What Is Emotion?

What Is Emotion?

History, Measures, and Meanings

Book - 2007
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In this overview of human emotions, the author addresses the ambiguities and embraces the controversies that surround the subject. He examines what exactly we do know about emotions, which popular assumptions about emotions are incorrect, and how scientific study must proceed if we are to pursue answers.
Publisher: New Haven : Yale University Press, c2007.
ISBN: 9780300124743
Characteristics: xiii, 271 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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May 15, 2017

A rather densely and tersely written book (compared to most in public libraries) but very interesting. At times it seems there are just paragraph after paragraph of what read like abstracts of journal articles. Kagan doesn't get bamboozled by language or the terminology of psychology, instead he notes the poor state of emotion words and phrases in English, and even makes comparisons to other languages. The salience (how obvious or hidden it is) of emotion, and its valence (whether positive or negative), is given its due but also its limitations as an analytical framework. The shortcomings of ordinary language in talking about emotions is one of the key themes in the book. Social incentives, brain states, self appraisals, bodily states, are all given their consideration, and ultimately relating emotion to religion or coping with the world without a grounding coordinating set of ideas (confused, rudderless, uncertain (pg. 201ff)). It could have used more diagrams to illustrate some of its points.


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