Freitag, 26. September 2014

Toward an Understanding of the Universality of Second Order Emotions

Toward an Understanding of the Universality of Second Order Emotions
Daniel M. T. Fessler (1999)


For 32 months I studied a community in which much of life revolves around a pair of emotions. Two projects resulted. One, presented elsewhere, is an examination of how and why the given culture shapes and exploits these emotions. The second, presented below, is a consideration of the underlying capacities which make such cultural manipulation possible. Like the other authors in this volume, I hold  that the experience of emotion is the combined product of cultural and biological factors. However, rather than explore that synergy, in this essay I attempt to employ the former as a lens with which to view the latter. I begin with a description of a Malay emotion which appears synonymous with shame. However, closer inspection reveals that this emotion can be elicited by two fundamentally different sets of  conditions. Moreover, it seems that this duality is a pervasive feature of shame-like emotions around the  world. If one adopts the position that the capacity to experience a given type of emotion is the product of evolution, then the duality of shame-like emotions is puzzling, for an evolutionary perspective suggests that each emotion ought to address a discrete facet of life. In order to unravel this puzzle, I search for clues regarding the evolutionary history of shame-like emotions and their opposites, pride-like emotions. I explore the display behaviors and cognitive demands associated with each type of emotion, and conclude that two primitive emotions, which I call Protoshame and Protopride, initially developed in order to motivate the quest for social dominance. I speculate that these emotions served as the foundation for more complex emotions which arose when hominids developed the capacity for a model of mind, that is, the ability to understand that other individuals possess minds like one’s own. Such a capacity creates the possibility of a new class of emotions, the second order emotions, which are a reaction to the subjective experiences of other individuals. After examining such first order emotions as pity and envy, I suggest that Protoshame and Protopride were transformed into two second order emotions, Early Shame and Early Pride, which extended dominance-striving motivations into the new social world created by the advent of the model of mind. However, in addition to enhancing competition, the model of the mind also facilitates cooperation. The possibility of significant cooperation resulted in the development of newersions of Shame and Pride which served to motivate conformity rather than rivalry and, in so doing, set the stage for the blossoming of culture as humankind’s primary adaptation.

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