Sunday, July 1, 2012

Emotion Part 1

By Stormie Kent
            Character emotions are sometimes hard to get exactly right. Emotions and feelings can be subjective and culturally based. Even gender can determine how a character might respond emotionally to a comment or situation. Then there is the entire show the reader, don’t tell the reader portion of writing a story. As an author I thought it would be wise to do some research on human emotion. Mainly I wanted to understand 1) what are the emotions a human being may experience and 2) if there were specific physiological responses to certain emotions that were universal.

            Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. This blog post will be in several parts for just this reason.

What are the emotions that a human being may experience?

            There is some scientific debate on the subject. Most theorists have a short list of what they call primary or basic emotions. Their lists can range from two emotions to eleven or more. These theorists believe that as we experience events we may combine one or two emotions to create emotions beyond basic joy and anger. For example, according to certain theorists, anger plus disgust equals contempt.

            According to W. Gerrod Parrot (2001), there are six primary emotions (love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear) which are then comprised of secondary and tertiary emotions. These secondary and tertiary emotions are more specific in scope. For example, the secondary emotions for love are affection, lust and longing. The tertiary emotions for love/lust include arousal, desire, lust, passion and infatuation. (Click on the highlighted link for a chart.)

What are specific physiological responses associated with each major emotion?

            This is where the real research began. The information I found focused on classifying emotions or the study of facial expressions. I will discuss romantic love today.

RomanticLove: With emotion we realize that we are responding to stimuli – in this case - the object of our affection. We see and interact with someone and suddenly there is an attraction, longing, and maybe lust. We have assessed this person unconsciously through sight, sound, smell, touch and maybe taste if we are lucky. Our bodies, those wonderful machines, will begin to use those handy neurotransmitters adrenaline, serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, vasopressin and testosterone to lure us in for a night or a lifetime.        

            But what does love feel like in our bodies? Initially, adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin take over and we may feel sweaty, light headed, and preoccupied with the other person. Our hearts race, our mouths may become dry when our love interest is near. We have too much energy and we can’t sleep. We may feel lust. We are deep in attraction.

            Oxytocin and vasopressin take over if the bond is strong. We are urged to cherish and protect. These hormones keep the physiological effects we experienced in the attraction and lust phase going when we see our partner. After twenty years our heart still races, our eyes still dilate, we still want to touch. We think about our partner with worry and affection if we are away from each other too long. We are in love.

            Well, at least our characters are in love. What other physical reactions have you noticed go hand and hand with romantic love?



Tina Donahue said...

Great post, Stormie. You're so right about character emotions being difficult to portray. Too much and it becomes melodramatic. Too little and the words don't reach a reader's soul. Character emotions are the number one most difficult thing for me to write.

Stormie Kent said...

Thanks Tina,
Ditto. Those are the reasons I decided to do the research. I'd hoped it would make the writing process easier.

jean hart stewart said...

Excellent post. I'm looking forward to the rest of your posts on this.

Stormie Kent said...

Hi Jean,

Mannouchka said...

I want to thank you Tina for having Stormie.
And Stormie excellent post enjoy reading it.
I wish you all a wonderful and sunny Sunday

Stormie Kent said...

Hello Mannouchka,
Thanks for dropping by.

Fiona McGier said...

Desmond Morris, the cultural anthropologist, in one of his books wrote about the pupils as being an indicator of love in 3 ways.

1-all babies are born with blue eyes because it allows the mother to see their pupils during the initial "falling in love" phase. Mom gazes at the baby and baby's pupils dilate so much there's no color anymore...lighter eyes make this easier for Mom to see, hence her pupils dilate in return as her brain realizes baby loves her.

2-When you fall in love with someone, you spend a lot of time gazing into each other's eyes for the same reason...you are not conscious of it, but your brain registers that the loved-one's pupils have dilated, so yours do too. It is a cycle of love.

3-When shown pictures of babies, women who are not yet moms will have slight dilation of their pupils. Women who are mothers have pupils that dilate so much there isn't any color visible anymore. Men who are fathers will also dilate a lot. But men who are not yet fathers have pupils that will "pin", getting smaller, as if to shut out the sight of a baby, which they are not yet ready for!

Interesting, how our bodies do so much with us being unaware!

Stormie Kent said...

Hi Fiona,
You are really taking me back to college right now. I have a bachelor's in psychology that I don't use. I remember learning that pupil dilation research. We also watched a video I believe.

Sharla Rae said...

Great Blog. I tweeted you. :)

Stormie Kent said...

Ok Sharla, I will check it out. Thanks.