Our ability to recognize emotion in others and express and regulate emotion in ourselves is fundamental to our survival. Emotional responses to external or internal stimuli serve the essential purpose of motivating us to perform appropriate actions within the social environment that we encounter every day. Emotion processing is so important that our brains become specialized from an early age especially to accomplish this. We recognize negative emotions in others more quickly and effectively than positive emotions for obvious survival purposes, but the ability to recognize both types is essential. Across the basic emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, fear and disgust), this act of processing differs not only among emotions but also as a function of the underlying neuronal functioning, social input and motivational exposure. Different emotions recruit a wide range of networks within the brain, with others recruited during the control of behaviour that arises as a result of these emotional events.
Motivation to act can arise from emotional responses to external or internal stimuli or from cognitions or needs. The most effective type of motivation seems to be intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Another way to conceptualize motivation is as a personality type, and this approach is adopted in reinforcement sensitivity theory, which divides personality into types dominated by motivation to approach rewarding stimuli and those dominated by motivation to avoidance of aversive stimuli. Motivation has also been conceptualized in the aetiology of addiction, in which the use of drugs is driven not by enjoyment or fear of withdrawal but by motivation to obtain the drug. We have only just touched the surface of the psychology of emotion and motivation but, hopefully, have achieved some understanding of the basic theories and approaches.