Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Mood and emotion

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Mood and emotion:
What are the differences and similarities between mood and emotion


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How many times have you pondered if it’s an emotion or a mood that you are feeling? You probably haven't given this that much thought, but hopefully by the time you have finished reading this chapter you will have asked yourself the question "is it a mood or an emotion that I am feeling"? and be able to know the difference!

The expressions of emotion and mood represent a challenge for psychologists. While the words are often used interchangeably, the majority of academics agree that the concepts they denote are closely related. Distinctions between them are clouded, in part, as an emotion and a mood may well feel very much the same from the viewpoint of an individual experiencing them (Beedie, Terry and Lane, 2010).

What is Emotion

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Emotion has many different aspects, existing as subjective, biological, purposive, and social phenomenon. Emotions are subjective feelings, as they cause us to feel a certain way, for instance anger or joy. Basic emotions are made up of fear, anger, disgust, sadness, joy and interest (Izard as cited in Reeve, 2009). [[[Wikipedia:Robert Plutchik|[Robert|Plutchik]]] was a Professor Emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Adjunct Professor at the University of South Florida. Robert Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion is one of the most influential classification approaches for general emotional responses. Robert Plutchik's psychoevolutionary theory of emotion is one of the most significant category approaches for general emotional responses[Repeated information]. He believed there to be eight primary [grammar?] emotions—anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, anticipation, trust, and joy. Plutchik suggested that these 'basic' emotions are biologically primitive and have evolved in order to increase the reproductive fitness of the animals[factual?].

thumb Plutchik-wheel

Plutchik's wheel of emotion is used to show different emotions of compelling and nuanced. Plutchik first suggested his cone-shaped model (3D) or the wheel model (2D) in 1980 to explain how emotions were related.

Emotions are short-lived, feeling arousal-purposive-expressive phenomena that assist us to adjust to the opportunities and challenges we face right the way through important life events[factual?]. Emotions are also biological responses, energy-mobilizing reactions that train the body for change to whatever situation one faces. LeDoux (1995) states that emotions are physiological processes, having no alternative but to be understood fully without considering the structural and functional aspects of the physical underlying mechanisms (as cited in Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999)[explain?].

Lazarus believes that thought is a necessary condition of emotion and that emotions prioritise behaviour in ways to optimise adjustment to the demands we face (Reeve 2009). Five characteristics of emotions place them at the centre of our lives. Firstly, acute emotions and other affective states, such as moods, divulge what is individually valuable to us and help as a barometer of how well or poorly we are performing in moving forward our most cherished values, goals, and beliefs[factual?]. For example, when events go wrong, we may feel anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, envy, or jealousy, each of which reveals a different harm or threat. Secondly, emotions are among the most obvious characteristics of our ongoing relationships with family members, lovers, friends, co-workers, competitors, and even some short-term social contacts. For example, emotions have always been a key theme of literature, drama, and cinema, in the aspect of stories about people having difficulties adapting to the demands and opportunities of everyday living (Lazarus, 2006).

Thirdly, emotions enable or worsen interpersonal relationships, mainly intimate ones, as anger can challenge affection and lead to retribution. Guilt and anxiety can also cause problems where it can undermine the determination to achieve something or to assert oneself such as shame similarly can lead to anger or can mask the truth[grammar?]. For example, there is no more useful coping skill than understanding how to deal with interpersonal relationships, particularly when these relationships are problematic[factual?]. Fourthly, if we think we can understand what has triggered an emotion in others or ourselves, the process concerned can be obscure, particularly with regard to the emotion’s deepest and most inaccessible personal reserves. For example, while some of us are more open than others, we are usually unwilling to reveal to others our inner selves in case the truth confirms socially harmful. Lastly, emotions can be challenging to control, particularly when they are intense. Emotional control is one of the functions of coping. For example, we may know the dangers of expressing anger toward someone we care about, but when we are triggered, the immediate impulse to react to the offence may be too strong to manage, and so we attack. This can result in a mutual escalation of anger until it develops into a rage, which can proceed to long-term psychological or physical injury to one or both participants (Lazarus, 2006).

Research - Emotion and Mood

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This importance on the origins of emotions is obvious across a wide span of academic approaches to emotion. Accordingly, evolutionary theorists offer historical versions of emotion by distinguishing their own origins in functionally equivalent reactions of other species and in distinguishing how biologically based, genetically programed emotions experienced selection pressures, or threats to survival, species to the physical and social environment of human evolution. Research on emotion has increased a great deal over the years, beginning with William James’s famous essay, ``What is an emotion?’’ (1884). Since this time there has been substantial attention given to recording what emotions are, describing the appraisal and experiential processes, behaviours and action tendencies, and physiological accompanying of emotion (Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999).

For instance, Darwin treated the emotions as separate discrete entities, or modules, such as anger, fear, disgust, etc. and any[say what?] different kinds of research that included neuroscience, perception and cross-cultural evidence show that Darwin's conceptualization of emotions as separate discrete entities is correct[factual?]. Of course, each emotion also varies on attributes such as intensity or acceptability, which can be considered as dimensions that describe differences within each discrete emotion (Ekman, 1984). Whereas[grammar?], the German physician Wilhelm Wundt proposed an alternative view of emotion about a decade later. Wundt wrote about variations in dimensions or continua of pleasantness and activity or intensity. This very different conceptualization enjoyed popularity in twentieth-century psychology, with Schlosberg (1941) the major proponent in the mid-century, then adopted by Russell at the end of the last century (Ekman, 2009). As such the biological, biochemical, and neural substrates of emotion, as well as neuropsychological characteristics of emotional expressions, continued to be important and active areas of research (Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999).

Research study

Indeed, it appears likely that emotion and mood are distinct along more than one condition, and it is easy to see how a difference in their individual underlying physiological processes would lead to differences in phenomenal experience. This in turn leads to differences in expression, behaviour, and linguistic descriptions of the two states. A considerable feature of emotion-mood differences in the literature is that none of them are by published data (Beedie, Terry & Lane, 2010).

A study was conducted by Beedie, Terry and Lane who adopted a ‘folk psychology’ perspective for the purpose of investigating non-academic [missing something?] to distinguish between emotion and mood and then they compared the emergent distinctions to those previously proposed in the academic literature. The method they used was to ask participants a question: ‘What is the difference between emotion and mood’. There were 106 participants made up of male = 55 and female = 51. The recruited participants were from a mostly educated to degree level or above. The reason for this was the researchers thought that less educated participants would not be able to provide emotion-mood distinctions 'eloquently' (Beedie, Terry & Lane, 2010).

The results

Results showed that participants described emotion and mood as distinct phenomena in expressions of how they were established in phenomenal experience, and how they influenced on behaviour. While 16 different distinctions were reported, significant agreement was evident among respondents about the nature of the differences. For example, most participants who cited controllability as a distinction agreed that emotion is less controllable than mood. Similarly, authors in the academic literature, although not agreeing on the specific criteria by which to distinguish emotion from mood, tended to agree on the direction of the various distinctions[explain?]. Moreover, academic and non-academic views were also generally in accord about the direction of emotion-mood differences, agreeing that emotions are more intense, brief, volatile, etc. than moods. The aim of the paper was to present data that must prove useful to researcher[grammar?] interested in progressing a distinct scientific distinction between emotion and mood than is what’s available (Beedie, Terry & Lane, 2010).

A link has been provided if you want to read more of this study: Distinction between emotion and mood

Theories - Emotion and Mood

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There are a large range of theories on emotion and mood. I have outlined two of the most important ones that have significantly changed the course of the psychology world.

Two-factory theory

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The Two-factor theory of emotion (also referred to as the Shachter-Singer theory of emotion) was designed by researchers Stanley Schachter and Jerome E. Singer (1962). It was named 'two-factor' because they believed that there were two factors that underscored all emotional experiences. At the time an emotion is felt, a physiological arousal becomes known and the person uses the environment to seek an emotional cue to make sense of the arousal. This can cause the person to misinterpret the emotions based on the body’s physiological state. The cognitive component comes into play when the brain does not know why it is feeling an emotion therefore it relies on external stimuli for direction on how to name that emotion (Schachter & Singer, 1962).

James-Lange Theory

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[[[Wikipedia:James–Lange theory#cite note-2|The|James-Lange theory]]] claims that all emotion is from the presence of a stimulus, which induces a physiological response (such as muscular tension), a rise in heart rate, perspiration, and dryness of mouth. This physical arousal causes a person to feel a certain emotion. The theory explores the emotion as a secondary feeling, indirectly initiated by the primary feeling, which is the physiological response caused by the presence of a stimulus. The specific pathway involved in the experience of emotion was also described by James. He stated that an object has an effect on a sense organ, which relays the information it is receiving to the cerebral cortex. The brain then sends this information to the muscles and viscera, which causes them to respond. Finally, impulses from the muscles and viscera are sent back to the cortex, transforming the object from an "object-simply apprehended" to an "object-emotionally felt." James explained that his theory went against common sense. For example, while most would think the order of emotional experience would be that a person sees a bear, becomes afraid, and runs away, James thought that first the person has a physiological response to the bear, such as trembling, and then becomes afraid and runs. According to James, the physiological response comes first, and it is followed by an emotion and a reaction. James believed that these responses were "reflex type" reactions which are built in: "Instinctive reactions and emotional expressions shade imperceptibly into each other. Every object that excites an instinct excites an emotion as well."

What is Mood

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Mood is defined as a temporary state of mind or spirits (Oxford Dictionary, 1994). Moods can be broken down into two distinct groups:

Positive and negative mood. The human brain and body have been shaped by natural selection to perform this affective categorization and to respond accordingly. Affective categorizations and responses are so significant that organisms have rudimentary reflexes for categorizing and approaching or withdrawing from specific classes of stimuli and for giving metabolic support for these actions (Davis 1997, LeDoux 1995 as cited in Cacioppo & Gardner, 1999).

Positive mood

Negative mood

Positive affect state

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Signifies to the everyday, low-level general state of feeling good. For example, walking through a park, listening to music, or making progress on your assignment. Positive affect is a person’s present level of pleasure, enthusiastic and progress toward aims. People who feel high positive affect characteristically feel enthusiastic and experience energy, alertness, and optimism, where those who feel low positive affect characteristically feel lethargic and bored. Where an emotion is to capture your attention, positive affect is more subtle (Reeve, 2009)[grammar?].

Negative affect state

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Negative mood is when people feel high negative affect normally experience dissatisfaction, nervousness, and irritability, whereas those who fellow negative affect are calm and relaxed (Reeve, 2009).

Note: Both positive and negative affect relate not only to moods but also to wide-ranging cognitive, multinational, biological and behavioural systems (Reeve, 2009).

Everyday mood

Positive affect Negative affect
Pleasurable engagement Unpleasant engagement
Reward driven, appetitive motivational system Punishment-driven aversive motivational system
Approach behaviour Withdrawal behaviour
Dopaminergic pathways Serotonergic & noradrenergic pathways

Based on Reeve, (2009), pp. 322-344)

The difference between emotion and moods

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Moods develop from processes that are vague and are at times unknown (Goldsmith as Cited in Reeve, 2009). Davidson (1994) believes that moods typically influence cognition and guide what the person thinks about (as cited in Reeve, 2009), whereas Ekman maintains moods emanate from mental events that last for hours or days (Ekman as cited in Reeve, 2009).

Emotions may be characterised from moods (Parkinson, Totterdell, Briner, & Reynolds, 1996). One such feature is duration (Nowlis & Nowlis, 1956); mood is the "pervasive and sustained 'emotional climate,'" and emotions are "fluctuating changes in emotional 'weather'". Another feature is that emotions normally have exact objects and give rise to ‘behavioural response tendencies’ related to these objects (Frijda, 1993; lsen, 1984; Lazarus, 1991a (as cited in Frijda, 1999). By contrast, moods are more dispersed (Morris, 1989), and while they may offer rise to broad action tendencies such as approach or withdrawal (Lang, 1995), moods bias our thinking more than they bias our action (Davidson, 1994; Fiedler, 1988) (as cited in Frijda, 1999). Experiences considered to be ‘emotions’ usually involve affect. They share these qualia with other experiences not usually considered; emotions’, notably moods and particular sensory experiences, like sweet tastes and foul smells. One feature that establishes them separately is that emotions include an object. Emotions are ‘intentional states’. [grammar?] Meaning that they are felt to be ‘about’ something, whether it is a person, objects, or an event. They also involve a certain relationship to that object. This may well be the main aspect that distinguishes emotions from moods. One may know what caused one’s mood, but feeling and behavioural impulse are not directed toward or away from the causal object. The major aspect differentiating emotions from sensory affect, and from non-emotional states, is the experience of a shift in control precedence (Frijda, 1999)[explain?].

Fridja (1994) claims that while both mood and emotion are sources of information to the person, they vary in what they indicate. Emotions signal responses to certain ‘affectivity’ important events, and mood being a cue to one’s current “global state of action readiness” and/or “evaluation of the life situation”. The majority of the existing efforts at differentiating between mood and emotion depend on antecedent and opinion (Frijda, 1999). An example of this is when you express a ‘pleasure of the mind to someone’, you might also refer to moods (happy vs sad) and stages of arousal (excited vs cals). Mood and levels of arousal vary from emotions in a significant way. They are not deliberate, are not concentrated on objects but moods and levels of arousal are related to emotions. Moods share at least one quality with emotions: they both include affect. Additionally, levels of arousal are inevitable consequences of moods and emotions (Frijda, 1999).

Criteria Emotions Moods
Antecedents Significant life events Ill-defined
Action-specificity Specific Influence cognition
Time course Short-lived Long-lived

Based on Reeve (2009, p.322)

Click here to see a YouTube clip explaining the difference between moods and emotions.


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The topic "what is the differences and similarities between emotion and mood" has evoked a great deal of debate over the years [grammar?] either separate topics or both. There is distinct difference in emotion and mood yet there are a lot of similarities as well. As a result this is what we have learned:

  • Emotions are short-lived. Feeling-arousal-purposive that assists us with adapting to opportunities and challenges.
  • Moods last longer and they influence behaviour and direct specific courses and action[say what?].

History shows that things change over time as researchers have discovered new ways study the emotions and moods of both animals and people. The biggest difference is that emotions and moods arise from different causes. Where emotion emerge from life situations, moods on the other hand arise from processes that are ill-defined.


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Beedie, C., Terry, P., Lane, A. (2005) Distinctions between emotion and mood, Cognition and Emotion, 19:6, 847-878, DOI: 10.1080/02699930541000057

boingcd. (2012, 28 March). Moods and Emotion [Video File] Retrieved from

Cacioppo, J. T. Gardner. W. (1999) Emotion Annual Review. Psychol. 1999.50:191–214

Dacher Keltner & James J. Gross. (1999) Functional Accounts of Emotions, Cognition and Emotion, 13:5, 467-480, DOI: 10.1080/026999399379140

Dolan, R. J. (2002). Emotion, Cognition, and Behavior., Science, New Series, Vol. 298, No. 5596 (Nov. 8, 2002), pp. 1191-1194 Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science., Stable URL:,

Ekman, Paul. (2009)., Published 2 November 2009 doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0189 Philosophical. Transactions of The Royal Society Biological Sciences., 12 December 2009 vol. 364 no. 1535

Emotions at Work: Theory, Research and Applications for Management editted by Roy L. Payne, Cary L. Cooper

Frijda, N. H. (1999). Emotions and Hedonic Experience. Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology,.

Lazarus, R. (2006)., Emotions and Interpersonal Relationships: Toward a Person-Centered Conceptualization of Emotions and Coping.,

Martin, L., Ward., Achee J. W., and Wyer, R.,Jr. (1993)., Mood as Input: People Have to Interpret the Motivational Implications of Their Moods., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Date: March 1, 1993.

Reeve, J. (2009) Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.) USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Sizer, L. (2000). Towards a computational theory of mood. The British journal for the philosophy of science, 51(4), 743-770.

Schachter, S., & Singer, J. (1962). Cognitive, Social, and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State. Psychological Review, 69, pp. 379–399.

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