A place for emotions in behavior systems research

Behav Processes. 2019 Sep;166:103881. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2019.06.004. Epub 2019 Jun 5.


Although issues of motivation, including appetitive searching behavior, have been crucial aspects of behavior systems approaches since their inception, as well as in the ethological research and models that inspired them, emotions and affect have been noticeably absent in such analyses. Emotions and affect may have been lying below the surface all the time, however, as motivation, emotion, and cognitive processing are embedded in all aspects of behavior, including conditioning and learning. Here a brief case is made that emotions and related hedonic processes, can and should be explicitly incorporated into behavior systems approaches. Evidence from recent behaviorist, neuroscience, and animal behavior (including human) studies suggest that emotions may, just as motivational drives, lead to appetitive searching and avoidance, both general and focal, as well as consummatory acts with emotional consequences and satiation. Research testing these claims, as well as theoretical formulations and evaluations, would be timely and extend the reach of behavior systems approaches to a far wider swath of psychological research than it has engaged with hitherto.

Keywords: Appetitive behavior; Behavior systems; Consummatory acts; Emotions; Sequential organization.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Research*