Human emotions have been consistently shown to be present in all instances of life experience, inclusive of our relationship to the environments we chose to live in or visit. Trying to find out what an emotion is represents one of the longest running and still unfinished debates in Psychology. Over the years the field has been divided into those researchers that propose emotions are based on mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of the body (physiological mechanisms), and those who propose emotions are a result of how people interpret information available to them (cognitive processes). The proposers of the former believe that a mechanical, physical and biochemical response is necessary in order for a person to have an emotion (e.g. Burbridge, Larsen and Barch, 2005; Cacioppo and Gardner, 1999; Wiens, Mezzacappa and Katkin, 2000), and the latter believe that without the interpretation of the body processes an emotion cannot take place (e.g. Lazarus, 1982; Schachter and Singer, 1962).
This historical division has been a response to the way emotions are studied, for example, the study of the changes in the participants’ nervous system or studying what participants report when they feel an emotion. More recently, researchers of emotion are becoming agreeable to accepting both (physiology and cognition) as equally important dimensions of studying emotions (e.g. Barrett, Mesquita, Ochsner and Gross, 2007; Britton, Taylor, Berridge, Mikels and Liberzon, 2006) and are moving towards understanding emotion as a process that not only includes the body response and the interpretation of information but also uses the information provided by other people and the context in which it happens (a social construction) (Gendron and Barrett, 2009).
Independently of the ways that can be used to study emotion, the most important aspect for us is that the relationship between a person and the environment is also an emotional one (Russell and Snodgrass, 1987). The results of a person interacting with the environment have consequences that go from the moment of the interaction (for example the immediate feeling of happiness to be in your favourite place) to longer lasting ones that can be thought of as your mood (for example the enduring feeling of satisfaction after you have returned from your favourite place).
In funeralscapes we are interested in studying emotion in order to understand how pre-Christian and Viking ancient burial sites may affect people as they experience them, using a social constructionist approach. We want to explore how the environmental and sound characteristics of the burial site interact and their effects on people who visit them. Do these characteristics invite people to feel joyous, solemn, sad? Moreover, how do visitors who do not share the same social, spatial and time dimensions for whom they were intended, interpret an ancient burial rite?
– Barrett, L. F., Mesquita, B., Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2007). The Experience of Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 373-403.
– Britton, J., Taylor, S., Berridge, K., Mikels, J., & Liberzon, I. (2006). Differential Subjective and Psychophysiological Responses to Socially and Nonsocially Generated Emotional Stimuli. Emotion, 6(1), 150-155.
– Burbridge, J., Larsen, R., & Barch, D. (2005). Affective Reactivity in Language: The Role of Psychophysiological Arousal. Emotion, 5(2), 145-153.
– Cacioppo, J. T., & Gardner, W. L. (1999). Emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 191-214.
– Gendron, M., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2009). Reconstructing the Past: A Century of Ideas About Emotion in Psychology. Emotion Review, 1(4), 316-339. doi: 10.1177/1754073909338877
– Lazarus, R. S. (1982). Thoughts on the relations between emotion and cognition. American Psychologist, 37(9), 1019-1024.
– Russell, J., & Snodgrass, J. (1987). Emotion and the Environment. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (Eds.), Handbook of Environmental Psychology (pp. 245-281). New York: Wiley Interscience.
– Schachter, S., & Singer, J. E. (1962). Cognitive, Social, and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State. Psychological Review, 69(5), 379-399.
– Wiens, S., Mezzacappa, E. S., & Katkin, E. S. (2000). Heartbeat detection and the experience of emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 14(3), 417-427.