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The autonomic nervous system and emotion

Abstract

In many evolutionary/functionalist theories, emotions organize the activity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and other physiological systems. Two kinds of patterned activity are discussed: (a) coherence (i.e., emotions organize and coordinate activity within the ANS, and between the ANS and other response systems such as facial expression and subjective experience), and (b) specificity (i.e., emotions activate different patterns of ANS response for different emotions). For each kind of patterning, significant methodological obstacles are considered that need to be overcome before empirical studies can adequately test theories and resolve controversies. Finally, links that coherence and specificity have with health and well-being are considered. © The Author(s) 2014.

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