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Emotions Function and Its Role in a Motivation Essay

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Updated: May 20th, 2020


The actions and performance of individuals highly depend on their level of motivation. Therefore, motivation plays a significant role in determining the actions of people, their thoughts, and most importantly, the attitude and feelings that they develop towards an individual or an event (Deckers, 2010). From the studies that have been conducted, it has been identified that several factors determine the level of motivation in an individual. These factors include:

  1. Psychological factors
  2. Physiological factors
  3. Environmental factors

Therefore, it is evident that the factors that originate within an individual as well as the factors that surround an individual determine the level of motivation in people hence affecting their behavior and emotions. Therefore, this paper will focus on the historical theories of emotion, the methods that are used to uncover basic emotions, and the feedback hypothesis (paying particular interest to the event appraisal emotion sequence).

Historical Theories of Emotion and Arousal

Solomon (2008) defined emotions as the resultant outcome of changes in the physiological and psychological state of the body that have a direct effect on the thinking process and the behavior of an individual. Over time, psychologists have developed various theories of emotions. Despite the differences that exist, all these theories have concluded that biological factors play a significant role in initiating, interpreting, and controlling the emotions of an individual. The James-Lange theory of emotion states that emotions develop from the physiological changes in the body (Solomon, 2008). Thus, the effect of an external stimulus plays a significant role in triggering a physiological reaction within the body of an individual. However, this process usually takes place unconsciously. For instance, after coming out of a swimming pool on a cold day, your body will start to shiver. From this reaction, you will conclude that you are feeling cold.

The Cannon-Bard theory emotion states that the body of an individual responds to an external stimulus by simultaneously triggering physiological and emotional responses (Beck, 2008). However, these responses are independent of one another. The physiological response originates from a signal that has been sent to the brain in reaction to the external stimulus. After the brain responds to the stimulus, the subject recognizes the changes in his/her body and develops a corresponding emotion. For instance, when an individual is alone in a dark room and hears the windows break, it is expected that the rate of his/her heartbeat will increase. As a result, the subject will become scared.

The Schachter-Singer theory on the other hand takes a cognitive approach. This theory states that after an individual has been aroused by an external stimulus, he/she must first identify the cause of the reaction that he/she is experiencing before labeling the emotion (Beck, 2008). For instance, when walking at night in a dangerous neighborhood, an individual will start to feel an adrenaline rush in his/her body when he/she sees another person in front of him/her and another person at the back. Relating this external stimulus to the existing trends, such an individual will ultimately become scared.

Methods Used to Uncover Basic Emotions

Several methods are used to determine the emotions of an individual. However, the immediate stimulus plays a critical role in determining the emotion of an individual. Examples of immediate stimulus include an event that an individual might be involved in, an object, a person who is connected directly or indirectly to the subject, or the behavior of the subject (Solomon, 2008). Therefore, an emotion manifests itself from the values of an individual and the social impact that the resultant behavior might have on an individual (Deckers, 2010). Thus, the resultant emotions that might arise from a social context include:

  1. Fear
  2. Disgust
  3. Happiness
  4. Surprise
  5. Anger
  6. Contempt
  7. Sadness

Several methods have been advanced to determine these basic emotions. Facial expressions have been used effectively to determine the basic emotions of an individual. For instance, happiness in an individual can be determined by the expression of his mouth and eyes. When people are happy, they tend to smile. Consequently, there are changes in their eyes that are used to express happiness. However, while the muscle changes that produce a smile are voluntary, the muscle changes in the eyes are not (Beck, 2008). Given this fact, it is easy to determine whether a person is genuinely happy or not.

Another method that can be used to determine the basic emotions of an individual is reading the body language. From the studies that have been conducted, it has emerged that a higher proportion of communication in humans is non-verbal (Beck, 2008). For instance, when people are ashamed about their behavior, they tend to lower their heads and try to hide it in between their shoulders. In reaction, the other party will go easy on the ashamed individual. Surprisingly, these actions are involuntary and might take place unconsciously. Thus, understanding the body language and being able to interpret the signals that are sent is an effective skill that can be used to uncover basic emotions in individuals.

Event Appraisal Emotional Sequence

From the discussions that have been presented in this paper, facial expressions have been considered as one of the most effective methods that can be used to determine the basic emotions of an individual. However, there are instances where facial expressions can be used to trigger the emotions of an individual (Solomon, 2008). For instance, an individual who is pretending to smile will stand a higher chance of enjoying a given event despite the fact that his physiological response is not guided by the external stimulus. Thus, the facial feedback hypothesis states that the external facial expressions tend to intensify an emotion while its repression will suppress the resultant emotion (Scherer, 2001).

The event appraisal emotion sequence further enhances the facial feedback hypothesis. According to the appraisal theory, the emotion that manifests in an individual highly relies on the appraisal/evaluation that the said individual has with regards to the external stimulus and response from the surrounding people (Scherer, 2001). The previous theories that have been discussed in this paper have linked emotions with physiological responses. However, in the appraisal theory, physiological arousal is absent (Roseman, 2001). In this case, people will decide what they feel after they comprehend and interpret the situation at hand. This brings about a sequence of activities and responses starting from the even in place, the thought process, arousal, and the resultant emotion. This sequence of events is essential especially in determining the coping mechanisms of an individual.


This paper has been able to critically analyze various factors that determine motivation and arousal in individuals. The paper has focused on the theories of emotion that have been used to explain the relationship between and external stimulus, physiological responses, and the resultant emotion. Finally, it has emerged that facial expressions and body language can be used to determine the basic emotions of individuals and the sequences of activities and responses that are put in place to balance between emotions and responses.


Beck, A. (2008). Love Is Never Enough. New York: Harper & Row.

Deckers, L. (2010).Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental, (3rd ed.). Boston, MA, USA: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson Education, Inc.

Roseman, J. (2001). Appraisal Theory: Overview, Assumptions, Varieties, Controversies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scherer, K. (2001). Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research. Canary, NC: Oxford University Press.

Solomon, R. (2008). Emotions and Anthropology: The Logic of Emotional World Views. The Inquiry, 21(2), 181-199.

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