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C O G N IT I O N A N D E M O T I O N , 1999, 13 (5), 467480

Functional Accounts of Emotions


D a ch er K eltner
University of California Berkeley, USA
Ja m es J. G ross
Stanford University, USA

In t h is a r t icle we o u tline t h e h isto r y, elem en t s, a n d va r iat ion s o f fu n ctio n a l


a cco u n t s o f em o t io n s. Su m m a rising d iverse t h eo r ies a n d o b ser va tio n s, we
p ro p o se th a t fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t ion s: (1) a d d ress why h u m a n s h ave
em o t io n s; (2) d e n e em o tio n s as so lu tio n s to p ro b lem s a nd o p po r t u n ities
relat ed t o p hysical a n d so cia l su r viva l; (3) t r ea t em o t io n s a s system s o f
in t er relat ed co m p o n en ts; a n d (4) fo cu s o n th e b en e cial co n sequ en ces o f
em o t io n s. T h is co n cep tu a l a pp ro a ch t o em ot io n is co m p lem en t ed by severa l
em p irica l str at egies, in clu d in g t h e stu dy o f em o t io n d ysfu n ctio n , t h e effects o f
em o t io n s o n o t h er s, a n d t h e relat io n s b et ween em o t io n s a n d p er so n al a n d
so cia l o u tco m es. We co n clu d e b y co n sider in g h ow fu n ctio n a l a cco un t s o f
em o t io n va r y, in clu d in g in ter m s o f t h eir level o f a n a lysis, speci city, m a n n er
o f o r gan isat io n , a n d r a n ge o f fo cu s, a n d t h e im p licatio n s fu n ct io n al a cco u n t s
h ave fo r th e stu d y o f em o t io n .

INTRODUCTION
We a ll k n o w t h at em o t io n s a re u seless a n d b ad fo r o u r p ea ce o f m in d a n d o u r
bloo d p r essu re.
Sk in n er, 1948, p. 92

E m o t io n s a re sh o r t-lived p sych o lo gica l-physio logica l p h eno m en a th a t r epr e-


sen t ef cien t m o d es o f a d ap t at io n to ch a n gin g environ m en t a l d em a n d s.
L even so n , 1994, p. 123

W h a t fu n ct io n s if a ny d o em o t io n s ser ve? T h is sim p le q u est io n h a s


p ro vo ked co n sid erab le d ivisio n w it h in t h e so cia l scien ces. A t o n e
ext rem e, so m e t h eo rist s h ave given n ew vo ice t o t h e lo n gst a n d in g p o sitio n
in West er n p h ilo so p hy t h a t em o t io n s serve n o u sefu l fu n ct io n s, a n d in fa ct
d isr u p t o n go in g a ct ivit y, d iso rga n ise b eh avio u r, a n d gen er a lly la ck t h e

R eq uest s fo r r ep r in ts sh ou ld b e sen d t o D r D a ch er K eltn er, D ep a r tm ent o f P sych o logy,


32 10 Tolm a n H a ll, U n iversit y o f Ca lifo r n ia Berkeley, C A 94720 1650, U SA .

q 1999 P sych olo gy P ress L td


468 KELTNER AND GROSS

lo gic, r at io n a lity, a n d p r in cip led o rd erlin ess o f rea so n a n d o t h er cogn itive


p ro cesses (e.g. D ewey, 1895; H ebb, 1949 ; M a n d ler, 1984 ). A t t h e o t h er
ext rem e, so m e t h eo r ists h ave a rgu ed t h at em o t io n s ser ve clea r ly sp eci ed
fu n ct io n s, p r io ritisin g a n d o rga n ising o n go in g b eh avio u r s in wa ys t h a t
o p t im ise t h e in d ivid u a ls a d ju st m en t t o t h e d em a n d s o f t h e p hy sica l a n d
so cia l enviro n m en t (Ba r ret t & C a m p o s, 19 87; E k m a n , 199 2; Jo h n so n -L a ird
& O at ley, 1992 ; L a za ru s, 1991; L even so n , 19 94; O at ley & Jen k in s, 199 2;
P lu t ch ik , 1980; To o b y & C o sm id es, 199 0).
T h e p end u lu m o f em o t io n t h eo ry h a s a ltern a t ed b et ween t h ese t wo
p o sitio n s, m ovin g m o re recen t ly t o a n em p h a sis o n t h e a d a p t ive fu n ct io n s
em o t io n s ser ve. Bo t h evo lu t io n a ry t h eo r ist s (e.g. E k m a n , 1992; To o b y &
C o sm id es, 19 90) a n d so cia l co n st ru ct io n ists (e.g. Averill, 19 80; G o rd o n ,
19 89; L u t z & W h ite, 1986) , wh o d isagr ee ab o u t t h e d e n it io n , b io logica l
b a sis, a n d u n iver sa lity o f em o t io n , sh a re t h e view t h a t em o t io n s serve
im p o r t a n t fu n ct io n s. In d eed , so m e t h eo r ists h ave a rgu ed t h a t em o t io n s
sh o uld b e cla ssi ed a cco rd in g t o t h eir fu n ct io n s (Ba rret t & C a m p o s,
19 87), ra t h er t h a n t h eir resp o n se ch a ra ct erist ics a s h a s t yp ica lly b een
d o n e.
D esp ite wid esp rea d referen ces t o t h e fu n ctio n s o f em o t io n s, h o wever,
t h ere a re few exp licit d iscu ssio n s o f wh a t a fu n ctio n a l a p p ro a ch t o em o t io n
en t a ils (fo r releva n t d iscu ssio n s, see Aver ill, 199 0; Ba rret t & C a m p o s, 198 7;
E k m a n & D avid so n , 199 4; Jo h n so n -L a ird & O a t ley, 19 92; O a tley & Jen k in s,
19 92; To o b y & C o sm id es, 1990 ). O u r a im in t h is p a p er, t h erefo re, is t o
d escr ib e t h e req u irem en t s o f a fu n ct io n a l ap p ro a ch t o em o t io n s. To d o t h is,
we r st d e n e em o t io n a n d fu n ctio n , a n d t h en co n sid er t h e h ist o rica l
p er sp ect ives, m a jo r elem en t s, a n d p o ssib le d ivergen ces o f fu n ct io n a l
a cco u n t s o f em o t io n s.

DEFINING EMOTION
We d e n e em o t io n s a s ep iso d ic, rela tively sh o r t -t er m , b io lo gica lly b a sed
p at t ern s o f p ercep t io n , exp er ien ce, p hy sio logy, a ct io n , a n d co m m u n ica t io n
t h a t o ccu r in resp o n se t o sp eci c p hysica l a n d so cia l ch a llen ges a n d
o p p o rt u n ities. E m o t io n s invo lve m o re exib le in t er p ret a t io n s a n d
resp o n ses t h a n re exes, wh ich t yp ica lly invo lve xed resp o n ses t o im m ed i-
a t e st im u li (Sch erer, 19 84). E m o t io n s h ave m o re sp eci c in t en t io n a l o b ject s
t h a n m o o d s (F r ijd a , 19 86) a n d t yp ica lly a re sh o rt er in d u ra t io n a s well
(E k m a n , 198 4). W h erea s t h e p rim a ry go a l o f d rives, su ch a s h u n ger a n d
t h irst , seem s t o b e t o regu la t e t h e in t er n a l o p er a tin g co n d itio n s o f t h e
o rga n ism , em o t io n s regu la te t h e in d ivid u a ls rela t io n t o t h e ext ern a l envir-
o n m en t (see Bu ck , 1985 a n d To m k in s, 19 84, fo r o t h er d ist in ctio n s b et ween
em o t io n s a n d d rives).
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS 469
DEFINING FUNCTION
O f t h e m a ny m ea n in gs o f fu n ct io n (C u m m in s, 197 5; Jo h n so n -L a ird &
O a t ley, 199 2; W r igh t , 1973), o u r p resen t co n cer n is with t h e ro le o f
fu n ct io n with in scien t i c exp la n at io n . To d e n e t h is sen se o f fu n ctio n , it
is h elp fu l t o b egin with wh a t fu n ct io n s a re n o t . F u n ct io n s a re n o t so lely
u ses o f so m et h in g o r wh a t it is go o d fo r, b eca u se b eh avio u r, t r a its, o r
syst em s h ave m a ny u ses a n d a re go o d fo r m a ny t h in gs t h a t a re n o t
syn o nym o u s with t h eir fu n ct io n s (e.g. t h e so u n d o f t h e h ea r t b ea t in g
ca n b e u sed t o d ia gn o se p hy sical co n d itio n s, k n ives ca n b e u sed t o
p a in t ). N o r a re fu n ct io n s u n d er lyin g m ech a n ism s (M a st er s, 1995) ,
wh ich refer t o p ro cesses, t yp ica lly p hysio logica l o r cogn itive, t h a t p ro -
d u ce b eh avio u r with cer t a in fu n ct io n s. N o r a re fu n ctio n s go a ls, wh ich
refer t o p ro p ert ies o f a ct io n (W r igh t , 19 73). R a t h er, fu n ct io n s a re a
cert a in so rt o f co n seq u en ce o f go a l-d irect ed a ct io n . F u n ct io n s a re
id en t i ed in a et io lo gica l exp la n a t io n s o f t h e o rigin s a n d d evelo p m en t
o f t h e b eh avio u r, t r a it , o r syst em (W righ t , 1973) . F u n ct io n a l a scrip t io n s,
t h erefo re, refer t o t h e h ist o ry o f a b eh avio u r, t r a it, o r system , a s well a s
it s regu la r co n seq u en ces t h a t b en e t t h e o rga n ism , o r m o re sp eci ca lly,
t h e syst em in wh ich t h e t r a it, b eh avio u r, o r syst em is co n t a in ed (C u m m in s,
1975 ).

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE FUNCTIONS


OF EMOTIONS
O ver t h e cen t u ries, t h eo r ist s h ave gr a p p led in d ifferen t ways with wh et h er
em o t io n s h ave fu n ct io n s (C a lh o u n & So lo m o n , 1984). T h is t h eo rising,
a cco rd in g t o o u r est im a t io n , h a s yield ed t h ree m a jo r p er sp ect ives o n t h e
q u est io n o f wh et h er em o t io n s h ave fu n ct io n s o r n o t .

Emotions Have no Functions


O n e p ersp ect ive is t h a t em o t io n s d o n o t ser ve a d a p t ive fu n ctio n s, a n d in
fa ct a re p ern icio u s t o h u m a n a d ju st m en t . T h is view d a t es b a ck t o t h e
cla ssica l p h ilo so p h ers a n d m o t iva t es t h e p reva len t m et a p h o r t h a t rea so n
sh o u ld b e t h e m a ster o f t h e u n ru ly a n d u n t r u st wo r t hy p a ssio n s (So lo m o n ,
1993 ). T h is p er sp ect ive wa s m o st stro n gly a d vo ca ted b y t h e St o ics, wh o
p rescrib ed t h a t t h e d isru p t ive, b a se in u en ces o f em o t io n s were t o b e
m in im ised , wa s ren ewed in t h e r a tio n a list p ersp ect ive in 18t h -cen t u ry
E u ro p ea n en ligh t en m en t t h in k in g, a n d u n d ergir d ed ea rly p sych o lo gica l
t h eo r ising t h at t reat ed em o t io n s a s d iso rga n isin g fo rces in h u m a n b eh a-
vio u r (D ewey, 1895; H ebb, 1949; L eep er, 19 48).
470 KELTNER AND GROSS

Emotions Once Served Functions That Are No


Longer Necessarily Appropriate
A seco n d p er sp ect ive h o ld s t h a t em o t io n s o n ce served fu n ctio n s in t h e
enviro n m en t o f h u m a n evo lu t io n , b u t n o lo n ger d o so in t h eir p resen t
fo rm in t h e p resen t enviro n m en t (e.g. Bu ss, H a selto n , Sh a ckelfo rd ,
Bleske, & W a ke eld , 1998) . T h is view reso n at es w ith Sk in n er s (1948)
q u o t e ea rlier co n cer n in g a U t o p ia n so ciet y en gin eer in g t o free h u m a n s
fro m t h e b u rd en s o f t h eir em o t io n s. Scep t icism ab o u t t h e cu rren t fu n ct io n -
a lity o f em o t io n wa s vo iced even m o re stro n gly b y F reu d (1930 /1961 ) wh o
in Civilization and its discon tents re ect s u p o n t h e co st s o f livin g in so ciet ies
t h a t im p o se co n st ra in t s o n h u m a n em o t ion a l life t h a t a re so d ifferen t fro m
h u m a n s a n cest ra l enviro n m en t . Tr a ces o f t h is view a re a lso evid en t in t h e
wr itin g o f D a rwin (1872 ), wh o b elieved t h a t em o t io n s a re ru d im en t s o f
o n ce-ser viceable a ct io n s, a n d t h a t a lth o u gh em o t io n s m ay n o w ser ve a
seco n d a r y co m m u n ica tive fu n ct io n , t h is is n o t why em o t io n s evo lved .

Emotions Serve Important Functions Now


A t h ird p ersp ect ive h o ld s t h a t em o t io n s ser ve fu n ct io n s n ow a s t h ey h ave
p revio u sly. E m o t io n s a re a d a p t a t io n s t o p ro b lem s in t h e cu r ren t h u m a n
enviro n m en t . I n feren ces ab o u t fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s, t h erefo re, ca n b e
b a sed u p o n a n a lyses o f sp eci c ca u ses a n d co n seq u en ces o f em o t io n with in
t h e cu rren t enviro n m en t . T h is view is sh a red b y m o st o f t h e co n t r ib u t o rs t o
t h is Sp ecia l Issu e a n d m a ny o t h ers (e.g. Ba r ret t & C a m p o s, 198 7; F rijd a ,
19 94; O at ley & Jen k in s, 19 92; P lu t ch ik , 1980). A lth o u gh even t h e stro n -
gest a d h eren t t o t h is view wo u ld n o t go so fa r a s t o say t h at a ll
o ccu r ren ces o f ever y em o t io n a t ever y in t en sity level a re a d ap t ive fo r
every in d ivid u a l, t h e gen era l cla im wo u ld b e t h a t, b y a n d la rge, m o st
em o t io n s h ave a fu n ct io n a l b a sis m o st o f t h e t im e. We d et a il t h is view in
t h e rem a in d er o f t h e a rt icle.

ELEMENTS OF A FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNT


OF EMOTIONS
F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s m o st gen er a lly a ssu m e t h a t em o t io n s a re a d a p t a t io n s
t o t h e p ro blem s o f so cia l a n d p hysica l su rviva l. R ecen t t h eo rising (e.g.
Ba rret t & C a m p o s, 19 87; E k m a n & D avid so n , 1994) , et h o lo gica l st u d ies
(e.g. E ib l-E ib esfeld t , 19 89; K reb s & D avies, 199 3), a n d p h ilo so p h ica l
a n a lysis (e.g. W righ t , 197 3) co nverge o n fo u r in t er rela t ed elem en t s o f
fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n s. F irst , fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s a d d ress why
h u m a n s h ave em o t io n s, t h u s sh ift in g t h eo r isin g fro m a d iscu ssio n o f t h e
st ru ct u re o f em o t io n s, o r wh a t em o t io n s a re, t o why em o t io n s h ave t h e
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS 471
st ru ct u res t h a t t h ey d o (Averill, 1992 ). Seco n d , in p a r t t o a d d ress why
h u m a n s h ave em o t io n s, fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s p o sit t h at em o t io n s a re so lu -
t io n s t o sp eci c p ro b lem s o f su r viva l o r a d ju st m en t . T h ird , fu n ct io n a l
a cco u n t s co n ceive o f em o t io n s a s syst em s o f in t errela t ed co m p o n en t s.
F in a lly, fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s em p h a sise t h e b en e cia l co n seq u en ces o f
em o t io n s, so m e o f wh ich d e n e t h e fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s. T h ese sh a red
elem en t s n o t with sta n d in g, it a lso is t ru e t h a t fu n ct io n a l t h eo r ist s a lso
d iverge fro m o n e a n o t h er at a nu m b er o f p o in t s, su ch a s wh et h er em o t io n s
a re b est co n cep t u a lised in gen era l o r sp eci c t er m s, in d im en sio n a l o r
d iscret e t er m s, o r a s b io logica lly b a sed o r so cia lly co n st ru ct ed en t ities.
We a d d ress t h ese p o in t s o f d ivergen ce a m on g fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s in t h e
fo llowin g sectio n .

From What? to Why?


P ro vo ked in p a rt b y W illia m Ja m es fa m o u s essay, ``W h a t is a n em o t io n ?
(1884), resea rch h a s d evo t ed co n sid erable a tt en t io n t o d o cu m en t in g wha t
em o t io n s a re, ch a ra ct er isin g t h e a p p r a isa l a n d exp er ien t ia l p ro cesses
(Sm ith & E llswo rt h , 1985) , b eh avio u r s a n d a ct io n t en d en cies (E k m a n ,
1984 ; F rijd a , 1986) , a n d p hysio lo gica l co n co m ita n t s (D avid so n &
C a cio p p o, 19 92; L even so n , 1992) o f em o t io n .
F u n ctio n a l a p p ro a ch es, wh et h er co n cer n ed w it h visio n , fever s, la n -
gu a ge, o r em o t io n , sp ecify why h u m a n s o r o t h er sp ecies h ave cer t a in
p hy sica l fea t u res, st r u ct u res, o r m o d es o f b eh avio u r (N a gel, 1979 ;
W r igh t , 1973 ). T h is sh a red co n cern w it h t h e q u est io n ``W hy? d ist in -
gu ish es fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s fro m a ll o t h er p ersp ect ives. I n t h e co n t ext
o f em o t io n , t h e q u est io n ``W hy ? d o es n o t refer t o why a given p erso n
h a s a p a r t icu la r em o t io n a t a sp eci c p o in t in t im e, b u t r a th er t o why
h u m a n s h ave d evelo p ed sp eci c em o t io n s, a n d t o why t h o se em o t io n s
h ave t h e str u ct u res t h at t h ey d o (D a r win , 1872; E k m a n , 199 2; O h m a n ,
1986 ; P lu t ch ik , 19 80; To o b y & C o sm id es, 1990) .
T h is em p h a sis o n t h e o rigin s o f em o t io n s is evid en t a cro ss a w id e r a n ge
o f t h eo ret ica l ap p ro a ch es t o em o t io n . T h u s, evo lu t io n a ry t h eo rist s p rovid e
h ist o rica l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n b y id en t ifyin g t h eir o rigin s in fu n ct io n a lly
eq u iva len t resp o n ses o f o t h er sp ecies (D a r win , 1872; K elt n er & Bu swell,
1997 ; R ed ica n , 1982 ) a n d in ch a r a ct er isin g h o w b io logica lly b a sed , gen et i-
ca lly en co d ed em o t io n s m et select io n p ressu res, o r t h reat s t o su rviva l,
sp eci c t o t h e p hysica l a n d so cia l envir o n m en t o f h u m a n evo lu t io n
(E k m a n , 1992; To o b y & C o sm id es, 1990) . W it h sim ila r in t ellect u a l m o t iva -
t io n s b u t o p er a tin g a t a d ifferen t level o f a n a lysis, so cia l co n st r u ct io n ist s
fo cu s o n h ow em o t io n is co n st ru cted a cco rd in g t o so cia l, st ru ctu ra l, a n d
m o ra l-ideo lo gica l fo rces t h a t d e n e cu ltu re a n d t h e h isto rica l so cia l co n -
t ext (G o rd o n , 19 89; L u t z & A b u -L u gh o d , 19 90; M a rk u s & K it aya m a ,
472 KELTNER AND GROSS

19 91; R o sa ld o, 1984; St ea r n s, 1993 ). Bo t h p ersp ect ives id en t ify t h e ca u sa l


fo rces t h a t a cco u n t fo r h o w em o t io n s o r igin at e, d evelo p, a n d o p era t e
with in t h e cu rren t so cia l a n d p hysica l en vir o n m en t ; t h ey d iffer o n t h e
co m p o n en t s o f em o t io n , ca u sa l fo rces, a n d evo lu t io n a r y o r co n st r u ct ive
p ro cesses t h at a re o f in t erest .

Emotions as Solutions to Problems


To a d d ress why em o t io n s o r igin a te a n d d evelo p, fu n ctio n a l a cco u n t s b egin
with co n cep t u a lisat io n s o f h o w em o t io n s so lve su r viva l-releva n t p ro b lem s,
su ch a s fo r m in g a tt a ch m en t s, m a in t a in in g co o p er at ive rela t io n s, o r avo id in g
p hysica l t h reat s (E k m a n , 19 92; Jo h n so n -L a ird & O a t ley, 19 92; L even so n ,
19 94; O a t ley & Jen k in s, 1992; To o b y & C o sm id es, 1990 ). P ro b lem -rela t ed
a n a lyses o f em o t io n h ave b een a m a in st ay o f evo lu t io n a ry (e.g. E k m a n ,
19 92) a n d so cia l co n st ru ctio n ist (e.g. L u t z & W h ite, 1986 ) t h eo rising ab o u t
em o t io n , a n d u n d erp in p o st u la t io n s ab o u t t h e go a ls em o t io n s serve
(L a za ru s, 19 91; St ein & L evin e, 19 90) o r t h e co n cer n s a ro u n d wh ich t h ey
revo lve (F rijd a , 1988) . E m o t io n s, fro m t h is p er sp ect ive, a re sp eci c, effi-
cien t resp o n ses t h a t a re t a ilo red t o p ro b lem s o f p hy sica l a n d so cia l su r viva l
(e.g. Ba rret t & C a m p o s, 1987; E k m a n , 199 2; F r ijd a , 19 88; L a za ru s, 1991 ).
F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s d o n o t d e n e em o t io n s in t er m s o f sp eci c resp o n ses
o r co m b in a t io n s o f resp o n ses, a s h a s b een d o n e h ist o r ica lly (C a lh o u n &
So lo m o n , 19 84), b u t r at h er a s p ro cesses t h a t rela t e enviro n m en t a l in p u t t o
a d a p t ive o u t p u t ; em o t io n s a re a n ``int elligen t in t erfa ce t h at m ed ia tes
b etween in p u t a n d o u t p u t (Sch erer, 1994, p. 127).

Emotions as Systems of Co-ordinated Components


F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s t reat em o t io n s, b eh avio u r s, o r o rga n s a s syst em s o f
co -o rd in a t ed resp o n ses (Averill, 1990; W righ t , 19 73). T h e co m p o n en t s o f
t h e ca rd io va scu la r syst em , fo r exa m p le, in clu d in g t h e h ea r t , va scu la t u re,
a n d b a ro recep t o r s, serve in t er rela t ed fu n ct io n s t h at a llo w fo r t h e d istr ib u -
t io n o f blo o d t o su p p o rt d ifferen t k in d s o f a ct io n . F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s o f
em o t io n s likew ise t rea t em o t io n s a s co m p lex system s o f co -o rd in a t ed yet
sep a ra t e su b syst em s t h at m eet t h e m yr ia d a n d d yn a m ic d em a n d s p o sed by
t h e p ro b lem s o f p hysica l a n d so cia l su rviva l.
T h e co n cep t u a l im p licat io n s o f a syst em s ap p ro a ch t o em o t io n a re
sever a l. F ir st, t h e su b syst em s o f em o t io n a re likely t o serve d ifferen t
fu n ct io n s, a n o t io n su p p o rt ed b y t h e wea k co rrela t io n s u su a lly o b ser ved
a m o n g t h e m ea su res o f t h e d ifferen t em o t io n resp o n se system s (L a n g, R ice,
& St er n b a ch , 197 2). T h u s, n o nver b a l a n d vo ca l em o t io n a l b eh avio u r ser ves
co m m u n ica tive fu n ct io n s (e.g. D a r win , 1872; E k m a n , 1984 ; F ern a ld , 199 2;
K eltn er & H a id t , T h is Issu e; Sch erer, 198 6), t h e a u t o n o m ic resp o n ses o f
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS 473
em o t io n su p p o rt s t h e execu t io n o f exib le yet sp eci c a ct io n t en d en cies
(e.g. F r ijd a , 198 6; L even so n , 19 88), p ercep t io n a n d exp erien ce rep rio r itise,
st ru ct u re, a n d p rovid e in p u t in t o in fo rm a t io n p ro cessin g a n d ju d gem en t
a n d d ecisio n m a k in g (C lo re, 1994 ; F r ijd a , 19 88; N esse, 1990; Sch wa r z,
1990 ), a n d t h e cen t r a l n er vo u s syst em a ct ivit y co -o rd in at es t h e d ifferen t
a fferen t a n d efferen t a ct ivit y o f em o t io n (e.g. D avid so n , 1993; L eD o u x,
1993 ).
A system s a pp ro a ch a lso t rea t s em o t io n s a s dyn a m ic p ro cesses t h at
em erge in t h e in t er a ct io n b et ween t h e a ct ivit y o f em o t io n resp o n se syst em s
a n d ch a n ges in t h e p hysica l a n d so cia l enviro n m en t (B a rret t & C a m p o s,
1987 ; F o gel et a l., 199 2; L a za r u s, 19 91). E m o t io n s a re likely t o invo lve
feed b a ck p ro cesses in wh ich in fo rm a t io n ab o u t ch a n ges in t h e enviro n m en t
m o d i es t h e d ifferen t resp on se syst em s o f em o t io n (e.g. L a za r u s, 1991) .
E m o t io n s a re a lso likely t o invo lve co n t ro l p ro cesses t h at co -o rd in a t e t h e
d ifferen t su b syst em s o f em o t io n in resp o n se t o a ch a n gin g enviro n m en t
(see Jo h n so n -L a ird & O a t ley, 1992; L even so n , T h is Issu e). T h ese q u estio n s
a re receivin g t h e a t t en t io n o f em o t io n t h eo rist s.

Emphasis on Bene cial Consequences


F u n ct io n s o f b eh avio u rs o r t r a its a re o ft en eq u a t ed w it h t h eir system at ic,
b en e cia l co n seq u en ces (E ib l-E ib esfeldt , 198 9; K reb s & D avies, 1993 ;
W r igh t , 197 3), b o t h in t er m s o f d ist a l b en e t s rela t in g t o en h a n ced su r vi-
va l ra t es o f t h e in d ivid u a l, o ffsp r in g, a n d relat ed k in , a n d p roxim a l b en e t s
rela t in g t o im p roved co n d itio n s o f t h e p hysica l a n d so cia l enviro n m en t
(O h m a n , 1986) . H ist o r ica lly, t h e st u dy o f em o t io n a n d rela t ed t h eo ret ica l
d eb a tes h ave revo lved a ro u n d exp lica tin g t h e a n t eced en t s a n d co n co m i-
t a n t s o f em o t io n a l exp er ien ce. F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s a d d ress t h e a n t ece-
d en t s o f em o t io n , b u t a d d it io n a lly sp ecify t h e syst em a tic co n seq u en ces o f
em o t io n with in a given co n t ext , which in p a rt a cco u n t fo r t h e evo lu t io n o r
co n st ru ct io n o f t h e em o t io n . F o r exa m p le, a p p ea sem en t is b elieved t o b e
o n e co n seq u en ce a n d fu n ct io n o f em b a r ra ssm en t a n d sh a m e (K eltn er &
Bu swell, 19 97; M iller & L ea r y, 19 92); red ressin g in ju st ice is b elieved t o b e
o n e co n seq u en ce a n d fu n ct io n o f a n ger (So lo m o n , 1990).
O f co u rse, n o t a ll co n seq u en ces o f em o t io n s rela t e t o t h eir fu n ct io n s
(Aver ill, 1994) . F u n ct io n -relat ed co n seq u en ces a re t h o se reliab le effect s on
t h e enviro n m en t t h a t t h e st ru ct u re o f a n em o t io n (i.e. its p a t t ern o f
exp er ien ce, co m m u n ica t io n , p hysio lo gy, a n d a ctio n ) wa s sp eci ca lly
``d esign ed t o b r in g ab o u t , eith er t h ro u gh t h e p ro cess o f evo lu t io n , a cco rd -
in g t o evo lu t io n a r y t h eo r ist s, o r so cia lisat io n a n d cu ltu r a l elab o ra t io n
a cco rd in g t o so cia l co n st ru ct io n ist s. A ccid en t a l co n seq u en ces o f em o -
t io n , in co n t r a st , a re less clea r ly rela t ed t o t h e co n d it io n s t h a t elicit t h e
em o t io n , t h e st ru ct u r e a n d go a ls o f em o t io n -rela t ed resp o n ses, a n d a re
474 KELTNER AND GROSS

t yp ica lly less regu la r (see W r igh t , 1973 fo r d ist in ct io n s b et ween a ccid en t s
1
a n d fu n ctio n s). F o r exa m p le, a n ger m igh t p la u sib ly h ave severa l co n se-
q u en ces, in clu d in g in crea sed p h o n e b ills, p a rk in g t icket s, ea t in g b in ges,
a n d ir ra t io n a l b o u t s o f h o u se-clea n in g, t h a t d o n o t relat e t o t h e a ssu m ed
fu n ct io n o f a n ger, t h e resto ra t ion o f ju st rela t io n s. E m o t io n -rela ted co n -
seq u en ces m ay b e d istin gu ish ed fro m fu n ct io n -rela ted co n seq u en ces b y
t h eir rela t ive in d ep en d en ce fro m t h e ca u ses o f em o t io n a n d em o t io n -
relat ed resp o n ses a n d t h eir irregu la r it y o f co -o ccu rren ce b o t h with in t h e
sa m e in d ivid u a l over t im e a n d a cro ss d ifferen t in d ivid u a ls.

STRATEGIES FOR THE EMPIRICAL STUDY OF THE


FUNCTIONS OF EMOTIONS
A lt h o u gh wid esp rea d t h ro u gh o u t b io logy, fu n ct io n a l in feren ces o ften p ro-
vo ke u n ea sin ess in p sycho logy b eca u se su ch in feren ces exp la in p resen t
b eh avio u r b y referrin g t o fu t u re co n seq u en ces, t h u s risk in g t a u t o logica l
em p t in ess (Averill, 1994) . We p erceive severa l em p irica l st ra t egies ava ilab le
t o p sych o lo gists fo r t h e st u d y o f t h e fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s. E m o t io n
syst em s ca n b e exp er im en t a lly a ct iva ted o r d ea ct iva t ed , a n d t h e in t ra p er-
so n a l a n d in t er p erso n a l co n seq u en ces o f su ch m a n ip u lat io n s syst em a tica lly
exp lo red (e.g. L eD o u x, 199 3; P a n k sep p, 1986) . St u d ies ca n exa m in e t h e
resp o n ses em o t io n s syst em a tica lly evo ke in o t h ers, a s in st u d ies o f in fa n t
d ist ress vo ca lisa tio n s, wh ich evo ke p a ren t a l ca re (F er n a ld , 1992 ), o r em b a r-
r a ssm en t d isp lays, wh ich evo ke fo rgiven ess (K eltn er & Bu swell, 1997 ).
St u d ies o f t h eo ret ica lly sp eci ed so cia l o u t co m es revea l p o t en t ia l fu n c-
t io n s o f em o t io n . F o r exa m p le, ro m a n t ic p a r t n ers wh o exp er ien ce less
jea lo u sy a re m o re p ro n e t o b rea k u p , co n sisten t with t h e hyp o t h esised
m a t e p ro t ectio n fu n ct io n o f jea lo u sy (e.g. Bu ss, 1992; E llis, 1992 ).
F in a lly, d o cu m en t in g t h e co n seq u en ces o f d evia tio n s in t h e t yp ica l o p er at -
in g co n d itio n s o f em o t io n s syst em s, a s in st u d ies o f em o t io n a n d p sych o -
p at h o logy (see C la rk & W a t so n , 199 4; K eltn er & K rin g, 1998; K rin g &
Ba ch o ro wsk i, T h is Issu e; O at ley & Jen k in s, 1992) ca n ser ve a s a b a sis fo r
in feren ces ab o u t fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s, a s h a s b een d o n e in stu d ies o f
visio n a n d la n gu a ge (e.g. P in ker & Blo o m , 1992).

1
W illiam s (1966) o ffers a n elegan t exa m p le illu st r at ing th e d istin ction b etween fu n ctio n
a n d a cciden t. T h e fu nctio n of th e app le is to d isp erse a n d r epro du ce t he sp ecies. A cciden ta l
co nseq uen ces o f th e ap ple in clu d e its ro le in t he Wa sh ingt o n st ate econ o m y a n d ingr at iat in g
r itu als in t h e gr a m m a r sch o ol cla ssro o m . F or exa m ple, a fu n ct ion a l a ccou nt m igh t d e n e
sym pa thy a s th e inclin at ion t o com fo r t a n d help o th ers in n eed, in p a r ticu la r th ose wh o h ave
a ttr ibutes o f d efen celessness, u nt il th e d ist r ess is a m elio ra ted .
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS 475
POINTS OF DIVERGENCE AMONG
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS
We h ave p ro p o sed t h at fu n ctio n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n s fo cu s o n t h e
rea so n s h u m a n s h ave em o t io n s, t h e p ro b lem s em o t io n s so lve, t h e syst em ic
n a t u re o f em o t io n -rela t ed resp o n ses, a n d t h e syst em at ic, b en e cia l co n se-
q u en ces o f em o t io n . D ifferen t fu n ctio n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n sh a re t h ese
gen era l a ssu m p t io n s t o va r yin g d egr ees b u t d iverge in sever a l im p o rt a n t
ways.

Levels of Analysis
F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n m ay b e o ffered at a ny o n e o f a nu m b er o f
levels o f a n a lysis (Aver ill, 19 94; Ba rret t & C a m p o s, 1987 ). E m o t io n s ca n
serve im p o rt a n t fu n ctio n s a t t h e level o f in t ra -o rga n ism ic resp o n se, co -
o rd in at in g p hysio lo gica l, p ercep t u a l, a n d co gn itive p ro cesses t h a t en ab le
t h e o rga n ism t o resp o n d a d a p t ively t o sign i ca n t enviro n m en t a l ch a llen ges
o r o p p o r t u n ities (L even so n , T h is Issu e). A seco n d , co m p lem en t a ry level o f
a n a lysis, co n sid er s t h e so cia l o r in t er-o rga n ism ic fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s
with in t h e co n t ext o f o n go in g in t era ctio n s (Ba r ret t & C a m p o s, 1987 ;
K elt n er & H a id t , T h is Issu e). A t h ird level o f a n a lysis fo cu ses o n t h e
so ciet a l level fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s, a d d ressin g t h e m a n n er in wh ich
em o t io n s b en e t la rge gro u p s a n d so cia l o rga n isa t io n s (e.g. L u t z &
W h ite, 198 6). T h u s, em o t io n s su ch a s a n ger o r love m ay o rga n ise in t ern a l
p ro cesses, so cia l in t era ct io n s, a n d even gro u p ritu a ls a n d so cieta l in st it u -
t io n s in fu n ct io n a lly co m p lem en t a ry wa ys (K eltn er & H a id t , T h is I ssu e;
L even so n , 1994) .

Speci city vs. Generality


A lth o u gh a n a n a lysis o f t h e fu n ctio n s o f em o t io n in gen era l is likely t o b e o f
so m ewh a t lim ited u t ility (see Averill, 199 4), t h eo rist s va ry in t h e sp eci city o r
gen era lity o f t h e cla im s t h ey m a ke ab o u t t h e fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n . C er t a in
t h eo r ists co n sid er em o t io n s in d im en sio n a l t er m s, elu cid a t in g t h e fu n ct io n s
o f b ro a d cla sses o f em o t io n , su ch a s t h e a pp et it ive o r aver sive em o t io n s
(L a n g, 19 95), ap p ro a ch a n d wit h d rawa l o rien t ed em o t io n s (D avid so n ,
1992 ), o r p o sitive a n d n egat ive em o t io n s. O t h er t h eo r ists fo cu s o n t h e
fu n ct io n s o f d iscret e em o t io n s su ch a s a n ger, love, a n d fea r (I za rd , 1993) ,
ea ch o f wh ich m ay h ave severa l d ist in gu ish ab le va ria n t s o r fa m ily m em b er s
(E k m a n , 199 2). St ill o t h er t h eo r ist s fo cu s o n t h e fu n ct io n s o f d ifferen t fo r m s
o f a ffect , in clu d in g m o o d s a n d em o t io n a l t ra its (N esse, 1990).
C la im s t h a t em o t io n s a re a d ap t a tio n s a lso va r y in t h eir sp eci cit y o r
gen era lity. C er t a in t h eo rist s fo cu s o n t h e gen era l a d a p t a t io n s t h at d e n e
476 KELTNER AND GROSS

em o t io n , in clu d in g h o w em o t io n s o rga n ise resp o n se syst em s (L even so n ,


19 94), d eco u p le stim u li fro m resp o n ses t o fa cilita t e grea t er exib ility
(Sch erer, 198 4, 199 4), rep r io ritise a ctio n a n d cogn it ive p ro cesses (C lo re,
19 94; L even so n , 1994; Sim o n , 1967 ), o r m o t iva t e gen era l ap p ro a ch o r
avo id a n ce o r t h e co n serva t io n o f reso u rces (C la rk & W a tso n , 199 4;
D avid so n , 1992 ; L a n g, 1995 ). O t h er t h eo r ist s p o rt r ay em o t io n s a s m o re
sp eci c so lu t io n s t o very sp eci c p ro b lem s, su ch a s avo id in g p red a tio n ,
r a ising o ffsp rin g, sh a rin g fo o d , o r p ro m o t in g co o p era t io n a n d gro u p
h iera rch ies (K eltn er & H a id t , T h is Issu e; L u t z & W h ite, 1986; O h m a n ,
19 86; P lu t ch ik , 198 0; To o b y & C o sm id es, 19 90).

Manner of Organisation
A t a ny given level o f a n a lysis, fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s m ay d iffer in t er m s o f h ow
t h ey a re str u ct u red . C ert a in fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s t a ke a s t h eir u n it o f a n a lysis
a sin gle em o t io n , a s in a n a lyses o f a n ger (L u t z, 198 8), d isgu st (R o zin , 1996 ),
em b a r ra ssm en t (K eltn er & Bu swell, 1997) , o r jea lo u sy (St ea r n s, 1989) , a n d
exp lica te t h e ra n ge o f fu n ct io n s ser ved b y t h a t em o t io n . O t h er fu n ct io n a l
a cco u n t s t a ke a s t h eir u n it o f a n a lysis a sp eci c co n t ext , fo r exa m p le,
gr eet in g u n k n o wn o t h ers (E ib l-E ib esfeld t , 1989) , p lay (B owlb y, 19 69), o r
t ea sin g (K eltn er, Yo u n g, H eerey, O em ig, & M o n a rch , 199 8), a n d t h en
exa m in e t h e fu n ct io n s p layed b y m u ltip le em o t io n s with in t h a t co n t ext .
St ill o t h er s m ay t a k e a s t h eir u n it o f a n a lysis a given fu n ct io n (e.g. a t t a ch -
m en t ), a n d t h en ca refu lly exa m in e a va r iet y o f em o t io n s t o see wh et h er t h ese
a p p ea r t o serve t h is fu n ct io n in a sp eci c co n t ext (e.g. Bow lby, 19 69).

Range of Focus
F in a lly, fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s o f em o t io n a lso m ay d iffer with resp ect t o
t h eir ra n ge o f fo cu s. So m e a cco u n t s m ay str ive fo r a n a n a lysis o f em o t io n s
a cro ss a w id e r a n ge o f sp ecies, in clu d in g h u m a n s. O t h er a cco u n t s m ay
rest rict t h em selves t o h u m a n s. A cco u n t s a lso m ay d iffer with resp ect t o
t h eir co n sid er a tio n o f d evelo p m en t a l issu es, w it h so m e a cco u n t s en ga gin g
t h e co m p lexities o f h o w fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n s m ay va ry over t h e lifesp a n ,
with o t h ers co n t en t t o elu cid a t e t h e fu n ct io n s o f em o t io n w ith in a m o re
lim ited ra n ge (e.g t h e a d u lt yea rs).

IMPLICATIONS OF A FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNT


OF EMOTION
F u n ct io n a l a p p ro a ch es t o em o t io n h ave severa l im p o rt a n t co n cep t u a l
im p lica t io n s (see Ba r ret t & C a m p o s, 1987 ). In t er m s o f co n cep t u a lisat io n
a n d t a xo n o m y, fu n ct io n a l a cco u n t s d ifferen t ia te a n d gro u p em o t io n s
FUNCTIONAL ACCOUNTS 477
a cco rd in g t o t h eir sp eci c fu n ct io n s, r at h er t h a n t h eir resp o n se ch a ra ct er-
ist ics (K eltn er & H a id t , T h is Issu e). Beca u se a ny given em o t io n m ay h ave
d ifferen t fu n ct io n a l p ro p ert ies a t d ifferen t levels o f a n a lysis, t h is su ggest s
t h a t o rga n isa tio n a l sch em es w ill va r y a cco rd in g t o t h e go a l t h a t m o t iva t es
t h e p a rt icu la r sch em e in q u est io n . F u n ct io n a l a cco u n t s a lso p la ce gr eat
em p h a sis o n t h e d yn a m ic p ro cess o f em o t io n , a n d exp lo re h ow t h e d iffer-
en t co m p o n en t s o f em o t io n rela te t o o n e a n o t h er in t h e t em p o r a l u n fo ld in g
o f em o t io n (see N a gel, 1979, o n t h e t em p o ra l em p h a sis o f fu n ct io n a l
a cco u n t s). A fu n ct io n a l a pp ro a ch t o em o t io n s en co u ra ges cer t a in em p iri-
ca l st r at egies. T h ese in clu d e st u d ies t h at exa m in e t h e co n seq u en ces o f
em o t io n , b o t h in t er m s o f p roxim a l effect s o n t h e so cia l enviro n m en t
a n d lo n g-t er m o u t co m es, em o t io n dysfu n ct io n , a n d t h e t em p o r a l p ro -
cesses o f em o t io n . F in a lly, fu n ctio n a l a cco u n t s o ffer t h e o p p o r t u n it y fo r
in t erest in g t h eo ret ica l in t egr at io n o f t h e su p p o sit io n s a n d n d in gs o f
evo lu t io n a ry a n d so cia l co n st ru ct io n ist t h eo r y a n d resea rch a n d lo n gst a n d -
in g t en sio n s in t h e stu dy o f em o t io n rega rd in g b io lo gy a n d cu ltu re. We
h o p e t h e rem a in d er o f t h e a r t icles in t h is Sp ecia l Issu e illu str a t e t h e b en e t s
o f t a k in g a fu n ct io n a l a p p ro a ch t o em o t io n .

M a nu scr ip t r eceived 2 M a r ch 1999

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