Psychol Bull. 2013 Jan;139(1):255-63 doi: 10.1037/a0029038. 2013 Jan 09.

The hundred-year emotion war: are emotions natural kinds or psychological constructions? Comment on Lench, Flores, and Bench (2011)

Lindquist KA, Siegel EH, Quigley KS, Barrett LF.

Abstract

For the last century, there has been a continuing debate about the nature of emotion. In the most recent offering in this scientific dialogue, Lench, Flores, and Bench (2011) reported a meta-analysis of emotion induction research and claimed support for the natural kind hypothesis that discrete emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness, anger, and anxiety) elicit specific changes in cognition, judgment, behavior, experience, and physiology. In this article, we point out that Lench et al. (2011) is not the final word on the emotion debate. First, we point out that Lench et al.'s findings do not support their claim that discrete emotions organize cognition, judgment, experience, and physiology because they did not demonstrate emotion-consistent and emotion-specific directional changes in these measurement domains. Second, we point out that Lench et al.'s findings are in fact consistent with the alternative (a psychological constructionist approach to emotion). We close by appealing for a construct validity approach to emotion research, which we hope will lead to greater consensus on the operationalization of the natural kind and psychological construction approaches, as well as the criteria required to finally resolve the emotion debate.

PMID: 23294094