Functions of Emotions Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 October 2016

Functions of Emotions

By definition, emotions are short-lived phenomena in the psychological and physiological systems of rational beings that represent modes of adaptation to the dynamism of the internal and external environment (Fiske, Gilbert & Lindzey, 2010). Emotions are responsible for psychologically altering the attention and shifting behaviors in response to changing demands. They are therefore very instrumental in not only defining inter-personal relationships but also the lives of rational beings (Lewis, Haviland-Jones & Barret, 2008).

In this research paper, the author seeks to explain and describe the social functions of emotions in a relationship. I will first identify the emotions that relate to relationships and then proceed to explain the functions they play. Examples of emotions that apply to relationships Emotions are complex and intricately related. There has been confusion in the usage of terms between emotions and feelings while the two are not synonymous. The word “Feelings” can be used to describe the sensitivity to emotions or morals.

In other words, feeling is the passion or sensation of emotions and is therefore a component of emotion (Fiske, Gilbert & Lindzey, 2010). Each emotion leads to the exhibition of a corresponding set of behaviors, both in the movement of the body (emotional expression through skeletal muscles) and in other responses that do not include physical movements. In the context of relationships, very many emotions apply. To every emotion there is an opposite.

Examples of emotions which are applicable in the development of interpersonal relationships include love and passion which are contradicted by hatred and disgust and happiness which is contradicted by the emotion of sadness. Pride as an emotion plays a significant role in the development of relationships between parents and their children, between lovers and also between casual acquaintances (Lewis, Haviland-Jones & Barret, 2008). Jealousy, gratefulness and empathy also play a major role in relationships. Emotions and the Capacity to communicate and influence people

Emotions are communicated through verbal statements and non-verbal statements including facial expressions, postures or gestures. Most expressions of emotions have a direct and automatic effect on other people, and more so if these emotions are communicated non-verbally. The human conscience is programmed to naturally decode emotions in the action of other people (Fussell, 2002). Therefore, how well a person expresses his or her emotions goes a long way in determining how well other people understand him.

People will usually respond to facial expressions and other gestures. Being able to effectively communicate one’s emotions so that they are representative of the feelings held inside plays a major role in either strengthening or weakening the relationship bonds between people. A person who relays his feelings (through emotions) genuinely is less likely to be misunderstood and is therefore more likely to get positive responses to his demands or requirements (Fussell, 2002). Take for example a person whose face lights up upon seeing another person.

Such will definitely be interpreted as a reaction to the emotion of love or passion. Upon decoding this, the targeted party is also likely to develop affection for the other person. Strong relationships are founded on how genuinely people communicate their emotions (Knobloch & Solomon, 2003). Emotions are also useful in influencing the actions of others. Disappointment, for example in a parent for his or her underperforming child can trigger the urge to work harder in school so as to please the parent (Dunsmorea, Bensona & Bradburna, 2006).

However, constant disappointment in people despite their exhibited desire to improve damages relationships as it induces guilt and shame. In other words, positive emotions most of the time build a relationship and negative emotions like anger, fear, sadness and disappointment will tend to destroy a relationship. Emotions negatively or positively impact on how people process information. They comprise an integral part of interpersonal communication and therefore define how people negotiate with other people or groups (Perlman, 2007).

It is the relational problems an individual faces which give rise to emotions and emotions therefore become important in relationships as they define the way the individual navigates though the challenges that arise in the process of relating to other people. Emotions as a motivating factor The human psychological and physiological faculties are pre-programmed to automatically obey or respond to emotions (Fiske, Gilbert & Lindzey, 2010). Emotions on their part prepare and motivate people to act in a specific manner.

For example, the emotion of love will prompt its bearer to show the person he or she is in love with the actions which will illustrate his or her passion. Perhaps love is the most instrumental emotion in relationships. It is love which makes people to be concerned with the welfare of other people in their environment and triggers responsible behavior that ensures the society moves towards a state in which the welfare of everyone within that specific society is protected (Perlman, 2007). Another example of emotions playing a part in relationship building is in the way they trigger actions which signify goodwill (Ryff & Singer, 2001).

If a person sees his neighbor’s toddler moving towards danger, say in the path of traffic, he or she will feel obliged, through the action of the emotion of fear, to save it. The neighbor whose child has been rescued from imminent danger will be very appreciative of the other person, and through this appreciation their interpersonal relationship will become more cordial. Alternatively, when a person acts in a manner likely to suggest that he or she does not care much about the welfare of the people next to him or her, the relationship between him or her and those people suffers a setback.

Emotions empower people to overcome obstacles in their environment and therefore end up defining the way a person reacts on the backdrop of specific circumstances. This ends up defining how a person relates to other people (Ryff & Singer, 2001). For example, before sitting an oral interview, a person will be overcome with the emotion of anxiety. He or she will then be obliged through automatic adaptation to prepare extensively to beat his or her fear. When the time comes, he or she will have garnered sufficient confidence and his or her response to questions presented is likely to be mature, clear and expressive.

If this be the case, the interviewing panel is likely to feel attracted to the candidate and will most likely hire him or her to fill the vacancy. A new relationship then begins and will continue to grow based on the candidate’s continued state of emotional competence and capacity to adapt to new challenges. Adaptive functions of emotions within relationships Emotions provide an individual with the capacity to adaptively respond and cope with particular circumstances or situations.

Every person is unique in his or her own way, and these fundamental differences in personality have characterized the human species since the beginning (Knobloch & Solomon, 2003). To forge and to maintain relationships, people need to tolerate this diversity, and emotional responses enable us to do so. For example, my friend, spouse or work colleague who looks depressed may be battling a certain stressing issue. If I take the time to encourage or cheer them up, I will have strengthened the bond between us. Emotions, through this adaptive function regulate the social interaction of people.

By correctly identifying the emotions other people are feeling through their body language and facial expressions, an individual may be motivated to either move towards them or keep his or her distance (Oatley, Keltner & Jenkins, 2006). This way, relationships are strengthened, formed or damaged to some degree. Through the evolutionary process, members of the human species have learnt to express their emotions through art, poetry and literature to give more meaning to the sense of being human, and it is the celebration of this color or spice that enables people to live cordially with one another.

The self-validating role of emotions Who people really are is, to a large extent, derived from their emotions (Fiske, Gilbert & Lindzey, 2010). Emotions are always valid even though they are not necessarily facts, and they therefore give a person the intuition to feel whether something may be right or wrong. The intensity of emotions expressed determines the probability of an individual’s needs being met. For example, a person who strongly feels the need to establish serious relationships with others is more likely to have healthy and objective relationships (Oatley, Keltner & Jenkins, 2006).

People who decrease the intensity of their emotions are less likely to be taken seriously, and therefore their relationships are more likely to be weak. Emotions also function to put a limit to relationships and the levels of social interaction by virtue of their being self-validating (Lewis, Haviland-Jones & Barret, 2008). Take an example of a person who feels uneasy about attending a certain social event due to the feeling that something will go wrong. Nevertheless, he or she attends the event, and somewhere down the line, he or she disagrees with another person in attendance and decides to leave.

Such a person will most likely develop the tendency to strictly follow their emotions while making decisions in other aspects of everyday life, including relationships. An example of this scenario is when an individual abstains from forming a relationship with another person in their social environment because of the feeling that he or she may not be a nice person, even though this may be totally wrong (Ryff & Singer, 2001). Conclusion In this paper, my objective was to explain and describe the function of emotions in relationships.

I began by identifying various emotions which directly impact on relationships. Such emotions include love, hate, pride, jealousy, passion and fear. Secondly, I explained the role emotions play in communication. The ways in which emotions are communicated are verbal statements and non-verbal gestures including facial expressions, gestures or any other type of body language. Communication is a very essential part in the foundation of a relationship, and the role emotions play in communication therefore becomes defining in relationships (Fussell, 2002).

I also discussed the function of emotions in adapting to the various challenges that occur regularly in relationships as well as how emotions inhibit people from forming or maintaining relationships based on intuition. In conclusion, emotions, besides adding color and spice to the art living greatly determine how people understand each other and therefore how they relate in the society.


Dunsmorea, J. C. , Bensona, M. J. & Bradburna, I. S. (2006). “Functions of Emotions for Parent Child Relationships within Dynamic Contexts: Introduction to the Special Issue. ” Research in Human Development, 3(1) pp 1-5. Fiske, S. T. , Gilbert, D. T. , & Lindzey, G. (2010). Handbook of Social Psychology Volume Two. 5th Ed. John Wiley and Sons. Fussell, S. R. (2002). The Verbal Communication of Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Lewis, M. , Haviland-Jones, J. M. , & Barrett, L. F. (2008) Handbook of emotions. 3rd Ed. Guilford Press.

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