Chapter 11. Emotions and Motivations

Chapter 11 Summary, Key Terms, and Self-Test

Charles Stangor; Jennifer Walinga; and Jorden A. Cummings


Affect guides behaviour, helps us make decisions, and has a major impact on our mental and physical health. Affect is guided by arousal — our experiences of the bodily responses created by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system.

Emotions are the mental and physiological feeling states that direct our attention and guide our behaviour. The most fundamental emotions, known as the basic emotions, are those of anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. A variety of secondary emotions are determined by the process of cognitive appraisal. The distinction between the primary and the secondary emotions is paralleled by two brain pathways: a fast pathway and a slow pathway.

There are three primary theories of emotion, each supported by research evidence. The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion proposes that the experience of an emotion is accompanied by physiological arousal. The James-Lange theory of emotion proposes that our experience of an emotion is the result of the arousal that we experience. The two-factor theory of emotion asserts that the experience of emotion is determined by the intensity of the arousal we are experiencing, but that the cognitive appraisal of the situation determines what the emotion will be. When people incorrectly label the source of the arousal that they are experiencing, we say that they have misattributed their arousal.

We communicate and perceive emotion in part through nonverbal communication and through facial expressions. The facial feedback hypothesis proposes that we also experience emotion in part through our own facial expressions.

Emotions serve important functions in our life. In this chapter, we divided those functions into three areas: the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and the social/cultural functions of emotions. Intrapersonal are roles within us as individuals, interpersonal functions describe how emotions impact our relationships with others, and social/cultural functions maintain effective functioning of our society at large.

Intrapersonally, emotions help us act quickly and prepare our body for action, influence our thinking, and motivate our behaviours. Interpersonally, emotional expressions facilitate behaviours in perceivers, signal the nature of our interpersonal relationships, and provide incentives for desired social behaviour via social referencing. Cultural display rules tell us how we can express emotions within a culture, which maintains the social order of that culture.

The best antidote for stress is to think positively, have fun, and enjoy the company of others. People who express optimism, self-efficacy, and hardiness cope better with stress and experience better health overall. Happiness is determined in part by genetic factors such that some people are naturally happier than others, but it is also facilitated by social support — our positive social relationships with others.

People often do not know what will make them happy. After a minimum level of wealth is reached, more money does not generally buy more happiness. Although people think that positive and negative events will make a huge difference in their lives, and although these changes do make at least some difference in life satisfaction, they tend to be less influential than we think they are going to be.

Our thoughts and behaviours are strongly influenced by affective experiences known as drive states. Drive states motivate us to fulfill goals that our beneficial to our survival and reproduction, like eat, address thirst, or procreate. Drive states are specific to biological functions. They motivate us to maintain homeostasis, or stability of our physiological systems in our body. Drive states narrow our attention to keep us focused on fulfilling the need we have.

A motivation is a driving force that initiates and directs behaviour. A goal represents our desired state or how we want things to be. We can be intrinsically motivated to pursue a goal (focused on the benefits of the process of pursuing a goal) or extrinsically motivated (focused on the benefits of achieving the goal). When we are activated to pursue a goal, it keeps us moving towards it.

Self-regulation is the process by which we alter our perceptions, feelings, and actions to pursue a goal. It involves a deliberative phase where we decide what goals to pursue and an implemental phase, where we plan specific actions we need to take in order to reach our goal. We inevitably come across goals that compete with each other. Self-control is our capacity to control our impulses, emotions, desires, and actions in order to resist changing goals.

Key Terms

  • Affect
  • Arousal
  • Balance
  • Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion
  • Cognitive appraisal
  • Commitment
  • Conscious
  • Cultural Display Rules
  • Deliberative Phase
  • Direct Effects of Social Support
  • Drive State
  • Ego-Depletion
  • Emotion
  • Excitation Transfer
  • Extrinsic Motivation
  • Facial Feedback Hypothesis
  • Goal
  • Highlight
  • Homeostasis
  • Hypothalamus
  • Implemental Phase
  • Interpersonal Functions of Emotion
  • Intrapersonal Functions of Emotion
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • James-Lange Theory of Emotion
  • Means
  • Misattribution of Arousal
  • Motivation
  • Motivation
  • Nonconscious
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Optimism
  • Perception of Social Support
  • Preoptic Area
  • Prevention
  • Prime
  • Progress
  • Promotion
  • Reward Value
  • Satiation
  • Self-control
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-regulation
  • Set Point
  • Social and Cultural Functions of Emotion
  • Social Referencing
  • Two-Factor Theory of Emotion


Direct link to self-test:


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Introduction to Psychology Copyright © 2019 by Charles Stangor; Jennifer Walinga; and Jorden A. Cummings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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