Dimensions of Emotions, Emotional Intelligence, Importance of Emotions in Organisational Behaviour, Social Processes and Behavioral Issues, MS-21

Discuss various dimensions of emotions. What is emotional intelligence? Briefly discuss its importance in organisational behaviour in present Scenario, citing suitable examples.

Among the various attempts to understand and define emotion, a number of approaches can be identified. Darwin was perhaps the first to systematically identify and categorize a comprehensive range of emotions. He considered emotions to represent mechanisms for the adaptation and survival of the individual. And this evolutionary function of emotion is still acknowledged by some contemporary writers in the field of emotion. Another perspective is to consider emotions in behaviorist terms, seeing them essentially as states elicited by 'the delivery, omission, or termination of rewarding or punishing stimuli'. This approach is based on the principle of a simple pleasure/pain dichotomy, the various possible emotions representing seeking out or avoidance responses of an individual to the relevant positive or negative stimuli. A variation of this view is to focus primarily on emotions as motivators of behavior or transformations of dispositions to act. Within this framework, emotions are seen as instrumental in influencing the choices made by an individual in response to certain stimuli.

Emotion can also be regarded as some combination (with various emphases and sequences) of physiological, psychological and psychomotor components. James was an early proponent of this general approach, defining emotion in terms of the feeling of the 'bodily expressions' which follow the perception of an 'exciting facf. Other variations identify 'affective' and 'somatic' dimensions of emotion, 'experiential, behavioral and physiological' aspects, or 'corporeal' and 'cognitive' dimensions.

The above approaches all construct emotion as an essentially individual phenomenon. Emotions, however, can also be viewed in socio-cultural terms,

Goleman, for example, describing them as things we catch from each other 'as though they were some kind of social virus.' Denzin sees emotions as 'social acts involving interactions with self and interactions with others,' while for Averill an emotion is 'a transitory social role' which exists in both an interpersonal and a socio-cultural context.

The most recent developments in the understanding of emotion have been in the field of neurobiology. Rather than considering emotions as either psychological states or social phenomena, here they are studied in terms of their corresponding brain function. Clinical studies of the brain have identified emotion as being associated with complex biological processes in which neurological, biochemical, and sociocultural factors all play a part. Evidence from such studies shows how emotions 'retain a primacy that subtly pervades our mental life...hav[ing] a say on how the rest of the brain and cognition go about their business'.

As well as consideration of the purpose and function of emotions there is also the question of just what emotions exist. Darwin identified over thirty different emotions which he categorized into seven groups, clustering similar emotions together. James identified 'coarser (grief, fear, rage and love) and 'subtler emotions 'whose organic reverberation is less obvious and strong'. Similar, more recent classification systems include Damasio's 'primary' (happiness, sadness, anger, fear and disgust) and 'secondary' emotions. The latter are 'subtle variations' of the primary ones and include emotions such as euphoria, ecstasy, melancholy and wistfulness. Averill proposed a system of emotional classes or 'paradigms', 'impulsive', 'conflictive' and 'transcendental'. However, some emotion theorists, James and Averill included, consider that there are numerous, and perhaps endless, possibilities of emotions, these being determined to some extent by the socio-cultural context in which they occur.

These various constructions of emotion each provide particular insights into what is a complex phenomenon. Experiential knowing of emotion is part of the human condition. However, a clear, agreed upon definition seems to be not easily arrived at. As LeDoux said "everyone knows what [emotion] is until they are asked to define it." To the question what are emotions, LeDoux responds "there are many answers. Many of them surprisingly unclear and ill-defined".

The picture of emotions that emerges is diverse and multifaceted. This complexity makes the task of exploring the relationship between emotion and learning a difficult one. Baulking at that task, however, means limiting our understanding of what is happening in the teaching/learning process.


While the oppositional relationship between emotion and cognition is deeply entrenched in our philosophical psyche, this is by no means the whole or only story. Different juxtapositions of cognition and emotion are evident in various teaching/learning theory frameworks. Some of these frameworks recognize the importance of emotion but position the affective domain as being somehow separate from, but nevertheless providing a basis for, functioning in the cognitive domain. In the tradition of Bloom's and Krathwohl, Bloom and Masia's taxonomies of cognitive and affective objectives, the existence of these two educationally relevant domains is acknowledged, but they are positioned as being distinct from each other. This underpinning model persists in studies such as McLeod's review of research into emotion and learning in mathematics, which identifies separate cognitive and affective domains. Shelton, too, writing of the importance of emotion in learning addresses the need to develop certain 'emotional competencies' before learning can proceed satisfactorily. Similarly, Postle talks of the importance of 'emotional competence' in relation to learning. In his terms, learning can be inhibited by emotional incompetence. He draws on Heron's model of multi-modal learning in which action, conceptual and imaginal learning alt depend on the capacity to leam at an emotional level. So, with this approach, emotion is relevant to learning in that it provides a base or substrate out of which healthy cognitive functioning can occur.

Another perspective sees emotion as being associated with cognition in some kind of parallel way. Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences (including intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligences) and Goleman's theory of emotional intelligence both construct emotion as analogous to the more traditional cognitive 'intelligence'. Emotion is somehow like cognition but operating in another, parallel, realm. 'Our emotions have a mind of their own, one which can hold views quite independently of our rational minds'. Within this framework, the Gray-LaViolette ECS (emotional/cognitive structures) theory uses a couple of metaphors (musical tones and woven fabric) to try to express a perceived relationship between emotion and cognition which is perhaps more intertwined than parallel. The ECS model, as with Gardner's and Goleman's theories, acknowledges the existence of emotion in relation to learning, but lacks a clear functional mechanism to connect the two.

So there has been an ongoing, if at times tentative, exploration of the relationship between emotion and cognition. This has led to a growing awareness that, far from being polar opposites, they are in fact inextricably connected. "Cognition is not as logical as it was once thought and emotions are not as illogical. In particular, the field of neurobiology alluded to earlier, has produced clinical evidence of connections between emotion and certain key cognitive processes. The work of Damasio for example has led him to propose that 'there is a particular region in the human brain where systems concerned with emotion/feeling, attention, and working memory interact so intimately that they constitute the source for the energy of both external action (movement) and internal action (thought animation, reasoning)'. This vital connection between emotion and the cognitive processes of attention, memory and decision-making is being recognized by a range of researchers and practitioners. And the practical implications of this are beginning to be felt. Stock, for example, found it 'disquieting' that he had spent so much time on developing a purely cognitive model of performance in organizations. He felt compelled by the research to revise his model, coming to acknowledge that 'all sensory input is processed through our emotional center first...before it is sent to be processed in our rational mind'. The centrality of emotion in many cognitive processes is now being acknowledged. They are seen by some as 'makTJng possible all creative thought, of being ways of disclosing the world for the person', of being 'a sort of biological thermostat [which] activates attention ... which then activates a rich set of problem-solving and response systems', of alerting us to specific kinds of problems, of serving as 'the mind's primary architect'. In fact, of depriving everything.

Despite the historical tradition which discounted the significance of emotion for any serious human endeavor, the 1980s in particular saw a burgeoning of interest in the place of emotion in a whole range of areas. 'Philosophical, anthropological, psychological, and social psychological conceptions of emotion are taking root in the human disciplines'. This interest was reflected in a strand of research into the significance of emotion for learning in the teaching/learning contexts of the time. But teaching and learning occurs now in a wide range of contexts, of particular significance being the incursion of the teaching/learning experience into the online environment. The frontier nature of online teaching and learning provides a stimulus to reconsider educational theory and practice and to question the assumptions underlying these. What is their validity? What is missing?

It has been estimated that around 2 million students are now taking courses online from higher education institutions in the United States. Teaching and teaming online brings with it a whole new and largely unknown set of parameters which have to do with every aspect of being and learning in an online environment. Life online is not the same as life in the face to face world. Our very identity becomes something uncertain and ambiguous. The Internet is a mask of sorts. It hides the color of our skin, the shape and size of our body, its beauty and its blemishes, our age, our accents, our incomes and our fashion sense'. Teaching and learning online can be, in Mezirow's terms, the ultimate disorienting dilemma' where the familiar frameworks and markers of everyday life and learning no longer exist, or at least exist in unfamiliar forms. There has been considerable research into some aspects of this phenomenon, much of it having to do with the comparative effectiveness of different modes of teaching and learning, (including, specifically, the online mode).

As Russell's website indicates, hundreds of such studies show there to be no significant difference in students' performance with variation in the mode of teaching and learning. He argues the futility of carrying out such coarse grained research, maintaining that 'individual differences in learning styles dictate that technology will facilitate teaming for some, but will probably inhibit learning for others'. Other critiques of research in the area claim that the research focuses on the technology, resource efficiency, policy and pedagogy, with little exploration of the student experience and the implications of that. There has, however, been some research into the student experience, and even into the emotions associated with that experience. Kort, Reilly and Pfcard, for example, are attempting to develop a model of emotion related to various phases of learning. They have identified several axes specifying a range of emotional states and hope eventually to devise a computer-based system whereby both learner and teacher can recognize the student's emotional position in relation to learning.

There have also been studies of online learning in which emotion, while not being the major focus, has at least been acknowledged. Martinez has carried out research into online learning and devised a model of learning orientations which 'recognizes a dominant influence of emotions, intentions and social factors on how individuals leam differently.' Some of the research has identified some of the emotions experienced by students studying online. A study by Schaller and colleagues found that students experienced bewilderment and confusion as they attempted to navigate their way through the required learning site. Wegerif reported that students of the Open University were inhibited by feelings of fear and alienation as they experienced the exposure and the isolation that learning online can entail. Ng discovered that some students studying online reported considerable anxiety at communicating electronically, realizing that this form of communication required new social and communication skills. Hara and Kling set out specifically to investigate students' distress associated with studying a web based course. In their study, the expected problem of isolation did not emerge as an issue. They did however, identify considerable frustration experienced by students with the technical aspects of leaning online, with interpreting and following instructions and with managing the enormous amounts of email they were required to deal with. They questioned the apparently positive results of some surveys into online learning, suggesting that students' private revelations sometimes bore considerable contrast to their public responses in which they may be reluctant to express negative attitudes.


While the studies cited above have indicated, at least in a peripheral way? that emotion is associated with learning online, there has been little exploration of the extent, nature and significance of this. The growing body of research and scholarship relating to emotion and learning generally indicates the significant part that emotion plays in learning. Models of learning online are still being developed. It is important that the opportunity not be lost to include the emotional dimension in this development, so that the theory and practice of teaching and learning online can be the richer for it and the more authentic. Research, qualitative and quantitative, large-scale and small should be carried out in a range of teaching and learning settings to inform more fully the theory and practice of teaching and learning online.

This present study is informed by the author's experience of supporting the learning of students at university. It occurs in the context of an Australian university which is increasingly committed to providing courses online and attempts to explore the lived experience of some of those for whom this institutional commitment is an educational reality. It is also informed by the author's experiential and theoretical interest in the connection between emotion and learning and sits beside those studies which have begun to identify the emotions that students experience when learning online. As research into this area is still in an early stage of development, it is appropriate that basic groundwork be laid in terms of what is being established. This study attempts to open up a field of enquiry into the following questions:

What emotions are associated with studying online?
What are the teaching-learning contexts of these emotions?
How do they relate to student learning?
•      What are the practical implications for teaching and learning online?

The study aimed to explore in qualitative terms the lived experience of students learning online particularly in relation to its emotional dimensions. Various,staff within the university offering courses online were contacted and their agreement sought in regard to inviting students from their courses to participate in the study. All contacted staff responded positively and the students enrolled in these courses were sent an email inviting them to participate in the study. Eleven students volunteered to take part and were subsequently interviewed. Bradley recommends that a sample size for qualitative research be considered adequate when 'the responses provide no new or conflicting information'. While each participant's story was singular, by the fcieventh interview, their stories had together formed a consistent pattern with general themes and individual variations but no new surprises. Qualitative research seeks understandings of specific situations and communicates that understanding through description'. That description is reported, as much as practicable, through the participants' own voices, although the researcher selects and interprets from what the participants have said. The distortion inherent in this selection and interpretation was countered in this study by both the transcripts of interviews and the subsequent research paper being verified by the participants. They were invited to check that their words and intentions had been faithfully represented and that the chosen extracts spoke truly of their experiences.

The participants were interviewed in person or by phone regarding their experience of studying online. They were asked particularly to comment on the emotions they had experienced in specific teaching/learning contexts associated with their online learning and the relevance of these to their learning. The interviews were around an hour in length and the interviewer identified particular aspects of the online learning experience and asked the students to reflect on these as well as assessing the experience overall. The aspects included such processes as logging on, following instructions, and accessing resources. The participants were also provided with a checklist of named emotions which the interviewer referred to in the latter part of the

Interview: This was used as a prompt to further identify the emotions associated with particular teaming experiences.

The interviews were recorded and transcribed and the transcriptions analyzed with a view to identifying the emotions reported and the contexts and consequences of those. All the participants spoke of a range of emotions both positive and negative which had been associated with, and had impacted on, their learning. Those which occurred most frequently in the interviews are discussed below. In each case the emotion was named by the participant spontaneously, in response to a probing statement or question by the interviewer (That must have been very frustrating for you), or by referral to the checklist (Can you tell me about any situations where you experienced any of the emotions on the list?).