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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Reward, pleasure, threat, fear, and disgust are emotional labels that we often use with confidence, as if we knew the identity of their corresponding psychological processes. Those psychological processes of emotion are quite real and deeply grounded in brain systems shared by humans with many animals. But, the identity of fundamental psychological components within emotion are sometimes mistaken because only the final products are experienced, losing the identity of important psychological components that arise en route. Some of those components can have counterintuitive psychological features. For example, the experience of pleasant rewards actually contains distinct psychological processes of “liking” (hedonic impact) and “wanting” (incentive salience). Experience of fear-evoking threats hides distinct psychological components of passive reaction and an actively coping form of fearful salience. Perhaps most counterintuitively, the component of “fear” salience in threat shares a hidden psychological and neural relationship to that of “wanting” for rewards. These psychological components have implications both for ordinary emotions and for pathological disorders ranging from addiction to paranoia. Affective neuroscience studies in this way can produce surprises and insights into the psychological structure of emotions.

Keywords: emotion, affect, brain studies, wanting, liking, subjective feelings, emotional reactions

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