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Introduction

How do emotions influence decision making?

Photograph of U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Nicole Malachowski
Fighter pilots, like Nicole Malachowski, must have complete control over their emotions while in the cockpit.

U.S. Air Force Photo

Emotions are more than just feelings in our minds or expressions on our faces—they are a complex interaction between the body and the mind. Emotions are a combination of our body’s physiological arousal, our thoughts and beliefs, and our expressed behaviors. Fighter pilots—such as Nicole Malachowski, who was introduced in this week’s Story—must have complete control over their emotions while in the cockpit. It’s not just that they cannot express fear, but that they cannot allow the biological effects of fear to override their execution of a mission. They must have a high degree of what psychologists call emotional regulation.

In this chapter, you will read about the different psychological theories of emotion and how each explains the roles of physiological arousal, cognition, and expression. You will study how we learn to detect other people’s emotions and how accurate our impressions are. You will also learn how emotional expression is influenced by culture and gender roles. Finally, we’ll investigate how emotions influence decision making. Specifically, Chapter 6 will discuss the following topics:

  • Current and historical theories of emotion. We will read about the major theories of emotion and how they explain the relationship between thinking, feeling, and behavior.

  • The biological basis of emotion. We will build on what we learned about the autonomic nervous system in Chapter 2 to understand why many strong emotions result in the activation of the body’s instinctual “flight or fight” response.

  • Detection and expression of emotion. We will read how we use nonverbal expression to detect and interpret other people’s emotions.

  • The basic emotions. We will examine the basic emotions that research shows to be common among almost every culture and age.