William McDougall FRS (1871 – 1938)

Maria Gendron and Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote in Emot Rev. (2009 Oct):

“…McDougall was not your run of the mill basic emotion theorist. Despite his view that emotions could be diagnosed by their pattern of expression, McDougall insisted that an emotion was not a mental thing or an entity, but instead is “a mode or quality of experience” (1923, p. 315). He argued that emotions are not fundamentally different in kind from sensations, ideas, and concepts, because all mental activity involves some conation or “persistent striving toward a goal with variation of means” (p. 317). The idea that emotions are not different in kind from other mental states is one of the central assumptions of the psychological constructionist approach.

McDougall also emphasized emotional variability; he allowed that objects do not trigger emotions in an obligatory way (so that emotions do not inform us about the objective nature of an object). Instead, he argued that “in the presence of the same object, the emotional experiences of different persons may be very different, and even those of the same person on successive occasions may vary widely with changes in his general condition” (p. 315). McDougall did not specify the processes by which a single object can come to trigger different instincts in different people (or in the same person at different points in time), but the idea that a psychological process can trigger basic emotional responses is very similar to more modern appraisal views such as Arnold (1960a, 1960b) and Roseman (2001). His idea that emotions are fundamentally motivations to act is also similar to Frijda’s (1986) idea of action tendency…”

From The Times of 20.8.21:

“The Globe Theatre has prompted controversy by issuing trigger warnings for trauma survivors and sharing the Samaritans’ helpline number before performances of Romeo and Juliet.

The Globe, the site of Shakespeare’s original playhouse on the south bank of the Thames in central London, is alerting audiences before performances that suicide, drug use and fake blood feature in this year’s production.

Theatre staff also provide audience members with the number of the Samaritans’ helpline (116 123) and the details of the Listening Place, a mental health charity, in case they need support after watching the play…”

Scott Barry Kaufman reported for Scientific American on April 5, 2019:

“The term “trigger warning”– defined as statements that warn of a negative emotional response to potentially distressing stimuli– originated in online communities for the benefit of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Within the past 5 years, the term has spread everywhere in popular culture. This includes college campuses where college professors are incorporating trigger warnings into their syllabi. One survey found that half of professors have used trigger warnings in their classroom, and some universities are even instituting policies that require trigger warnings.
For some, the widespread use of trigger warnings is a really great and compassionate thing, and for others, this is a serious infringement on free speech and may even signal the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it.
In their book Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt argue that “today’s college students were raised by teachers who may have had children’s best interests at heart but who often did not give them the freedom to develop their antifragility.” According to Lukianoff and Haidt, trigger warnings are a form of overprotection which prevent students from learning to cope effectively with uncomfortable emotions, thus making students weaker and less resilient.

Pushing back against the pushback, Kate Manne argued in her article “Why I Use Trigger Warnings” that the point of trigger warnings is “not to enable– let alone encourage– students to skip these readings or subsequent class discussion… Rather, it is to allow those who are sensitive to these subjects to prepare themselves for reading about them, and better manage their reactions.”

From a psychological perspective, one could make a case either way…”

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