Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Hormones and emotion

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Hormones and emotion:
How do hormones affect emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

There is a synchronicity in the way hormones and emotions affect us in our everyday lives. The important role of shaping and motivating social interactions is influenced by our emotions (Gilam & Hendler, 2016). Our interactions with others in our environment not only make us passive observers but also allow us to convey our thoughts, feelings, and intended actions towards other people and their thoughts, feelings, and actions (Gilam & Hendler, 2016). Adapting our behaviours and cognitions within the unique dynamics of the situation also influences how we perceive not only our own emotions but of those around us (Gilam & Hendler, 2016). However, during these social interactions, people are aware of themselves with other people and may alter how they present themselves to influence the kind of impression that is being formed of them (Gilam & Hendler, 2016).

The Concept of Motivation[edit | edit source]

Did you know?

The term motivation is derived from a Latin term ‘movere’, which means ‘movement of activity’.

The nature of motivation primarily pivots on describing what “moves” the behaviour. Nearly all our daily expressions and explanations of behaviour are stated concerning motives. Why do you go to school every day? You might have any reason for this behaviour, like as you want to educate yourself, to make your parents happy or you want to learn, and get a good job or you want to make friends, and so on. Depending on the combinations of these or another reason, you will decide to go for higher education as well. Hence, your motives are helping you to choose your next steps. They also help in making predictions about behaviour. You will automatically work hard in every situation if you have a very strong desire for achievement. Hence, motives are the states that helps us to make certain predictions about the behaviours in different situations. Putting differently, it can be said that motivation is one of the decisive factors of behaviour. The needs, goals, desires, incentives and instincts fall under the large clump of motivation.

The Cycle of Motivation[edit | edit source]

The cycle of motivation starts from the “needs” which is lack of some necessity. Needs further leads to “drive”, which is a state of tension and it leads to the arousal of a goal that is to be achieved. When a person achieves the thing they desire, they return to their balanced state. Is there any classification of motives? Is there any biological base that explains the different kinds of motives? What will happen if motives remain unachieved? How is motivation related to hormones? These few questions will be further discussed in the section below.

The Different Types of Motives[edit | edit source]

There are two types of motives. They are:

  1. The psychosocial motives
  2. The biological motives

The psychosocial motives are principally learned by the individual’s interaction and relation with different external factors (Gilam & Hendler, 2016). The biological motives, on the other hand, are lead mostly by the physiological mechanisms of the bodies. Biological motives are also known as physiological motives.

Table 1.1 Difference between biological motives and psychosocial motives

Biological motives Psychosocial motives
The biological motives focus on the biological causes and innate of motivation, such as brain structures, hormones and neurotransmitters. For example, thirst, hunger and sex. The psychosocial motives focus on the social, environmental and psychological factors. It emphasis on how these factors interact with each other in order to produce motivation. For example, desire for achievement, success, affiliation, curiosity and power.

However, both are interdependent on each other in terms of situations. For example, in some situations the psychosocial factors might trigger the motives in an organism and in other situations the motives might be triggered by the biological factors as well. Hence, no one is completely biological or completely psychosocial in nature - in fact, they are triggered in an individual by various combinations.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Human motivation has long been considered as the most discussed subject by psychologists. Therefore, there are several views on human motivation but the most popular one is given by Abraham Maslow. He ventured to present a picture of various human behaviours by grouping their needs in an order or hierarchy. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is so popular due to its theoretical value that is commonly known as “Theory of Self-actualization”.

Maslow’s model conceived as a pyramid. The bottom of this hierarchy consists of the basis biological or physiological needs that are basically necessary for survival, such as thirst and hunger. The need to become free from threatened danger arises when these needs are met. The next is the need to seek out others for love. When these needs are achieved, the individual struggles for developing a sense of self-worth. The top most need in this hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. The term ‘self-actualization’ refers to socially responsive, self-awareness, creative, open to novelty, spontaneous, and challenge. The individual also has an awareness of humour and potential for extensive interpersonal relationships.

The physiological or the biological needs in this hierarchy are influenced until they are satisfied - once satisfied, the higher level needs i.e., the safety, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization needs tends to occupy attention and efforts. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that only a few people reach the highest level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as most people are mainly concerned with the needs of the lower levels.

The Concept of Emotions[edit | edit source]

Joy, sorrow, love, hope, anger, excitement, are all experienced by us. In psychology, the term ‘emotion’ refers to a conscious experience that is primarily characterized by biological reactions, psychophysiological expressions and mental conditions. It is often considered as the synonyms of ‘feeling’ and ‘mood’ (Scarantino, 2012). A feeling is the pain or pleasure feature of emotion and mood and represents the affective state of a period of time but it is of lesser intensity than emotion. It is mainly associated with mood, personality, temperament and motivation. Neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, cortisol, noradrenaline and oxytocin often affect emotion. Emotion is generally a driving force behind positive or negative motivation. It is a complicated model of cognitive interpretation, arousal and personal feeling. Emotions move an individual internally and this process requires the involvement of psychological and physiological reactions.

Figure 2. Plutchik's wheel of emotions.

According to Scheff (2015), researchers use the word emotion as a vernacular word and assume the general public is clear about the meaning of emotion although there is no agreement over the term emotion itself. John Dewey, an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, made the proposition that emotion involves bodily preparations for internal actions that have been delayed (Scheff, 2015). To explore some theories surrounding emotion, see James-Lange theory or Richard Lazarus as a start.

Emotions are essential to survival – they are a complex chain of connected events that begin with a stimulus and involve feelings, psychological changes, and impulses to action and goal-directed behaviour (Plutchik, 2001). According to Robert Plutchik (2001), emotions are not simply linear events but feedback processes and additionally, defines emotion as a homeostatic process where behaviour mediates progress towards equilibrium. Plutchik developed a psychoevolutionary theory of emotion and curated a wheel of emotions which is a three-dimensional circumplex model.

The eight spokes seen in figure 2 represents the eight primary emotion dimensions defined by Plutchik and include anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, and disgust. There are three characteristics to this structural model (Plutchik, 2005):

  1. there are intensity differences for each emotion – for example, admiration, trust, and acceptance represent different levels of intensity of the basic emotion of trust.
  2. the degree of similarity among emotions whereby the clusters of emotional terms representative to the basic emotions appear close to one another.
  3. the words used to describe emotions also express opposite feelings or actions – for example, joy and sadness are on opposite sides of the circumplex.

Thus, the three-dimensional circumplex model is made up of eight primary emotion dimensions and are arranged as four pairs of opposites. The degree of intensity is heightened in the center of the circle and disperses out with less intensity. The rings of circles represent the degrees of similarity among the emotions.

An emotion is an intuitive feeling and the practice of emotion differs from person to person (Scheff, 2015). Several attempts have been made in order identify basic emotions and it has been observed that about six types of emotions are experienced at any given time during the course of a day. These emotions are surprise, disgust, fear, anger, happiness, and sadness. However, Izard has stated that there are ten sets of basic emotions and they include happiness, anger, disgust, surprise, fear, guilt, shame, contempt, excitement and interest. The mixture or combinations of these emotions further results in other emotions (Izard, 2013).

Emotions differ in terms of their quality (fear, happiness and sadness) and their intensity (low or high). The circumstantial contexts and the intuitive factors have a great impact on the experience of emotions (Thompson, 2013). Such factors are personality, gender and psychopathology. There are several evidences that show that females experience almost every emotion but the feeling of anger is less intense in them than in males. The males are vulnerable to experience high frequency and intensity of anger than females. This kind of gender difference has led to the social roles that are attached to males (competitiveness) and females (caring and affiliation).

Pop-Up Questions!

Choose the correct answer and click "submit":

1 How many emotions are in Robert Plutchik's three-dimensional circumplex model?


2 Which of the following is not an emotion?


Expression of Emotions[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Emotional expressions.

Emotions are internal expressions and are not directly observable. They are mainly inferred by verbal and non-verbal cues. These expressions represent a way of communication and help people convey their own emotional state and also to understand another’s emotional condition as well.

Verbal communication includes spoken words and other different vocal features such as loudness and pitch of the voice. While non-verbal communication includes proximal behaviour (physical distance at the time of interaction) and facial expression. However, facial expressions are the most usual way of emotional communication as it enables a person to convey the intensity of their emotional state.

It plays a very important part of our daily lives. Evolutionary psychologist Charles Darwin has stated that, for basic emotions, the facial expressions are inborn and there are various pieces of evidence in support of his view on this.

Roles of Hormones in Emotions[edit | edit source]

Watch this!

Check out this YouTube video to gain an insight or refresh your memory on what hormones are (CrashCourse, 2015) (YouTube video 10:24 minutes).

What Are Hormones?[edit | edit source]

Human beings are incorporated with several varieties of hormones that are primarily produced by a specific group of cells called the endocrine glands. The word “hormone” is derived from a Greek word, “hormao”, meaning to ‘set in motion’. Hormones are the powerful chemical messengers that are released in small amounts by the endocrine glands and they are transported by the circulatory system. They are responsible for the regulation of normal functions of the different organs and tissues that are present inside the human body. They travel through the blood and transport sensory messages to our brain. They help maintain homeostasis by controlling the almost every function of the body. Hormones may affect both positive and negative emotions. The positive emotions include love, happiness, surprise etc (Tong & Jia, 2017). Whereas, the negative emotions are composed of hatred, sadness, anger and disgust. Positive behaviour may lead to rebellious behaviour or elated behaviour. On the other hand, the negative emotions may lead to be irritability, aggression or may consist of some other negative attributes (Todaro et al., 2013).

How Do Hormones Affect Emotion?[edit | edit source]

There are some hormones that are especially responsible for the regulation of emotions and controlling them. They are oxytocin, testosterone, oestrogen and thyroid hormones.

Oxytocin[edit | edit source]

Oxytocin is also known as love hormones. They are produced by the hypothalamus and are deposited by the pituitary gland. It is responsible for reproductive activities and emotional bonding. It influences the interpersonal bonding, psychosocial behaviour, and trust in relationships (Bernaerts et al., 2016). It has the ability to change the neurological “mirroring” of pain experienced by others. In addition to these, study has shown that oxytocin has led to more trusting behaviour in human beings. It is involved in managing stress responses as well.

Testosterone[edit | edit source]

Testosterone is a very important sex hormone that plays a vital function in puberty. In the case of males, testosterone regulates the sex drive and helps in the management of fat distribution, bone and muscle mass, and strength. It also helps in the production of sperm and red blood cells. However, women also produce testosterone but in small quantities (Zilioli, Caldbick & Watson, 2014). Testosterone is an androgen hormone (responsible for regulating the development and maintenance of male characteristics), which is closely related to aggression in teenage males. Higher amounts of testosterone hormones lead to emotions like sadness, rage, fear or anxiety, which affects the vulnerability of aggressive behaviour in adolescents. According to some scholars, a particular situation may cause fear to have either an activating or inhibiting effect on aggression. In addition, there are some emotions, which can have resistant or inhibitory affects on aggression including happiness and exhilaration. These hormones affect negative emotions in aggression and are more likely to be expressed through rebellious and irritable behaviour more than physical attacks.

Oestrogen[edit | edit source]

Oestrogen are female hormones. These are sex hormones where low levels trigger sadness, which can further lead to depressive symptoms in women (Backes, 2015). The cause of this emotional variation increases other neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (Backes, 2015). The short-term mood changes affected through emotion are anger, sadness, and happiness (Backes, 2015). High levels of oestrogen have the ability to enhance or impair a female's ability to recognise facial expressions (Olsson, Kopsida, Sorjonen, &Savic, 2016). Several studies have shown that oestrogen levels in men affect their emotional reactivity (Olsson, Kopsida, Sorjonen, &Savic, 2016). Too much oestrogen may lead to breast tenderness, water retention, anxiety and abdominal weight (Toffoltto et al. 2014).

Thyroid hormones[edit | edit source]

An individual is prone to depression in cases of missing or drastically reduced thyroid hormones, also resulting in a lack of energy in an individual. These hormones stimulate the cell function in body cells and is transported by hormone receptors. It is responsible for the irritating nature of a person (Falgarone et al. 2013). When the stimulation of thyroid hormone receptors is normal, symptoms reduce and the individual feels stability again.

Test Yourself!

1 Fill in the blanks:

Low levels of

triggers sadness.

levels of oestrogen has the ability to


a female's ability to recognise facial expressions.

is also known as a love hormone. It has the ability to change the neurological

of pain experienced by others.

is an androgen hormone and

amounts can lead to emotions like sadness, rage, fear or anxiety.
Drastically reduced amount of

hormones result in a lack of energy in an individual.

2 Hormones are responsible for the regulation and control of emotions.


Case Study: Troubled Timmy

Timmy is experiencing sadness when he is home alone but when he is amongst his peers he feels anxious.

What hormone is affecting his emotions? How?

Predict what may happen to Timmy’s behaviour if his emotions are left undealt with.

What Are Neurotransmitters?[edit | edit source]

Figure 4. Release of neurotransmitters.

The brain structures and neural circuits are involved in the emotions that are regulated by a myriad of neurotransmitters. They are the building blocks of emotions and moods of human beings and control every system of the human body (Hermans et al. 2014). There are several neurotransmitters that affect the human emotions. They are dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin.

Serotonin[edit | edit source]

One of the most popularly studied neurotransmitter, the effects of serotonin on human emotions are generally involved in basic emotional arousal to secondary emotions. These hormones result in the feeling of guilt and shame (Terbeck, Savulescu, Chesterman, & Cowen, 2016). It is produced by the amino acid called tryptophan in the midbrain in a total of two bio-chemical process or steps. Such bio-chemical steps require vitamin B6 and B12, iron, niacin, magnesium and folic acids as co-factors.

Dopamine[edit | edit source]

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter processed in the frontal lobes of the brain. It is necessary for learning and are primarily involved in drive, attention, focus, clear thinking and memory (Prossin et al. 2016). Lack of dopamine may lead to difficulties with memory. It is synthesized and regulated by the brain.

Noradrenaline[edit | edit source]

Noradrenaline belongs to the chemical class of catecholamines and mediates the "flight or fight" response when fearful stimuli has been elicited (Nicholson, Bryant & Felmingham, 2014). This response is caused by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system that facilitates the physiological responses of stress and acute anxiety (Terbeck, Savulescu, Chesterman, & Cowen, 2016). It is identified that noradrenaline is involved in stress responses, stress pathology, and consequences of stress exposure (Galvin, 1985). While stress may not be an emotion, it is a precursor for other emotions involved with stress (Lovallo, 2015). Additionally, it affects the basic primary emotional arousal such as fear and aggression within the limbic system. Noradrenaline has a mood-elevating and energizing action. It is also involved in long-term memory.

Hormones and Motivation[edit | edit source]

Did you know?

Hormones play a very important role in verifying whether a person really feels motivated with something.

The two important areas with inborn motivation are sex and hunger. Sex and hunger are essential for human beings in order to reproduce and stay healthy.

Sex[edit | edit source]

Sex drive is one of the most powerful drives in human beings as well as animals. Motivation is needed in order to engage in sexual activities and this factor strongly influences human behaviour (Wallen, 2013). Although sex is not a biological motive, its importance is less than other primary motives such as hunger and thirst. The reason behind it is:

  1. Sex is not mandatory for the survival of an individual.
  2. Homeostasis is not the aim of sexual activities.
  3. The sex drive is not in-born and it develops with the growing age.

In the case of animals, sex is dependent on physiological situations and in the case of humans, it takes place biologically but sometimes it becomes tough to categorize sex absolutely as a biological drive. Some psychologists have suggested that the potency of sexual urge or drive is dependable to chemical substances that are flowing in the blood stream, called sex hormones. There are several studies on both animals and human beings in relation to sex hormones and they have concluded that gonads are responsible for sexual motivation in human beings. Other endocrine glands like pituitary glands and the adrenal glands are also responsible for sexual motivation.

Hunger[edit | edit source]

Consuming food is important for the survival and existence of humans and animals. When a person is hungry, they dominate everything for food. The need for food or satiate hunger motivates the person to consume food. Psychologists have stated that there are several events taking place inside and outside of the body, which inhibits hunger (Rolls, 2016). Usually the stomach contraction signifies that the stomach is empty and needs food and there is a low concentration of protein, fats and glucose in the body. The liver also signifies that there is a lack of body fuel by transmitting nerve impulses in brain. Smell, taste and appearance of the food also results in an urge to eat. You may observe that none of the above alone will make you feel that you are hungry. All of these in combination give that feeling of hunger. Hence, it may be concluded that food consumption is regulated by the complex feeding satiety system that is located in the liver, hypothalamus and other parts of the body. Psychologists have also stated that several changes in metabolic functions in the body may also result in hunger. The two divisions of the hypothalamus involved in the feeling of hunger are the ventromedial hypothalamus and the lateral hypothalamus. The lateral hypothalamus is accounted as the excitatory part.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Emotions are essential to survival – they are a complex chain of connected events that begin with a stimulus and involve feelings, psychological changes, and impulses to action and goal-directed behaviour. Hormones affect emotions in order for us to convey our thoughts, feelings, and intended actions towards other people and also influences how we perceive not only our own emotions but of those around us. This chapter helps develop the understanding of hormones and emotions providing a brief insight of what hormones and emotions are, and also discusses the roles of hormones in different human emotions.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Backes, M. (2015). Emotions and Hormones: Short term mood changes in relation to short term estradiol level changes. Forskerspirer, 1-11.

Bernaerts, S., Berra, E., Wenderoth, N., &Alaerts, K. (2016). Influence of oxytocin on emotion recognition from body language: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 72, 182-189.

Falgarone, G., Heshmati, H. M., Cohen, R., & Reach, G. (2013). Mechanisms in endocrinology: role of emotional stress in the pathophysiology of Graves' disease. European Journal of Endocrinology, 168(1), R13-R18.

Gilam, G., & Hendler, T. (2016). With love, from me to you: Embedding social interactions in affective neuroscience. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 590-601.

Hermans, E. J., Henckens, M. J., Joëls, M., & Fernández, G. (2014). Dynamic adaptation of large-scale brain networks in response to acute stressors. Trends in neurosciences, 37(6), 304-314.

Izard, C. E. (2013). Human emotions. Springer Science & Business Media.

Lovallo, W. R. (2015). Stress and health: Biological and psychological interactions. Sage publications.

Nicholson, E. L., Bryant, R. A., & Felmingham, K. L. (2014). Interaction of noradrenaline and cortisol predicts negative intrusive memories in posttraumatic stress disorder. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 112, 204-211.

Olsson, A., Kopsida, E., Sorjonen, K., &Savic, I. (2016). Testosterone and Estrogen Impact Social Evaluations and Vicarious Emotions: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study. Emotion, 16(4), 515-523.

Plutchik, R. (2001). The Nature of Emotions. American Scientist, 89, 344-350.

Plutchik, R. (2005). Book Review. Psychology & Marketing, 22(1), 97-101.

Prossin, A. R., Koch, A. E., Campbell, P. L., Barichello, T., Zalcman, S. S., & Zubieta, J. K. (2016). Acute experimental changes in mood state regulate immune function in relation to central opioid neurotransmission: a model of human CNS-peripheral inflammatory interaction. Molecular psychiatry, 21(2), 243-251.

Rolls, E. T. (2016). Motivation Explained: Ultimate and proximate accounts of hunger and appetite. Advances in Motivation Science, 3, 187-249.

Scarantino, A. (2012). How to Define Emotions Scientifically. Emotion Review, 358-368.

Scheff, T. (2015). What are emotions? A physical theory. Review of General Psychology, 19(4), 458-464.

Susman, E. J., Inoff-Germain, G., Nottelmann, E. D., Loriaux, D. L., Cutler, Jr., G. B., & Chrousos, G. P. (1987). Hormones, Emotional Dispositions, and Aggressive Attributes in Young Adolescents. Child Development, 58(4), 1114-1134.

Terbeck, S., Savulescu, J., Chesterman, L., & Cowen, P. (2016). Noradrenaline effects on social behaviour, intergroup relations, and moral decisions. Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 66, 54-60.

Thompson, J. G. (2013). The psychobiology of emotions. Springer Science & Business Media.

Todaro, J. F., Shen, B. J., Niaura, R., Spiro, A., & Ward, K. D. (2013). Effect of negative emotions on frequency of coronary heart disease (The Normative Aging Study). The American journal of cardiology, 92(8), 901-906.

Toffoletto, S., Lanzenberger, R., Gingnell, M., Sundström-Poromaa, I., & Comasco, E. (2014). Emotional and cognitive functional imaging of estrogen and progesterone effects in the female human brain: a systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 50, 28-52.

Tong, E. M., & Jia, L. (2017). Positive Emotion, Appraisal, and the Role of Appraisal Overlap in Positive Emotion Co-Occurrence. Emotion, 17(1), 40-54.

Wallen, K. (2013). Women are not as unique as thought by some: Comment on “Hormonal predictors of sexual motivation in natural menstrual cycles,” by Roney and Simmons. Hormones and behavior, 63(4), 634-635.

Zilioli, S., Caldbick, E., & Watson, N. V. (2014). Testosterone reactivity to facial display of emotions in men and women. Hormones and behavior, 65(5), 461-468.

External links[edit | edit source]