Unpleasant affect and the body budget

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Chapter 4 endnote 39, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Your affective feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and calmness and agitation, are simple summaries of your budgetary state. Are you flush? Are you overdrawn? Do you need a deposit, and if so, how desperately?

For some time now, I have been wondering whether unpleasant affect might be the brain’s signal for an unbalanced body budget. For example, unpleasant affect, fatigue, and glucose depletion have similar effects on perception. They lead people to perceive hills as steeper, heights as higher, and distances as longer.[1][2][3]

The challenge, of course, is trying to figure out what unpleasant affect means (what caused it and what to do about it). Affect, alone, does not provide clear guidelines for action. As discussed throughout the book, this is why it is useful to make meaning from changes in your body budget (and their affective properties) by conceptualizing them as emotions.

Notes on the Notes

  1. Stefanucci, Jeanine K., Dennis R. Proffitt, Gerald L. Clore, and Nazish Parekh. 2008. "Skating down a steeper slope: Fear influences the perception of geographical slant." Perception 37 (2): 321-323.
  2. Stefanucci, Jeanine K., and Justin Storbeck. 2009. "Don't look down: emotional arousal elevates height perception." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 138 (1): 131–145.
  3. Riener, Cedar R., Jeanine K. Stefanucci, Dennis R. Proffitt, and Gerald Clore. 2011. "An effect of mood on the perception of geographical slant." Cognition and Emotion 25 (1): 174-182.