Emotions Universal Or A Learned Phenomenon

1703 words - 7 pages

This essay concerns emotions and controversial arguments based on whether emotions are universal or a learned phenomenon. Most of the research in to cross cultural Psychology surround their attention on the biological aspect of emotions as being the primary source of the occurrence of emotions and has been the subject of numerous studies. However, culture is also known to affect and provoke emotional experiences. This essay will discuss the position of emotions from a Universalist view and from a cultural view. The following approach will focus on the universality of emotions.
One explanation that claims emotions are universal comes from Darwin (1872 in Smith & Kosslyn, 2009). Darwin adopted an evolutionary perspective of emotions by contending that emotions are universal which consist of biological components in which individuals are able to recognise emotional expressions of individual’s across different cultures. Definitions of emotions are many and varied. Emotions influence behaviour and can be positive and negative. They are also associated with physiological and cognitive changes and can influence behaviour (in Smith & Kossyln, 2009).

One famous pioneer in this area is Ekman (1973 in Shiraev & Levy, 2007, 2004) who classified six basic facial expressions as being universal and reflecting most emotional states. They are happy, sad, anger, disgust, surprised and fearful. Ekman (1973) proposed that the universality of emotions allows individuals to empathise with others and enables us to read other’s feelings therefore emotions must serve an adaptive purpose hence supporting the claim that they are universal (Darwin, 1972 in John, Ype, Poortinga, Marshall & Pierre 2002). Moreover, emotions are widely accepted to accompany facial expressions and is a dominant factor in this area of research (in John et al., 2002).
Evidence supporting this claim suggests that emotions significantly correspond with facial muscles and that there is consistency within this amongst individuals from different cultures (Ekman & Friesen, 1969 in John et al., 2002). Facial muscle structures have the potential to produce recognisable emotional expressions thereby implying that emotions must have evolved hence providing firm support for Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Borod (1992 in Shiraev & Levy, 2007, 2004) found that facial expressions of emotions originate from the right hemisphere.
Ekman (1973 in John et al., 2002) further conducted a study into the nature of facial expressions. Participants were instructed to produce facial expressions which corresponded to either happiness or anger. Results were recorded and further examined. They found significant similarities between facial expressions amongst participants suggesting the universality of emotions (in John et al., 2002). However, contradicting evidence from Izard (1980 in John et al., 2002) found that not all emotions are innate. Yet other factors such as physiological arousal and consensus amongst cultures...

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