woman to show emotions, but the old saying “men don’t cry” applies to males.
  8. Culture and emotional expression
    1. Gestures have different meanings throughout the world. Examples…
      1. China – hand clapping means you’re worried, sticking out your tongue means you’re surprised.
      2. USA – “thumbs up” means “It’s A-okay,” but in Brazil it means “up yours.”
    2. Facial expressions are pretty universal, regardless of one’s culture. Paul Ekman led this research in the 1970s.
      1. Six basic facial expressions have been identified and are easily recognized. They are…
        1. Happiness
        2. Surprise
        3. Fear
        4. Sadness
        5. Anger
        6. Disgust
      2. These expressions apply to all age groups, including babies and even blind children who’ve never actually seen them. Babies also throw in an extra expression: interest – like they’re saying, “Ooh, look at that cool thing!”
      3. Smiles are social expressions. Although we may be happy about something, we usually save our smiles for sharing with others.
      4. Western cultures that value individuality show more emotions than Eastern cultures that value the group.
  9. The effects of facial expressions
    1. William James felt that if we act a certain way, like acting happy, we’ll begin to feel happy. Research has shown that James may well have been right. A person’s attitude really does matter.
      1. In studies, if people are told to make a certain facial emotion, they say they can feel the emotion they’re masking. Faces show our feelings and they fuel our feelings.
    2. The facial feedback effect is the resulting feeling after making an emotional facial expression.
      1. One study had people hold a pen in between their teeth. Doing this activates smile-muscles. They reacted by saying cartoons were funnier. Holding the pen with your lips activates frowning muscles.
      2. In another study, Botox was given to depressed patients so they couldn’t frown. 9 out of 10 were no longer depressed two months later.
      3. Walking with your head down and shuffling your feet makes you feel down and out. Walking with long strides, arms swinging, eyes straight ahead makes you feel positive.
    3. To increase empathy, let your face mimic the person you’re with.
  10. Fear
    1. Fear, real or perceived, is very powerful.
      1. We can become afraid of almost anything. It can be natural (heights) or it can be learned (creepy clowns). Naturally not afraid, monkeys learned to fear snakes.
    2. The amygdala is part of the limbic neural system and is important to feeling fear.
      1. The amygdala alerts us as if saying, “Hey! Watch out! Something bad is coming!”
      2. A person with a damaged amygdala is grossly unaware of obvious danger.
    3. Identical twins show similar fearfulness, even when raised separately. This supports the genetics that influence fear.
  11. Anger
    1. Anger is a powerful emotion, perhaps the most powerful aside from love.
    2. In Western cultures that value the individual, “venting” one’s anger is seen as a good thing because it “releases steam.” In Eastern cultures that value the group, venting is a negative because it brings discord within the group.
      1. Westerners believe in catharsis. This idea says that we need to do something violent or extreme to kick in the “release valve,” then we feel better. Studies show this usually fails. Showing anger tends to breed anger.
      2. There are two bits of advice to relieving anger…
        1. Wait. Just give it some time to settle.
        2. Don’t dwell on it. This only lets the anger steep, like tea bags in water. Rather, deal with it in another manner. For instance, you might turn to exercising, engaging in a hobby, or talking to a friend.
      3. Additionally, forgiveness is powerful. Research shows that forgiving someone for doing you wrong is a very powerful remedy for ill feelings.
        1. Physiologically, one study showed that forgiveness lowered blood pressure, pulse, and facial tension.
        2. On the inside, there are no bounds as to how much forgiveness heals.
  12. Happiness
    1. Happiness matters.
      1. People who are happy are more playful, creative, have better self-images, better relationships, and hopes for the future.
      2. They have better marriages and make more money.
    2. Also, it’s worth noting that unhappy people also launch social reforms and write great literature (witness Ernest Hemingway).
    3. The feel-good, do-good phenomenon is very pervasive among people. It says that when we’re happy, we’re inclined to help others.
    4. A person’s well-being is his or her perceived happiness or satisfaction with life.
    5. David Watson studied happiness hourly. He determined that after waking, we quickly move into a good mood. It gets slightly better until 8 hours later then begins to slide. After being up 13 or 14 hours, it drops fast.
      1. The bottom line, we’re happiest during the daytime hours, then saddest during the evening.
    6. People have a strong ability to adapt, move on, and live. Even though things sometimes seem hopeless, there’s something powerful in us that moves us on. Our will to live and fight is stronger and longer-lasting than our negative emotions. We often underestimate this.
      1. It’s normal to have day-to-day up-and-down mood fluctuations.
      2. Studies have shown that emotions tend to be short-lived. The lesson: no matter how bad you feel, don’t give up because it will pass.
    7. The question is, “Can money buy happiness?”
      1. Beginning in the 1960s, college students were asked to rate the goals of “developing a meaningful life philosophy” and “being very well-off financially.”
        1. In the 60s, the “life philosophy” rated very high.
        2. In 1977, the two goals were equal.
        3. After 1977, “well-off financially” was rated high.
      2. Wealth does tend to lead to happiness over basic needs. Wealthy nations have healthier people – they don’t have to deal with the stress of things like getting food.
        1. But, the economics law of diminishing marginal utility applies here. It says each additional bit of something (in this case, money) gives less usefulness.
        2. In other words, once you have enough money for the basics, adding money doesn’t bring you much more happiness. For a billionaire, an extra $1,000/year means nothing. To a person on welfare, it means a lot.
      3. It also seems that instead of money breeding happiness, happiness breeds more money.
      4. Beyond the basic needs, money cannot buy happiness.
        1. From 1957 to 2008, average incomes went from $10,000 to over $28,000 per year (in year 2000 dollars). But, ratings of personal happiness were essentially flat.
        2. People who seek money for power and prestige usually have the lowest happiness.
        3. People who focus on relationships, growth, and community usually have the highest happiness.
    8. Two principles that try to explain why, for non-poor people, gaining more money gives only a temporary boost in happiness…
      1. The adaptation-level phenomenon says we judge things relative to a neutral level, which is defined by our past experience. Everything is relative.
        1. With music, we have a neutral volume level in our minds based on past listening experience. If we hear a song, we compare it to our neutral level then decide if it is loud or quiet.
        2. The same is true with income. We have a neutral income level based on our income of past years. A raise of $100 a year to an adult would be almost nothing; to a child, it would make him/her feel like a king.
      2. Our happiness also depends in part on how we compare ourselves to others.
        1. If we think we’re not “keeping up with the Joneses,” we’re not happy. Conversely, if we see the Joneses as worse-off than us, we feel better.
        2. The relative deprivation concept says we become disappointed because we think others are doing better than us.
    9. Tips on how to be happy…
      1. Realize money can’t buy happiness.
      2. Manage time.
      3. Act happy.
      4. Use your skills at work and play.
      5. Exercise.
      6. Get your sleep.
      7. Make close relationships matter.
      8. Help others.
      9. Be thankful for what you have.
      10. Find faith and religion.
  13. Stress and illness
    1. Stress is the process by which we perceive and respond to events that we feel are threatening or challenging.
      1. A stressor is an event that threatens or challenges us, like a job performance evaluation.
      2. Our physical and emotional responses to the stressors are our stress reaction.
      3. How we view an event can determine whether it’s a stressor. To some people, a job interview is a great opportunity. To others, it’s very intimidating.
    2. The time stress lasts matters.
      1. Short-lived stress can be a good thing. It jolts our immune systems and gets us going to do great things. For instance, an athlete might prep before a big game or a person might bounce back from losing a job to move on to a better one.
      2. Long-term stress hurts us, not only emotionally, but it can physically harm us.
    3. We have a built-in “stress response system.” Researcher Walter Cannon was the pioneer in this field.
      1. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when stressed. It releases “stress hormones” of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) and norepinephrine and hypes us up for a fight. This is the fight-or-flight stage where we decide to either fight the threat or take off running.
      2. Another level of the stress response system sees our adrenal glands send out the hormone cortisol. Whereas epinephrine takes effect fast, cortisol is for the long-haul.
      3. There are alternatives to fight-or-flight…
        1. Some people might withdraw from the stress—they may “hole themselves up” to conserve energy or become paralyzed with inactivity.
        2. Another technique is called tend and befriend. This is where, in times of crisis, a person helps others and seeks help from them. This is more common with women.
        3. Men tend to socially withdraw, such as turning to alcohol or aggression. Women do just the opposite, they tend to join together with others.
    4. Hans Seyle developed the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). He said our responses to stress are amazingly uniform. He identified the following phases…
      1. Phase 1 – alarm reaction – This is the “Oh! Wow!” moment when you’re shocked at something. Your sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Pulse races, blood goes to your muscles, you get a faint feeling of shock, and you’re ready to fight.
      2. Phase 2 – resistance – This is where you deal with the situation. It sees your temperature, blood pressure, and respiration stay high. Hormones are released.
      3. Phase 3 – exhaustion – This is when your body’s “stress resources” are running low or gone. You’re susceptible to illness and perhaps collapsing or death.
        1. The bottom line with Seyle’s research is that (1) we tend to deal with stress in a predictable pattern and (2) prolonged stress takes a physical toll on our bodies.
    5. Certain life events are more stressful than others.
      1. Catastrophes are very stressful. They cause increases in heart attacks, sleepless nights, and suicide.
      2. Significant life changes are very stressful. This includes things like the death of a loved one, change in job, moving, marriage, or divorce.
      3. Daily hassles cause stress. Little day-to-day things can add up to stress you out.
        1. Poor countries have high hypertension rates because they worry about making ends meet.
        2. Wealthy countries have higher stress amongst people who are dissatisfied with their lives.
  14. Stress and the heart
    1. High blood pressure is one factor that increases the risk of coronary heart disease – the closing of the blood vessels that nourish the heart. This is North America’s #1 cause of death.
      1. Smoking, obesity, high fat diet, and high cholesterol add to the risk.
      2. But, stress also adds to the risk. This was shown in a study, by Friedman and Rosenman, of tax preparers who scrambled to finish tax returns on time and saw their risk go up due to stress.
    2. Friedman and Rosenman also identified two groups…
      1. Type A personalities are competitive, driven, impatient, time-conscious, motivated, verbally aggressive, and easily angered.
      2. Type B personalities are easygoing people.
      3. Type B folks are much less prone to have a heart attack than Type A people. The #1 factor seemed to be the Type A person’s anger.
      4. Other factors matter…
        1. People who were pessimistic were at a greater risk for heart disease.
        2. People who were depressed were at a greater risk for heart disease.
  15. Stress and susceptibility to disease
    1. The term psychosomatic describes a physical symptom that has a psychological cause. But, the term became known as a person “faking it” or the symptom is “just in their head but it’s not real.” Sometimes this is true, sometimes what’s in our head does affect us physically. So, the term is not used much anymore.
    2. Psychophysiological illness is used now. This implies that what’s in our head can actually cause physical symptoms, like hypertension and headaches.
    3. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) now describes how what’s going on in our head impacts our nervous and endocrine systems and altogether affects our immune system.
      1. Our immune system fights diseases. The main “warrior” is our lymphocytes or white blood cells that fight bacteria and viruses.
      2. Under stress, our brains release stress-fighting hormones which suppress our lymphocytes. Thus, the bottom line: stress lowers our immune system and makes us more susceptible to disease.
    4. AIDS is the 4th killer in the world and the top killer in Africa. AIDS is immunodeficiency (lowered immune system).
      1. Stress adds to the power of AIDS by weakening the immune system further.
      2. Some people say stress should be lowered to in turn lower its affect on AIDS patients.
      3. Others say it's best to simply not get AIDS in the first place by following the ABC’s…
        1. Abstinence.
        2. Being faithful.
        3. Condom use.
    5. Stress speeds up cancer.
      1. Studies showed stressed rats were more prone to cancer than care-free rats.
      2. People under stress have higher rates of cancer.
      3. Stress doesn’t create cancer, but it may make the body more susceptible to it.
    6. Lastly, as an overall theme of psychology, stress reminds us how the mind and the body interact.

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