Projects »

Integrating Distinct Emotions and Fundamental Motives

Fundamental motivational systems and distinct emotions have both been suggested to be critically involved in the coordinated orchestration of suites of behaviors, cognitions, and physiological responses to recurrent adaptive challenges in our evolutionary history. However, despite the similarity and even overlap of these complementary arguments made by past emotions and motivation researchers separately, no framework yet exists synthesizing the two. In a current theoretical project led by Alec Beall, we contend that distinct emotions are what motivate behavior, and suggest that distinct emotions may have evolved with fundamental motivational systems because they play a critical role in the functioning of those systems: Once a motivational system has identified a (real or imagined) threat or opportunity, a distinct emotion is elicited, automatically galvanizing and guiding physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses towards an adaptive outcome. We map six characteristic distinct emotions to each of the motivational systems identified by Kenrick and colleagues (2010), and posit that fear, happiness, pride, lust, romantic love, and tenderness evolved, in part, to overcome specific adaptive problems associated with self-protection, affiliation, status/esteem, mate acquisition, mate retention, and parenting, respectively.