The Somatic Appraisal Model of Affect

Based primarily on the work of Damasio (2003), Ledoux (1996), and others (e.g. Dalgleish, 2004; Davidson, 1999; Davidson et al., 2000; Forgas, 1999; Gray, 1991; Izard,

Simplistic judgment of interaction with environment: good/bad

Detailed analysis:

Personal and social relevance

Primitive judgment: homeostasis

Simplistic judgment of interaction with environment: good/bad

Detailed analysis:

Personal and social relevance

Primitive judgment: homeostasis

Panksepp Theory

Unconscious

Conscious & Cognitive

Unconscious

Unconscious

Conscious & Cognitive

Unconscious

Figure 1: Somatic appraisal model of affect

1984; Panksepp, 1994), along with elements of appraisal theory (Beedie, Terry & Lane, 2005; Kagan, 1984; Lazarus, 1999; Sabini & Silver, 2005; Scherer, 2000), I propose the Somatic Appraisal Model of Affect as a new educational model for emotion.

SAMA has its roots in Damasio's somatic marker hypothesis (2003), which asserts the phylogenetic primacy of affect and presents emotion as deriving from bodily or somatic states, such as heart rate, homeostatic condition, and neuronal arousal. Provoked by incoming stimuli, bodily states are then appraised, and behaviours are evoked or inhibited based on this evaluation (Damasio et al., 2000; Hinson, Jameson & Whitney, 2002). These bodily states which are prompted by signals, both neuronal and chemical (Damasio,Tranel & Damasio, 1991), from the amygdalae and other limbic regions, allow the affective brain to ascribe valences to information that, in turn, influence attention, memory, information processing, and well-being in ways that cognition does not (Maier, 1991; Meinhardt & Pekrun, 2003; Moore, Underwood & Rosenhan, 1984;Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004).

SAMA embraces an embodied philosophy of mind wherein observable behaviours and brain/body functions are objective manifestations of lived experience (Campbell, 2005a, 2005b; Ferrari, 2003). SAMA has integral elements, including clarification of the terminology of emotion necessary to articulating the body/brain process and function of emotion, and delineation of the components and facets of emotion inherent in the phylogenetic phenomena of affect (see Figure 1).

Definitions of Affect

In order to avoid disparate discourse and the resultant confusion related to what are commonly termed emotions (e.g. Cole, Martin & Dennis, 2004; Damasio, 2001; Leventhal, 1982), SAMA seeks to provide clarity regarding distinctions among the various types of what I shall hereafter refer to collectively as affect. SAMA presents three categories of affect in phylogenetic order: dispositions; basic emotions; and feelings, of which there are two types, namely conscious feelings and secondary feelings.

Dispositions, variously referred to as 'background feelings' (Damasio, 2003, p. 45), tonal emotions, internal tone (Kagan, 1984), or more generally mood, are states of being composed in the basal ganglia and limbic regions reflecting composite mind/body expressions of regulatory status in regard to homeostasis. Dispositions are largely unconscious; they register a fusion of underlying somatic states, including both chemical and visceral conditions over time, contributing to their vague nature and generalized essence. Because of their representation of the body/mind's state relative to homeostasis and basic existence, dispositions are by nature primitive and basic to survival.

The second level of affect, basic emotions, is also referred to as primary emotions (Damasio, 2003). SAMA defines basic emotions as specific and relatively consistent representations of physiological, chemical, and neural responses evoked by certain brain systems when a person perceives or recalls objects or situations. Basic emotions are prototypic and characterized by autonomic and simple judgments, positive/negative, approach/withdraw, which primarily involve the limbic system, and occur in the 'low road' (Ledoux, 1996, p. 164) of stimuli processing. This unconscious appraisal is 'quick and dirty' (Ledoux, 1996, p. 163); it evaluates incoming stimuli from the external environment in relation to survival or life preservation. Basic emotions are elemental affects in that they are largely innate (Damasio, 1999, 2003; Ledoux, 1996; Panksepp, 1990) and somewhat instinctive. Basic emotions are generally accepted to include happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust (Ekman, 1993), and sometimes surprise (Damasio, 2003, Porges, 2001). The essence of these emotions is present at birth, is cross-cultural (Ekman, 1993), and also exists in primates (Damasio, 2003; Ledoux, 1996). Basic emotions are 'not dependent on cognitive development for emergence nor on cognitive appraisal for their activation' (Dougherty, Abe & Izard, 1996, p. 29).

SAMA's third level of affect shall be termed feelings. Also referred to as secondary emotions, social emotions, and conscious emotions, feelings are mental recognitions of the pattern of physiological, chemical, and neural responses evoked by certain brain systems when a person perceives or recalls objects or situations. Feelings involve cortical appraisal systems and therefore have a cognitive component; they take place in the 'high road' (Ledoux, 1996, p. 164) of the brain. These cortical appraisals involve detailed analysis of incoming stimuli in relation to memory, knowledge, and a sense of self. Feelings involve two types of cognitive analysis: 1) recognition of somatic patterns or maps of body/brain conditions; and 2) the pairing of somatic maps with detailed analysis of object/event stimuli in regards to learned knowledge and experience, which include cultural norms, personal goals, and the constructed self. When the first type of appraisal occurs, when somatic maps are recognized, consciousness accompanies this recognition of somatic patterning, and these I refer to as conscious feelings. When the second type of appraisal occurs, when stimuli are evaluated in regards to the stored essence of self and prior experience, basic emotions may be transformed into what I refer to as secondary feelings. These secondary feelings are evolved basic emotions; they are cognitive in nature, they are learned, and their causal emergence may differ from person to person. Secondary feelings include such affects as shame, guilt, jealousy, and pride. Secondary feelings require analysis of stimuli in regards to personal goals, social and cultural norms, family values, a sense of self, as well as context. For example, shame may be regarded as a type of sadness combined with a touch of disgust arising from a cognitive analysis of personal performance in regards to evaluation of social and cultural norms, values, and the context in which the event occurred.

The various types of affect differ by virtue of the regions of the brain activations, levels of consciousness, and roles in influencing human function, including evoked behaviours, (Ledoux, 1996; Ohman, 1999), yet their phylogenetic composition ensures that they are interconnected physiologically, chemically, and functionally. Common sensory input, shared neuronal pathways, and interaction of neurotransmitters or chemicals that evoke or inhibit brain/body behaviour both promote and accommodate an ever-changing brain/body system. Because of the many levels of interconnection, each level of affect is capable of influencing those levels with which it has efferent and afferent communication, those levels for which it is a contributing determinant. In real life terms, a person's disposition can influence cognitive analysis and interpretations of objects and events, and ultimately, all types of affect have the ability to influence behaviour because they influence brain/body function. Because many aspects of affective responses are observable by the naked eye or through neurophysiological and psychological measurements, affect can be investigated objectively (Damasio, 1999).

Clarification of the different types is essential to a working model of affect for education. While there is not room here to address the debate between those who argue that all types of affect involve cognition, suffice it to say that for the purposes of this model, cognition in the function of affect is taken to imply that the neocortex is the most influential or evocative appraiser of stimuli. In the cognition versus affect debate, there is overwhelming support that the systems that comprise affect function primarily but not limited to the limbic region, and are distinct and capable of operating without cognitive regions of the brain (e.g. Braeutigm, Bailey & Swithenby, 2001; Damasio, 2003; Davis, Hitchcock & Rosen, 1991; Geary, 1996; Gray, 1999; Izard, 1984; Lang, Davis & Ohman, 2000; Ledoux, 1996; Panksepp, 1994; Zajonc, 1980; Zajonc, Pietromonaco & Bargh, 1982), especially for primal levels of affect, such as fear. In other words, early appraisal of incoming stimuli need not involve higher order cortical processing or conscious appraisal in order to evoke basic emotions and produce bodily responses such as changes in heart rate, sweating, muscular tension, eye blinking, chemical responses, and neuronal activation of other brain regions. The ability of the amygdalae to assess incoming stimuli for affective content and then activate other regions of the brain more rapidly and dramatically than the thinking part of the brain, the neocortex, lends credence to evidence that the amygdalae is capable of overriding the cognitive brain (Damasio, 2003; Goleman, 1995; Ledoux, 1996).

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