Emotions, Interest, Motivation

Emotions, moods and affects – What’s the difference?

emotions

Happiness, anger, love, guilt,…  Who doesn’t know them? They all belong to what we call emotions, but what exactly are emotions and, without naming examples, how would we define them? One possible definition could be as follows:

Emotions can be defined as multi‑dimensional constructs that consist of an affective, physiological, expressive, and a motivational component (see Frenzel & Stephens, 2011, p. 20, own translation; Pekrun, 2006; Pekrun et al. 2002).

Thus, according to this definition, emotions encompass different dimensions of our present state. They have an affective component, which is seen as the most important and prominent component, as it reflects what we feel and without it the experience of any emotions would not be possible at all. Furthermore, emotions are tightly linked to thoughts (e.g. Lazarus, 1991, 1982, Fox, 2008), bodily changes (physiological level), such as the increase or decrease of the heart rate or the skin resistance (Lang et al., 1990; Lang et al., 1993), and they affect the facial expression and the gestures of a person (expressive level; e.g. Ekman, 1999, Ekman & Friesen, 2003). Emotions are likely to motivate and lead to correspondent behaviour, which is indicated by the motivational level of the definition above. However, Gross (2002), pointed out that this is not necessarily the case, and that only an increase in the probability of a corresponding behaviour occurs.

Ainley (2006) also related interest to a range of emotions and she also gives an explanatory overview of how affect, motivation and cognition are linked to each other by interest. Another approach by Tulis and Ainley (2011) investigated the emotional experiences of success and failure whilst solving mathematical problems. In their studies the authors linked emotional experiences to different constructs, such as which goal orientations and the orientation to learn from errors. Results showed that a small group of students experienced positive emotions even after failure, and that these students showed more tolerance towards mistakes.

Other definitions (e.g. Gross, 2002; Fox, 2008; Gross, 2010) illustrate that emotions arise out of a specific event, as a response to a stimulus and therefore they are experienced passively and with little awareness. The fact that emotions have a source becomes important in order to explain and predict them, depending on the circumstances in which they occur. Appraisals (Pekrun et al., 2007; Pekrun, 2006, Pekrun et al. 2006, 2009, Pekrun et al. 2002) and the attribution theory (Lazarus, 1991, Weiner, 1972, 1985) are approaches that predict emotions depending on situational factors under which they occur.

In contrast to affect and moods, emotions are brief and intensive experiences that are connected to a specific source, i.e. events, objects or to a person. They can also be classified in different types (e.g. anger, fear or joy). Moods on the other hand are longer in duration (they can last several days), have lower intensity, cannot be traced back to a specific event and can only be distinguished to be either positive, negative or neutral (Frenzel & Stephens, 2011; for a detailed overview and further differences, see Fox, 2008, p. 26 ff). Affects is the umbrella term that covers emotions and moods alike (Fox, 2008; Frenzel & Stephens, 2011).

Unfortunately it appears that often this distinction between the three terms is not always made salient by every author, and some might refer to affect and emotion as the same construct, or ascribe moods to emotions in the form of moods being low‑intensity emotions (cf. Pekrun, 2006). However, for research it is very important to differentiate between these states. How else could research in psychology otherwise ensure the quality of the work, if there is any space for misunderstandings and misinterpretations? In most cases providing definitions, detailed descriptions of experimental paradigms and examples of items from the study are used to make clear, what the particular experiment studies, but is this enough? How could research come to a consensus? Should research come to a consensus?

What do you think?

 

References

Ainley, M. (2006). Connecting with Learning: Motivation, Affect and Cognition in Interest Processes.  Educational Psychology Review, 18 (4), 391-405.

Ekman, P. & Friesen, W. V. (2003). Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Expressions. Los Alto, CA: Malor Books.

Ekman, P. (1999). Basic Emotions. In T. Dalgleish & M Power (Eds) Handbook of Cognition and Emotion. Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Fox, E. (2008). Emotion Science. Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to Understanding Human Emotions. Basingstoke: Palgrave  Macmillan.

Frenzel, A. C. & Stephens, E. J. (2011) Emotionen. In T. Götz, (Ed.) Emotion, Motivation und selbstreguliertes Lernen (pp. 15-77). Paderborn: Schöningh.

Frenzel, A. C. & Stephens, E. J. (2011) Emotionen. In T. Götz, (Ed.) Emotion, Motivation und selbstreguliertes Lernen (pp. 15-77). Paderborn: Schöningh.

Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281-291.

Gross, R. (2010). Psychology. The Science of Mind and Behaviour (6th Edition). London: Hodder Education.

Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M. and Cuthbert, B. N. (1990). Emotion, Attention, and the Startle reflex. Psychological Review, 97, 377-395.

Lang, P. J., Greenwald, M., Bradley, M. M. & Hamm, A. O. (1993). Looking at pictures: Evaluative, Facial, Visceral, and Behavioural Responses. Psychophysiology, 30, 261-73.

Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and Adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lazarus,R. S. (1982). Thoughts on Relations between Emotions and Cognition. American Psychologist, 37, 1014-1019.

Pekrun, R. (2006). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: Assumptions, Corollaries, and Implications for Educational Research and Practice.  Educational Psychology Review, 18 (4), 315‑341.

Pekrun, R. (2006). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: Assumptions, Corollaries, and Implications for Educational Research and Practice.  Educational Psychology Review, 18 (4), 315‑341.

Pekrun, R., Elliot, A. J. & Maier, M. A. (2006). Achievement Goals and Discrete Achievement Emotions: A Theoretical Model and Prospective Test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98 (3), 583-597.

Pekrun, R., Elliot, A. J. & Maier, M. A. (2009). Achievement Goals and Achievement Emotions : Testing a Model of Their Joint Relations With Academic Performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101 (1), 115-135.

Pekrun, R., Frenzel, A. C., Götz, T. & Perry, R. P. (2007). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: An Integrative Approach to Emotions in Education. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in education. Amsterdam: Academic Press.

Pekrun, R., Frenzel, A. C., Götz, T. & Perry, R. P. (2007). The Control-Value Theory of Achievement Emotions: An Integrative Approach to Emotions in Education. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in education(pp.???). Amsterdam: Academic Press.

Pekrun, R., Götz, T., Titz, W., Perry, R. P. (2002). Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: A Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Educational Psychologist, 37 (2), 91-106.

Pekrun, R., Götz, T., Titz, W., Perry, R. P. (2002). Academic Emotions in Students’ Self-Regulated Learning and Achievement: A Program of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Educational Psychologist, 37 (2), 91-106.

Tulis, M., Ainley, M. (2011). Interest, Enjoyment and Pride after Failure Experiences? Predictors of Students’ State-Emotions after Success and Failure during Learning in Mathematics. Educational Psychology, 31 (7), 779-807.

Weiner, B. (1972). Attribution Theory, Achievement Motivation, and the Educational Process. Review of Educational Research, 42 (2), 203–215.

Weiner, B. (1985). An Attributional Theory of Achievement Motivation and Emotion. Psychological Review, 92 (4), 548-573.

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