The Distinct Meanings of Human Emotions

Jerome Kagan, PhD, Harvard University

This essay argues that discussions of emotion should distinguishing among brain states, detected sensory feelings resulting from a change in brain state, semantic labels, and dispositions to act or actual behaviors. The paper also urges greater attention to the phenomena of detected feelings, questions the theoretical utility of restricting the definition of emotion to states with functional consequences, and argues that because the metrics and structures of feelings, semantic terms, actions, and brain states are different these referents for emotion may be incommensurable.

The 2007 Conference