Annual meeting of the society for psychophysiological research edition:50 location:Portland Oregon, US date:29 September - 3 October 2010
The question of the specificity of psychophysiological activation patterns in emotions has a long and debated history. Some have argued for the presence of specific activation patterns for discrete emotions, others have propagated physiological specificity to align with more general emotion systems based on a valence or approach/avoidance categorization, whereas still others have defended the notion of unspecified general emotional arousal. This paper aims to approach this issue by presenting a hierarchical state space modeling framework with the flexibility to represent each of the theoretical positions. These models not only capture psychophysiological activation levels but also temporal dynamics of the physiological processes. We applied this framework to ecologically valid data consisting of multiple cardiovascular and respiratory measures that were collected on a second-to-second basis from adolescents during interactions with their parents. The verbal and non-verbal behavior in the interactions was coded into emotion categories (neutral, angry, dysphoric or happy emotion). The results show the relative fit of the theoretical models to the psychophysiological data and inform us about possible organizational principles underlying emotional physiological activation and dynamics. The results have implications for emotion theories and our understanding of their physiological underpinnings.