The Development of Emotion
"When my boy Bill grows up, he'll be a real man. Strong as an ox and just as sturdy! He'll never cry, no sir. He'll take his happy times strong hard laughter and his troubles with never a tear. He'll run his life like a tight ship, yessiree! He'll be calm and solid, slow to anger. But when he's riled no man on this earth will be able to stand the force of his blow. And if not, he'll answer to me!"
And it just might turn out that way. This new father obviously thinks he has a great deal of control over the emotional development of his son. Psychology, to a great extent, bears him out. The way we express our emotions certainly depends quite a bit on what we learn from our parents and from other people. But just how much control does this hopeful father have? Can he really teach his son how to feel? Perhaps his son was born with some emotions of his own. Then wouldn't his father's well-meaning lessons be needless or harmful? The material that follows might help us answer such questions..
As you read the text, try to answer the following questions..
Emotional development is based on two factors: heredity and learning Most psychologists agree that, to some extent, our tendencies toward certain kinds of emotional behavior are a part of our genetic makeup, which is determined at the moment of our conception. They also agree that much of our emotional behavior is determined by our experiences. Much scientific research has been done on emotional development. First, we will consider the influence of heredity.
HEREDITY AND EMOTION
It is a fact that white rats are tame and gray rats are aggressive. A gray rat can be tamed, but will always remain irritable and ready to launch a savage attack at the slightest provocation. This fact alone suggests a hereditary influence over emotion. The coat of a gray rat is composed of tan and black hair. Careful selective breeding can result in pure black rats that are as tame and gentle as white rats. Therefore, there may be some link between emotionality and hair color in rats. Both of these are determined genetically (Stone, 1932).
Of course, breeding experiments are impossible to carry out with human beings, but the suggestion that emotional traits may be inherited by humans is a reasonable hypothesis. Genetics appears to influence physiological responses to emotion
Jost and Sontag (1944) did a study showing that heredity has a role in the physiological processes involved in emotion. Different pairs of childrenÄclassified as unrelated, siblings, or identical/ twinsÄwere studied over a three-year period. During this time measurements were taken of the electrical resistance of the skin, pulse rate, respiration, and salivation. When the three groups were compared it was found that the identical twins (with identical genetic makeup) were most similar in these measures. Siblings were also similar, though not as much as identical twins. Unrelated children showed little similarity. This study might be questioned because the siblings and identical twins had similar environments. But this does not explain fully the wide differences between siblings and identical twins. Figure 1 shows the results of this experiment. The higher coefficients of correlation indicate a greater degree of similarity.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
Figure 1. Similarities in physiological/ processes involved in emotion (After post and Sontag, 1944)
LEARNING AND EMOTION
While there is only a suggestion that human emotion is partially based on heredity, there is substantial evidence that learning plays an important role in shaping emotional development.
A child two or three weeks old has a very limited number of emotional responses. In fact, the only emotional response an infant has is one of general excitement. This general excitement takes the form of crying, straining, and writhing movements. It is clearly a sign of discomfort. As the weeks go by the response gradually becomes differentiated, taking on subtle shadings of the various emotions. Before he is three months old, the positive and negative responses of distress and delight can be identified. But his distress and delight are gross responses. The child's delight at being fed cannot be distinguished from his delight when seeing his mothers face. His distress with a wet diaper is the same response as his distress when he hears a loud, sudden noise. During the next nine months, distress is differentiated into anger, disgust, and fear. In the same period the elation and affection responses develop from the basic delight response. At this point, the emotional repertoire of the child is fairly complete. Figure 2 shows the differentiation of emotional responses during a child's first 18 months.
Figure 2. Differentiation of a child's emotional responses
The situations giving rise. to emotional response may be divided into three categories, according to the effect on the individual. This is true both of children whose responses have become differentiated and of adults.
Pleasure-producing situations are those in which the individual is comfortable. Very early in life a full stomach and a dry diaper are the major aspects of pleasure-producing situations. Later, familiar faces, especially that of the mother, become pleasure-producing. This could be due to the association of the mother with feeding fear-producing situations are those perceived by the individual as strange or unfamiliar. These situations usually involve stimuli such as a loud, sudden noise or the approach of a stranger. A child cannot respond to a stimulus as frightening until he can differentiate the familiar from the unfamiliar. Young chimpanzees do not fear the disembodied head of a chimp until they become aware that a head is usually attached to a body. When this awareness is present, the head becomes a terrifying stimulus. Similarly, the face of a stranger is not threatening to a child until he learns to differentiate, for example, his mother's face from other faces.
Anger-producing situations are those in which the individual is frustrated. When either adults or children are kept from doing what they want to do, they become frustrated and angry. As our goals change, so do the situations in which we get angry. Restraining an infant's movements is sufficient cause for anger.
The situations in which we express our anger and the manner of expression are dictated by social norms. Social pressures may be so great that the expression of anger is entirely suppressed, leading to internal stress.
Behavioral expressions of emotion reflect learning
Learning how to express emotions is, of course, affected by the maturational process. A child cannot curse in anger before he reams to talk. Nor can he fear a situation until he learns to discriminate the familiar from the strange. The fact that emotional expression is learned can be shown by the difference in emotion- gestures in different cultures. In China, for example, stretching out, the tongue indicates surprise, while in a Western culture the same gesture indicates dislike or disgust.
We also learn when to show our emotions. In the United States, men rarely weep. In France, however, weeping is acceptable for men in a variety of situations.
When we associate a neutral event or object with past emotional experience, the object itself may be sufficient to elicit the emotional response. A child who is burned on a hot stove may regard the stove itself as threatening and come to fear it. His fear might even generalize to the kitchen because he associates the setting with the painful experience. A dress worn to the senior prom might by itself bring pleasant feelings, not because it is inherently pleasant, but because it is associated with a pleasant event.
In summary, the factors affecting emotional development are many. Heredity certainly plays a role in determining our physiological responses in emotion. Learning, tempered by the maturational process, is of great importance in shaping our emotional responses. While we may not learn the feelings of emotion themselves, we certainly learn when and how to express them.
Now test yourself without looking back.
1. Name the two major factors affecting emotional development._________________________ ______________________________
2. Experiments on physiological responses to emotion have shown that idenflcal twins are quite similar in such things as pulse rate, respiration, and salivation.. What conclusion might be drawn from this?_________________________________________________
3. The very first emotional response to an external stimulus shown by an infant is____________________________
4. Unless he has developed to a certain point, an infant cannot learn to respond emotionally in a certain way. This indicates that emotional development is affected by the___________________________ process.
5. In Eastern cultures a man might scratch his ears to show that he is happy. This indicates that emotional expressions are_________________________________
6. Sometimes a stimulus will be associated with an emotional experience so that the stimulus itself gives rise to the emotion.. This indicates that occasions for emotional expression are often_____________________________
7. A child's emotional response to strangeness is usually_______________________________
8. The emotional response to frustration is usually___________________________________
8. The emotional response to comfort is usually____________________________________
10. Fear is only possible when we learn to distinguish the_____________________________ from the_________________________
Emotionality seems to have some hereditary basis. We would, therefore, expect the offspring of very emotional parents to have a tendency toward being_____________________________________________________________2
Traits involving physiological emotional responses are, to a certain
extent, transferred genetically.. Who would be expected to be
most similar in such physiological responses as respiration rate,
heart rate and salivation?
b. Unrelated children
c. Identical twins
The very first emotional response to an external stimulus shown by infants is:
Emotional development proceeds as a gradual differentiation of
general emotional responses into specific reactions. Which one of
the following groups is in the correct order of emotional
a. Fear, distress, excitement
b. Distress, fear, excitement
c. Excitement, elation, delight
d. Excitement, distress, anger
e. Excitement, disgust, distress
A 10-year-old blind and deaf girl who never had the opportunity to
learn emotional expression cries when she is sad and laughs
when she is happy. This implies that the development of emotional
responses is brought about in part by:
a. the maturational process.
b. unconscious processes.
c. classical conditioning..
In different cultures, individuals often have different ways of
expressing emotion. This indicates that emotional responses:
a. can be reamed.
b. are based only on maturation.
c. are not inherited.
d. are physiological in origin.
Most psychologists agree that a child cannot express many of the emotions associated with given situations until he has reached a certain______________________________________1
1 maturational level
2 highly emotional
Individuals may not be taught how to feel emotions, but they are
taught when and how to express emotion. This is supported
by which of the following statements?
a. Americans clap their hands when they feel happy but the Chinese clap their hands in disappointment.
b. A Frenchman will cry at a wedding while an American man will not.
A young child on his first automobile ride was continually
frightened by the blasts of auto horns. Thereafter, he was always
afraid of cars and car riding. His new response to cars supports
the notion that:
a infants are afraid of loud noises.
b. fear is a basic emotional.
c. occasions for emotional response are often conditioned.
While generally untrue, the phrase, "What you don't know won't
hurt you,)' implies that:
a. we might not fear a thing until we learn that it is threatening.
b. too much knowledge can be dangerous.
c. pain is possible only after we loam to associate a given stimulus with pain.
Match the following basic emotions with the kind of situation that brings the emotion about.
1 ) Pleasure _____
3) Anger _____
2 1) b; 2) c; 3) a
5 1) c; 2) a; 3) b
NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2
1. The two major factors affecting emotional development are_______________________ and________________________.
2. Physiological responses to emotion more similar in twins than in siblings. Thus they are, to some degree,__________________________________
3. All emotional responses are differentiated forms of________________________
4. A child cannot wring his hands in distress until his bodily movements are adequately coordinated. This indicates that the learning of emotional response is affected by the_____________________________ process.
5. In different cultures, individuals often have different ways of expressing similar emotions. The best
explana- for this is that:
a. emotional pressures differ.
b. maturational levels differ.
c. people are taught different ways of expressing emotion.
d. people inherit different traits.
6. If a child who once fell from a high chair screams in terror at mealtime, the emotional response has become________________________________________to the meal situation.
7. Until a child is capable of distinguishing a familiar object from an unfamiliar object, he is not capable of responding with_____________________________________when presented with either of the objects.
8. Match the basic response to the type of situation.
1 ) Pleasure__________
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August 15, 2000