The Structure of Emotion: Evidence from neuroimaging studies

Citation: Feldmann-Barrett, L., Wager, T. D. (2006). The Structure of Emotion: Evidence from neuroimaging studies. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(2), 79-83.

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One common point of debate in the study of emotion is whether the basic, irreducible elements of emotional life are discrete emotion categories, such as anger, fear, sadness, and so on, or dimensions such as approach and avoidance. Resolving this debate will identify the basic building blocks of emotional life that are the most appropriate targets of scientific inquiry. In this paper, we briefly review meta-analytic work on the neuroimaging of emotion and examine its potential for identifying natural kinds of emotion in the brain. We outline criteria for identifying such natural kinds, summarize the evidence to date on category and dimensional approaches, and suggest ways in which neuroimaging studies could more directly address fundamental questions about the nature of emotion.