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  • Print publication year: 1988
  • Online publication date: June 2011

2 - The Structure of the Theory


In discussing the merits and dangers of using linguistic evidence, the last chapter introduced the notion of an emotion type. An emotion type is a distinct kind of emotion that can be realized in a variety of recognizably related forms. The example we gave was of the emotion type, fear, which can be manifested in varying degrees of intensity (marked in English by words such as “concern,” “fright,” “petrified,” and so on), and for which there can be various subtle shifts in emphasis (for example, an emphasis on a particular kind of associated behavior is captured by the word “cowering,” and an emphasis on the object of fear as being psychological rather than physical is captured by the word “anxiety”). This notion of an emotion type is central to the theory. In order to provide a coherent account of the emotions, it is essential to reduce somehow the infinitude of phenomenally possible emotions to manageable proportions. We do this by focusing on the distinct emotion types rather than on the multitude of discriminable emotional states. The question that we then have to address is: What are the distinct emotion types and how are they related to one another?

It seems to us that the distinct emotion types cannot be arranged informatively into any single space of reasonably low dimensionality. Rather, we suspect that the emotions come in groups for which the intragroup structure is quite simple even though the intergroup structure is not (Fillenbaum & Rapaport, 1971).