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[Xmca-l] Re: Questioning universal core emotions



I think that Barrett is taking an easy pot-shot at the founding
fathers--Titchener, James, and Wundt--who believed in six fundamental,
irreducible emotions and who set out to isolate them in laboratories and
describe them in minute detail. But as Mike says, I think the problem is
methodological, or even definitional.

And to me the real problem is not the word "sensation", or "feeling", or
"emotion". I am perfectly willing to accept that for example pain is a
biological universal (something we share with other species, in fact), and
that "sensation" is somewhat less so, at least biologically (although I
think Andy's idea that nothing remains when we abstract away the
interpretation of sensation is almost chemically pure idealism, on a par
with his statement that material reality is "what is given to us"). I agree
with Elinami: there are higher emotions which are highly mediated by
language (Elinami reminds me of this by including a snippet of Fet that I
once translated into English at the bottom of her email, and when I read it
I experience almost the exact feeling I had while translating it, including
a certain dissatisfaction with the facile sing-song of the second line).
But I am not at all sure that the fact of language mediation means that
they are somehow more subjective and less universal.

For most people, as soon as we say something is mediated by language, this
implies that it cannot be universal. For example, even I find myself
shaking my head when I read that Barrett and her group went through several
translators in the course of their fieldwork. If you are using a
translator, and you are doing linguistic research, in what sense are you
doing fieldwork? (I know, in the sense that you are in the field and you
can tell what people are feeling by their intonation--but of course that's
exactly what this fieldwork is trying to disprove!)

Vygotsky says (in Lecture Number Two of his "Lectures on Pedology", which
we are currently translating) that what distinguishes speech from every
other sound in nature is signifying. That seems rather banal until you put
it in context. We know that children often assume that animals that make
noises are "talking" to each other, and even Binet and Ribot believed that
if somehow we knew the grammar and vocabulary then we could do as Doctor
Doolittle did (or perhaps do as Doctor Ouch did in Chukovsky's version of
the story for Russian children) and "talk to the animals".

It wasn't until Wittgenstein that anybody made the point that if a lion
could talk we would simply not be able to understand it, because we would
not be able to grasp the experiences to which the lion's speech referred
(e.g. when the lion refers to your or me, his "meaning" probably includes
an attractive meaty odor). One of the less pleasant features of the
domestic life of the lion is that after giving birth to cubs, the lioness
has to keep the the male lion from devouring the cubs. We may share pain
with lions, but we do not share emotions.

For Vygotsky--who was working in the great tradition of Spinoza and
Vico--the fact of signifying did not mean that language was somehow
"subjective" and thus not even potentially universal. Quite the contrary. I
think that for Vygotsky signifying is even more objective than, say,
seeing. This isn't simply because unlike seeing (and unlike pain),
signifying MUST be shared. As Halliday says, what distinguishes language as
language is that language does not contain the conditions for its own
understanding; unlike a scream of pain or a giggle of laughter or a sob of
unhappiness, the social relations by which language functions as language
are quite external to it, like money (what makes gold a metal is in the
gold, but what makes gold money is not, as we can clearly see in the
example of paper money).

To me, what this suggests is that higher emotions are not, potentially,
less universal than lower ones. On the contrary--as the example of Himba
ancestor worship indicates--it suggests that higher emotions are actually
more universal, precisely because they are intrinsically sharable. It seems
that all human cultures treat ancestors as important in some way (and no
lions do; lionesses also have to guard against hungry grandmothers). So I
think reverence for ancestors, like language, may be a precondition for
culture. Together with language, it is rather like the other great
bifurcations in phylogenesis: inanimate-animate, vegetable-animal,
nonarticulate animal-articulate animal. Each great bifurcation is messy,
non-empirical, but ultimately quite universal as far as the branch
concerned goes in time and in space. It is, of course, true that there is
no universal language, but that is simply our way of ensuring that language
is universally human.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies




On 7 May 2014 07:15, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com> wrote:

> and speaking to my previous point about problems with methods for studying
> this kind of thing, consider the following from the Psy Science piece that
> Mike forwarded:
>
> "Himba participants appeared to have a cultural tendency to describe
> vocalizations in behavioral terms initially; that is, on most trials, they
> first identified the action instead of making a mental-state inference….
> For example, instead of describing a vocalization as fearful, they often
> used a term that translates to 'scream.'" (p. 913).
>
>
> Woohoo!
>
> -greg
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 3:03 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Hi Ed.
> >
> > I started the trouble here by posting the following story which purported
> > to report on the work of Lisa Barrett.
> >
> >
> >
> http://www.psypost.org/2014/03/the-six-universal-facial-expressions-are-not-universal-cross-cultural-study-shows-23471
> >
> > That post started a discussion that began with methodology and appears to
> > have morphed into personal views of the matter.
> >
> > I promised in the original post to find the article referred to in the
> > story, but got caught up in other matters and let it go. I should have
> done
> > so BEFORE I posted the story, which was, in my view now, misleading with
> > respect, at least, to this published paper. The paper in Emotion has not
> > appeared so far as I can tell.
> >
> > Back to methodology?
> > mike
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, May 6, 2014 at 1:19 PM, Ed Wall <ewall@umich.edu> wrote:
> >
> > > Perhaps of interest is Amelie Rorty's edited volume Explaining
> Emotions.
> > > In any case, emotion is a large category as is expression.
> > >
> > > In any case, I admit to some confusion. Is the ongoing conversation
> about
> > > 'expressing' emotion or about 'feellng' or, perhaps, 'experiencing'
> > emotion.
> > >
> > > Ed Wall
> > >
> > > On May 6, 2014, at  2:28 PM, Elinami Swai wrote:
> > >
> > > > I believe that pain, just like feeling is universal. But I also
> > > > believe that emotion (which we can also call expression) is learned
> > > > and thus may differ from one individual to another. We make
> > > > interpretations of emotion and expression from our own points of
> view.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > On 5/6/14, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:
> > > >> David, although I am sure that sensations cannot be taken as
> universal
> > > >> either, since it is unlikely that there is anything remaining after
> > the
> > > >> interprettion of the "sensation" is abstracted. However, it is
> > > >> nonetheless a different claim to say that human sensation is not
> > > >> universal, as to say human emotion (by which is meant I think
> > "feeling")
> > > >> is not universal. Let's suppose all are experiencing pain: they are
> > all
> > > >> clearly feeling different about it.
> > > >>
> > > >> Or was that your point?
> > > >>
> > > >> Andy
> > > >>
> > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > > >> *Andy Blunden*
> > > >> http://home.mira.net/~andy/
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >> David Kellogg wrote:
> > > >>> Suppose I put together a set of pictures of people undergoing
> > torture,
> > > in
> > > >>> which some people appeared to be experiencing the torture
> stoically,
> > > >>> others
> > > >>> with resignation, still others with agony, and some with something
> > that
> > > >>> appears to be laughter.
> > > >>>
> > > >>> I think I could probably crop the photographs and pose questions in
> > > such
> > > >>> a
> > > >>> way that I could very convincingly demonstrate that pain is not a
> > > >>> universal
> > > >>> human sensation. Not only that, I could probably put together a
> > sorting
> > > >>> exercise that would come to the same conclusion.
> > > >>>
> > > >>> David Kellogg
> > > >>> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>> On 5 May 2014 01:24, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>>> I have a colleague down the hall, David Crandall, that has been
> > > working
> > > >>>> among the Himba for almost 30 years. I also have three students
> > headed
> > > >>>> to
> > > >>>> do research among the Himba in a month. So I've been picking up
> some
> > > >>>> interesting details about the Himba.
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> It seems like it is true that they have increasingly had contact
> > with
> > > >>>> Western culture, as evidenced by recent protests in some of the
> > larger
> > > >>>> cities that were staged by Himba opposed to the building of a dam
> > that
> > > >>>> would cause flooding of some of the burial sites of their
> ancestors
> > (
> > > >>>> http://www.huntingtonnews.net/84854).
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> At the same time, they are non-numerate people that lack some of
> the
> > > key
> > > >>>> Western institutions where kids learn (oddly enough) about
> > "emotions"
> > > >>>> (think of those pictures of happy and sad faces that Western
> > schooling
> > > >>>> takes into the classroom as the MEANS by which they teach
> literacy -
> > > >>>> these
> > > >>>> means of teaching literacy always entail certain cultural ends -
> > such
> > > as
> > > >>>> "emotion" - concepts that are not emic concepts).
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> Among the western institutions that the Himba lack, the Himba lack
> > the
> > > >>>> Western model of schooling (one of my students is doing research
> on
> > > this
> > > >>>> very issue). It is only in the last 15 years or so that Himba have
> > > begun
> > > >>>> sending their children to school, and now only in small numbers.
> The
> > > >>>> Himba
> > > >>>> are very skeptical of schools since, in their opinion, the schools
> > > don't
> > > >>>> teach their children anything worthwhile. Knowing how to count is
> > > >>>> unimportant to them since although they are non-numerate they are
> > able
> > > >>>> to
> > > >>>> keep track of large herds of cattle because they know each of
> their
> > > >>>> cattle
> > > >>>> individually and can recognize when one is missing. But what
> really
> > > >>>> matters
> > > >>>> are things like knowing how to properly honor one's ancestors. If
> > one
> > > >>>> fails
> > > >>>> to do that properly, then then ancestors will cause bad things to
> > > happen
> > > >>>> to
> > > >>>> oneself. That is much more important than knowing how to count.
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> Carol, I also agree with your concerns with the methodology of the
> > > >>>> study,
> > > >>>> it may not be reasonable to assume that this research is the same
> as
> > > the
> > > >>>> Ekman tasks and of-course it is a Western-type task (but one might
> > > argue
> > > >>>> that it is less so than the Ekman tasks since it is more open,
> > > >>>> arguable).
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> So Carol, I wonder what conclusions you would draw from your
> > critique.
> > > >>>> Are
> > > >>>> emotions universal?
> > > >>>> I wonder if there is a further possibility that these
> psychologists
> > > are
> > > >>>> missing. Is it possible that "emotions" are not universal in
> quite a
> > > >>>> different sense? Perhaps that the very category of "emotion" is
> not
> > > >>>> universal?
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> I think this research points in that direction - when viewing a
> > > picture
> > > >>>> of
> > > >>>> a face, people do not necessarily assume that the person in the
> > > picture
> > > >>>> is
> > > >>>> "emoting". I assume that this would be true among Westerners as
> > well,
> > > >>>> but
> > > >>>> that possibility doesn't present itself in the research
> methodology
> > > >>>> since
> > > >>>> Westerners are asked "what emotion is this?" The task is already
> > > defined
> > > >>>> by
> > > >>>> the domain called "emotion" (with which they are already very
> > > familiar).
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> Anthropologists have done great work to show the problems with
> > taking
> > > >>>> Western defined domains into non-Western contexts (e.g. the domain
> > of
> > > >>>> "kinship" - David Schneider, the domain of "color" - John Lucy).
> The
> > > >>>> argument is that even though this research turns up results that
> > seem
> > > to
> > > >>>> suggest that the domains are real even in non-Western contexts,
> the
> > > >>>> findings are plagued by the fact that they assume these domains
> and
> > > >>>> force
> > > >>>> these non-Western subjects into choosing within the pre-defined
> > > domain.
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> But then again, perhaps "emotion" is a universal category?
> > > >>>> -greg
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> On Sun, May 4, 2014 at 7:55 AM, Carol Macdonald <
> > > carolmacdon@gmail.com
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>> wrote:
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> Well Mike
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> I am here working in Namibia for the year, and I would like to
> know
> > > >>>>> where
> > > >>>>> these Himba people are.  I mean the ones referred to in the
> > article:
> > > I
> > > >>>>> am
> > > >>>>> not sure they are *so *isolated - they are well recognised as one
> > of
> > > >>>>> the
> > > >>>>> language groups.  And I think there is also an elephant in the
> room
> > > >>>>> here.
> > > >>>>> This is a western-type task, and Luria would have been quick to
> > point
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>> that
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>> out. What makes this woman think that this task would be the
> > > equivalent
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>> to
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>> the others.
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> Just a couple of basic principles to cast a small aspersion on
> this
> > > >>>>> research.
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> Carol
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> On 4 May 2014 14:16, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>>> Perhaps of interest
> > > >>>>>> mike
> > > >>>>>>
> > > >>>>>>
> > > >>>>>>
> > > >>>>>>
> > > >>>>
> > >
> >
> http://www.psypost.org/2014/03/the-six-universal-facial-expressions-are-not-universal-cross-cultural-study-shows-23471
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>> --
> > > >>>>> Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
> > > >>>>> Developmental psycholinguist
> > > >>>>> Academic, Researcher,  and Editor
> > > >>>>> Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>> --
> > > >>>> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> > > >>>> Assistant Professor
> > > >>>> Department of Anthropology
> > > >>>> 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> > > >>>> Brigham Young University
> > > >>>> Provo, UT 84602
> > > >>>> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>>
> > > >>
> > > >>
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > --
> > > > Dr. Elinami Swai
> > > > Senior Lecturer
> > > > Associate Dean
> > > > Coordinator, Postgraduate Studies
> > > > Faculty of Education
> > > > Open University of Tanzania
> > > > P.O.Box 23409
> > > > Dar-Es-Salaam
> > > > Tell:255-022-2668992/2668820/2668445/26687455
> > > > Fax:022-2668759
> > > > Cell: (255) 076-722-8353; (255) 068-722-8353
> > > >
> http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Womens-Empowerment-Africa-Dislocation/dp/
> > > > 0230102484
> > > >        ...this faith will still deliver
> > > >        If you live it first to last
> > > >        Not everything which blooms must
> > > >        wither.
> > > >        Not all that was is past
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Anthropology
> 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> Brigham Young University
> Provo, UT 84602
> http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
>