In This Article Emotion

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Handbooks and Textbooks
  • Journals
  • History of Emotion
  • Darwin and His Influence
  • Body, Emotion, and Mood
  • Appraisal and Cognitive Approaches
  • Emotions in Child Development
  • Emotions as Relational
  • Cultural Variation
  • Emotions and the Brain
  • Emotion as a Basis of Personality
  • Emotional Disorders of Childhood
  • Emotional Disorders in Adults
  • Regulation
  • Emotion in the Arts
  • Happiness and Well-Being

Psychology Emotion
Keith Oatley
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0131


Emotion is central to our experience of others and of ourselves. Since 1950 it has come fully onto the agenda of psychology, alongside such functions as perception, memory, and thinking. A human emotion occurs typically when an inner concern is affected by an event in the outer world. This meeting of inner and outer makes emotion of special importance in psychology. The best current conception is that when an event seriously affects a concern, an emotion is that process that then gives urgency and priority to one goal or course of action and thought, while relegating others to a background for some period. Often the emotion has bodily accompaniments, some of which occur in readiness for the urgent action. Imagine you are crossing the road, holding the hand of a five-year-old child. A car screeches to a halt a few feet away from you: you stop your road-crossing, grab the child, and jump back onto the curb. You look to see the child is all right. Your heart thumps in your chest. You can’t help thinking about the implications of what has happened. The concern is for safety of the child and yourself. The event is being nearly run over. The emotion is fear. The urgent priority is to reach safety. Emotions of other kinds, too, typically involve patterns of action, bodily changes, and patterns of self-sustaining thought, which often are about our relationships with others. In our relationships, emotions of affection, of anxiety, and of conflict are among the most important elements in our social lives. Questions that have directed thinkers on emotions over the centuries include how the urgency, sometimes the seeming inexorability, of emotions might be modified, how individual lives are affected by emotions, and how friendships, families, and societies are shaped by them. Although emotions are psychological, their significance has become important also in psychiatry, sociology, economics, anthropology, philosophy, history, and literary study.

General Overviews

Useful overviews of emotion take several forms. One kind is edited books with multiple contributors. One such series of books has the title Feelings and Emotions. The first of these was the Wittenburg Symposium, with proceedings published in Reymert 1928. The most recent, fourth in the series, was the Amsterdam Symposium, with proceedings in Manstead, et al. 2004. As well as multi-author volumes on distinct topics in emotion research, for instance Corrigan 2008 on religion and emotion, there are books on specific emotions such as Averill 1982, an important study of anger. Also on specific emotions are Scheff and Retzinger 2001 on shame and Bormans 2013, which features a wide range of perspectives on love. Some such as Griffiths 1997 have argued that the term emotion refers to processes that are too heterogeneous to be considered together, but Izard 2010 shows that, although there is some disagreement about the exact definition of emotion, there is considerable agreement among researchers about functions and causes of emotion.

  • Averill, James R. 1982. Anger and aggression. An essay on emotion. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4612-5743-1E-mail Citation »

    This book has introductory chapters on the psychology of anger, followed by an analysis of episodes of anger recorded in diaries, as experienced by people who felt angry with someone, and people who were the target of someone’s anger. Episodes of anger occur for most people once or twice a week and are typically occasions for people to repair relationships that are important to them in which something has gone wrong.

  • Bormans, Leo, ed. 2013. The world book of love: Het geheim van de liefde. Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book is a compilation of one hundred brief chapters by professors from all round the world who have written on love in its many aspects.

  • Corrigan, John, ed. 2008. The Oxford handbook of religion and emotion. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this book’s first part are chapters on emotion in specific religions, in the second part are chapters on emotions of religious life such as hope, in the third part are chapters on emotional states such as religious ecstasy, and in the fourth part are historical perspectives.

  • Griffiths, Paul E. 1997. What emotions really are. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226308760.001.0001E-mail Citation »

    Griffiths reviews the literature on various kinds of emotions and argues that emotion as it is currently conceptualized groups together psychological states that are very different and hence are not comparable.

  • Izard, Carroll E. 2010. The many meanings/aspects of emotion: Definitions, functions, activation, and regulation. Emotion Review 2.4: 363–370.

    DOI: 10.1177/1754073910374661E-mail Citation »

    Izard surveys thirty-five leading researchers on definitions, functions, and causes of emotion. Although there is disagreement about the definition of emotion, researchers agreed about functions and causes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Manstead, Antony S. R., Nico H. Frijda, and Agneta Fischer, eds. 2004. Feelings and emotions: The Amsterdam Symposium. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511806582E-mail Citation »

    This work is the fourth in the series Feelings and Emotions. Its contributors include a good selection of the psychologists, philosophers, sociologists, and neuroscientists who have been influential in research on emotions at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

  • Reymert, Martin L., ed. 1928. Feelings and emotions: The Wittenberg Symposium. Worcester, MA: Clark Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This work is the first of the series Feelings and Emotions. Some principal psychologists of the time from America and Europe present papers here. They enable us to see something of how emotions were understood in the first part of the 20th century.

  • Scheff, Thomas, and Suzanne Retzinger. 2001. Emotions and violence: Shame and rage in destructive conflicts. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

    E-mail Citation »

    These authors argue that shame is a very important emotion, that people can spend their lives trying to guard against it, and that unacknowledged shame can lead to violence.

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