077 Paradigms of emotion

If we reject the idea that the emotions can be reduced to a fundamental few on the basis of biological criteria, we are still left with the problem of how to impose some order on the diversity of emotional phenomena. In the present section, I will approach this problem through the use of idealized models or paradigms. These paradigms describe the mechanisms that help distinguish certain classes of emotion; that is, they do not purport to represent particular
emotions, nor do they imply that some emotions are more fundamental than others (although some may approximate the ideal of a paradigm more than do others).

Figure 12.1 presents, in block diagram, a model of emotion. I will use this diagram to explicate several different paradigms of emotion. But first, let me explain some of the general features of the model.

It will be noted that Figure 12.1 is symmetrical above and below the horizontal axis. That is, if the diagram were folded at the midline, the top and bottom halves would coincide. This is to illustrate the formal congruence between the sociological (top half) and psychological (bottom half) determinants of emotion. Another thing to note about Figure 12.1 is that the arrows do not necessarily represent causal sequences in the traditional sense. For example, social norms do not „cause“ specific appraisals or response tendencies, as one event might be said to cause another event. Rather, social norms serve as standards against which responses can be compared and, if a discrepancy is detected, appropriate adjustments made.

The cognitive and physiological processes that help mediate emotional behavior are represented by a single „black box“ along the horizontal axis. Included within this black box are the appraisal and monitoring functions discussed earlier.

Let us now examine the upper half of Figure 12.1 in more detail. Two types of social variables are of major importance for the understanding of emotional syndromes: social norms and defenses. As used here, the term social norms“ refers to demands or expectancies placed on the individual by society. Social norms may influence behavior in either of two ways: (a) The immediate prospect of positive and / or negative sanctions may induce compliance; (b) during the process of socialization, the individual may adopt as his own the relevant attitudes and beliefs of society, so that the expected behavior becomes „second nature,“ so to speak.

Sometimes, the practices fostered by society are detrimental to the interests of the individual (e.g., the person is encouraged to face the dangers of combat, to abstain from pleasurable activities, etc.), or, what amounts to much the same thing, equally compelling norms may call for incompatible responses. In such cases, the conflict may be resolved by another set of normative structures, which I have labeled „social defenses.“ These social defenses are analogous to psychological defense mechanisms, as described below.

The bottom half of Figure 12.1 represents the psychological level of analysis. Through a past history of conditioning and learning, a person develops a set of expectancies („personal norms“) about his or her own behavior. Some of these expectancies may be so strong that the individual cannot help but respond under given circumstances, in which case the response may be interpreted as a passion. But this is not the only source of passion on the individual level. When two or more expectancies are incompatible, intrapsychic conflict results. Psychological defense mechanisms allow a resolution of the conflict, for example, by symbolically transforming the conflicted response and divorcing it from the self-as-agent.

For the well-socialized individual, personal norms reflect social norms, and personal defenses are congruent with social defenses. In cases where the personal and social levels do not match, the resulting behavior is liable to be labeled „hysterical,“ which means simply that it is idiosyncratic to the individual and not standard within the social group. Implicit in the above discussion is a distinction between two paradigms of emotion, which I shall call impulsive and conflictive. After describing each of these paradigms in further detail, I will then present a third paradigm to characterize what I have called transcendental emotional syndromes (Averill, 1976).