The role of language in emotional life

Author/s Wilma Bucci
Publishing Year 2019 Issue 2019/3 Language Italian
Pages 26 P. 379-404 File size 233 KB
DOI 10.3280/PU2019-003001
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

Emotional experience is inherently difficult to communicate in words. The connection of emotional experience and language is examined in the context of Wilma Bucci’s multiple code theory with its corollary concepts of "emotion schemas" and the "referential process"; the limitations of this connection are examined as well. Emotion schemas are made up of episodes that include particular subsymbolic bodily processes activated in relation to different people and objects, in many contexts. Verbalization of emotional experience through the referential process involves at least trace activation of bodily components of an emotion schema, leading to detailed description of an event associated with the schema, then stepping away from the immediate experience of the event, to examine its emotional meaning. The event may be a memory, or a report of a fantasy, or a dream, or an ongoing interaction. Computerized linguistic measures of the functions of the referential process are presented; these include the Weighted Referential Activity Dictionary (WRAD), which indicates immediacy of immersion in an experience as reported in a description of an image or a narrative, and the Weighted Reflection/Reorganizing List (WRRL), which assesses the function of examining emotional meaning.

Keywords: Multiple code theory; Emotion schemas; Referential process; Subsymbolic processes and symbolic processes; Psychoanalysis and cognitive science

  1. Baldwin M.W. (1992). Relational schemas and the processing of social information. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 3: 461-484. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.112.3.461
  2. Bartlett F.C. (1932). Remembering: A Study in Social Psychology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (trad. it.: La memoria: studio di psicologia sperimentale e sociale. Prefazione di Ornella Andreani Dentici. Milano: FrancoAngeli, 1974).
  3. Brand B.L., Lanius R., Vermetten E., Loewenstein R.J. & Spiegel D. (2012) Where are we going? An update on assessment, treatment and neurobiological research in dissociative disorders as we move toward the DSM-5. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 13, 1: 9-31. DOI: 10.1080/15299732.2011.620687
  4. Evans J. (2007). Hypothetical Thinking: Dual Processes in Reasoning and Judgment. New York: Psychology Press.
  5. Bretherton I. (1994). Infants’ subjective world of relatedness: Moments, feeling shapes, protonarrative envelopes, and internal working models. Infant Mental Health Journal, 15, 1: 36-42.
  6. Bucci W. (1985). Dual coding: A cognitive model for psychoanalytic research. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33, 3: 571-607. DOI: 10.1177/000306518503300305
  7. Bucci W. (1997). Psychoanalysis and Cognitive Science: A Multiple Code Theory. New York: Guilford (trad. it.: Psicoanalisi e scienza cognitiva. Una teoria del codice multiplo. Roma: Fioriti, 1999).
  8. Bucci W. (2011). The role of subjectivity and intersubjectivity in the reconstruction of dissociated schemas. Converging perspectives from psychoanalysis, cognitive science and affective neuroscience. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 28, 2: 247-266.
  9. Bucci W. & Crisafulli G. (2019). Linguistic measures of the therapeutic process in Carl Rogers’s case of Miss Vib (Paper submitted to special issue: “Empirical and Clinical Studies of the Referential Process”). Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, in stampa.
  10. Bucci W., Kabasakalian-McKay R. & the RA Research Group (1992). Instructions for Scoring Referential Activity (RA) in Transcripts of Spoken Narrative Texts. Ulm, D: Ulmer Textbank.
  11. Bucci W., Kabasakalian-McKay R.K. & the RA Research Group (2004). Manual for Scoring RA Scales. Figshare (2014):
  12. Bucci W. & Maskit B. (2006). A weighted dictionary for Referential Activity. In: Shanahan J.G., Qu Y. & Wiebe J., editors, Computing Attitude and Affect in Text. Dordrecht, NL: Springer, 2006, pp. 49-60.
  13. Bucci W. & Maskit B. (2007). Beneath the surface of the therapeutic interaction: The psychoanalytic method in modern dress. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 55, 4: 1355-1397. DOI: 10.1177/000306510705500412
  14. Bucci W. & Maskit B. (2014). Weighted Referential Activity Dictionary (WRAD). Figshare: --
  15. Bucci W., Maskit M. & Hoffman L. (2012). Objective measures of subjective experience. The use of therapist notes in process-outcome research. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 40, 2: 303-340.
  16. Bucci W., Maskit M. & Murphy S. (2016). Connecting emotions and words: The referential process. Phenomenology and Cognitive Science, 15, 3: 359-383.
  17. Corballis M.S. (2009). Mental time travel and the shaping of language. Experimental Brain Research, 192, 3: 553-560.
  18. Csíkszentmihályi M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row (trad. it.: La corrente della vita: la psicologia del benessere interiore. Milano: Frassinelli, 1992).
  19. Damasio A.R. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: Putnam (trad. it.: L’errore di Cartesio. Emozione, ragione e cervello umano. Milano: Adelphi, 1995).
  20. Damasio A.R. (2003). Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain. New York: Harcourt (trad. it.: Alla ricerca di Spinoza: emozioni, sentimenti e cervello. Milano: Adelphi, 2003).
  21. Denes P.B. & Pinson E.N. (1972). The Speech Chain: The Physics and Biology of Spoken Language. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co., 1993.
  22. Deonna J.A. & Scherer K.R. (2010). The case of the disappearing intentional object: Constraints on a definition of emotion. Emotion Review, 2, 1: 44-52. DOI: 10.1177/1754073909345544
  23. Eliot T.S. (1920). Hamlet and his problems. In: The Sacred Wood. London: Methuen, 1950, pp. 95-103 (trad. it.: Amleto e i suoi problemi. In: Il bosco sacro: saggi sulla poesia e la critica. Milano: Bompiani, 1967, pp. 124-125).
  24. Foa E.B., Zoellner L.A., Feeny N.C., Hembree E.A. & Alvarez-Conrad J. (2002). Does imaginal exposure exacerbate PTSD symptoms? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 4: 1022-1028. DOI: 10.1037//0022-006X.70.4.1022
  25. Geneva Emotion Research Group (2002). Research Material: Geneva Appraisal Questionnaire (GAQ), version 3.0. Geneva, CH: Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, --
  26. Hadamard J. (1945). An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field. New York: Dover (Copyright 1945, Princeton University Press). Successiva edizione: The Mathematician’s Mind: An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996 (trad. it.: La psicologia dell’invenzione in campo matematico. Introduzione di Giulio Giorello. Milano: Raffaello Cortina, 1993).
  27. Høglend P., Amlo S., Marble A., Bøgwald K.-P., Sørbye Ø., Sjaastad M.C. & Heyerdahl O. (2006). Analysis of the patient-therapist relationship in dynamic psychotherapy: An experimental study of transference interpretations. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 10: 1739-1746.
  28. Izard C.E., King K.A., Trentacosta C.J., Morgan J.K., Laurenceau J.P., Krauthamer-Ewing E.S. & Finlon K.J. (2008). Accelerating the development of emotion competence in Head Start children. Development & Psychopathology, 20, 1: 369-397. DOI: 10.1017/S0954579408000175
  29. Kahneman D. & Klein G. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. American Psychologist, 64, 6: 515-526.
  30. Keller H. (1908). The World I Live In. New York: Century (trad. it.: Il mondo in cui vivo. Torino: Bocca, 1910; Gavirate [VA]: Nicolini, 2005).
  31. Kingsley G. (2009). “The clinical validation of measures of the referential process”. Tesi di dottorato, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, NY.
  32. Labov W. (1997). Some further steps in narrative analysis. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7, 1/4: 395-415.
  33. Lanius R.A., Bluhm R., Lanius U. & Pain C. (2006). A review of neuroimaging studies in PTSD: Heterogeneity of response to symptom provocation. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 40, 8: 709-729.
  34. LeDoux J. (1996). The Emotional Brain. New York: Touchstone (trad. it.: Il cervello emotivo: alle radici delle emozioni. Milano: Baldini & Castoldi, 1998).
  35. Levine B., Svoboda E., Hay J.F., Winocur G. & Moscovitch M. (2002). Aging and autobiographical memory: Dissociating episodic from semantic retrieval. Psychology and Aging, 17, 4: 677-689 DOI: 10.1037//0882-7974.17.4.677
  36. Lieberman M.D., Eisenberger N.I., Crockett M.J., Tom S.M., Pfeifer J.H. & Way B.M. (2007). Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological Science, 18, 5: 421-428.
  37. Mariani R., Maskit B., Bucci W. & De Coro A. (2013). Linguistic measures of the referential process in psychodynamic treatment: The English and Italian versions. Psychotherapy Research, 23, 4: 430-447. DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2013.794399
  38. Maskit B. (2014). The Discourse Attributes Analysis Program (DAAP) Operating Instructions. Figshare.
  39. Maskit B. (2019). Computer measures of the referential process (Paper submitted to special issue: “Empirical and Clinical Studies of the Referential Process”). Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, in stampa.
  40. Maskit B., Bucci W. & Murphy S. (2013). “A new text analysis system and its application to episodic memory”. Paper presented to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Computers in Psychology (SCiP), Toronto, Canada, November 14, 2013.
  41. Mergenthaler E. & Bucci W. (1999). Linking verbal and nonverbal representations: Computer analysis of Referential Activity. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 72, 3: 339-354. DOI: 10.1348/000711299160040
  42. Mulligan K. & Scherer K.R. (2012). Toward a working definition of emotion. Emotion Review, 4, 4: 345-347. DOI: 10.1177/1754073912445818
  43. Murphy S.M. (2012). “Components of the referential process as measures of therapeutic change: Development of normative and psychometric properties”. Tesi di dottorato, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, NY.
  44. Negri A., Esposito G., Mariani R., Savarese M., Belotti L., Squitieri B. & Bucci W. (2018). “The Italian weighted reflection and reorganization list (I-WRRL): A new linguistic measure detecting the third phase of the referential process”. Relazione al XII Congresso Nazionale della sezione italiana della Società per la Ricerca in Psicoterapia (SPR-Italia), “Oltre le tecniche: Psicoterapia e ricerca”, Palermo, 5-6 ottobre 2018.
  45. Negri A. Christian C., Mariani R., Belotti L., Andreoli G. & Danskin K. (2019). Linguistic features of the therapeutic alliance in the first session: A psychotherapy process study. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 22, 1: 71-82.
  46. Nelson K.L., Moskovitz D.J. & Steiner H. (2008). Narration and vividness as measures of event-specificity in autobiographical memory. Discourse Processes, 45, 2: 195-209. DOI: 10.1080/01638530701792891
  47. Nelson K.L., Bein E., Huemer J., Ryst E. & Steiner H. (2009). Listening for avoidance: Narrative form and defensiveness in adolescent memories. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 40, 4: 561-573.
  48. Norman, D.A. (1986). Reflections on cognition and parallel distributed processing. In: Rumelhart, McClelland & the PDP Research Group, 1986, pp. 531-546.
  49. Paivio A. (1971). Imagery and Verbal Processes. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  50. Pessoa L. (2008). On the relationship between emotion and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 2: 148-158.
  51. Phelps E.A. (2006). Emotion and cognition: Insights from studies of the human amygdala. Annual Review of Psychology, 57: 27-53.
  52. Reisenzein R. (2000). Exploring the strength of association between the components of emotion syndromes: The case of surprise. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 1: 1-38. DOI: 10.1080/026999300378978
  53. Rogers C.R. (1947). Some observations on the organization of personality. American Psychologist, 2, 9: 358-368.
  54. Rogers C.R. & Kinget M. (1965). Psychothérapie et relations humaines. Théorie et pratique de la thérapie non-directive. Paris: Editions Béatrice-Nauwelaerts (trad it.: Psicoterapia e relazioni umane. Torino: Boringhieri, 1970).
  55. Rogers T.B. (1981). A model of the self as an aspect of the human information processing system. In: Cantor N. & Kihlstrom J.F., editors, Personality, Cognition and Social Interaction. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1981, pp. 193-214.
  56. Ross B.H. & Makin V.S. (1999). Prototype versus exemplar models in cognition. In: Sternberg R.J., editor, The Nature of Cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999, pp. 205-241.
  57. Rumelhart D.E., McClelland J.L. & the PDP Research Group (1986). Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (trad. it.: PDP: microstruttura dei processi cognitivi. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1991).
  58. Russell J.A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological Review, 110, 1: 145-172. DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.110.1.145.
  59. Samstag N. (1996). “A meta-analysis of referential activity”. Tesi di dottorato, Adelphi University, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, NY.
  60. Schank R.C. & Abelson R.P. (1977). Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  61. Scherer K.R. (2001). Appraisal considered as a process of multi-level sequential checking. In: Scherer K. R., Schorr A. & Johnstone T. editors, Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 92-120.
  62. Scherer K.R. (2005). What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social Science Information, 44, 4: 695-729. DOI: 10.1177/0539018405058216058216
  63. Schneider W. (1988). Structure and controlling subsymbolic processing. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 11, 1: 51-52. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X00052717
  64. Schottenbauer M.A., Glass C.R., Arnkoff D.B., Tendick V. & Gray S.H. (2008). Nonresponse and dropout rates in outcome studies on PTSD: Review and methodological considerations. Psychiatry, 71, 2: 134-168.
  65. Stern D.N. (1985). The Interpersonal World of the Infant. New York: Basic Books (trad. it.: Il mondo interpersonale del bambino. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1987).
  66. Stern D.N. (1994). One way to build a clinically relevant baby. Infant Mental Health Journal, 15, 1: 9-25.
  67. Stone V. (2006). The moral dimensions of human social intelligence: Domain-specific and domain-general mechanisms. Philosophical Explorations, 9, 1: 55-68. DOI: 10.1080/13869790500492516
  68. Suddendorf T. & Corballis M.C. (2007). The evolution of foresight: What is mental time travel, and is it unique to humans. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 3: 299-351. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X07001975
  69. Tabibnia G., Lieberman M.D. & Craske M.G. (2008). The lasting effect of words on feelings: Words may facilitate exposure effects to threatening images. Emotion, 8, 3: 307-317. DOI: 10.1037/1528-3542.8.3.307
  70. Tattersall I. (1998). Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness. New York: Harcourt Brace (trad. it.: Il cammino dell’uomo. Milano: Garzanti, 1998).
  71. Tolstoj L. (1877) Anna Karenina (trad. inglese: New York: Penguin, 2000. Trad. it.: Napoli: S. Romano, 1901; Milano: Bietti, 1928; Milano: Mondadori, 1937; Torino: Einaudi, 1946).
  72. Tulving E. (2002). Episodic memory: From mind to brain. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 1: 1-25.
  73. Vygotskij L.S. (1934). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962, 1986 (trad. it.: Pensiero e linguaggio. Firenze: Giunti-Barbera, 1954, 1966).
  74. Wilson-Mendenhall C.D., Barrett L.F., Simmons W.K. & Barsalou L.W. (2011). Grounding emotion in situated conceptualization. Neuropsychologia, 49, 5: 1105-1127.
  75. Wilson-Mendenhall C.D., Barrett L.F. & Barsalou L.W. (2013). Neural evidence that human emotions share core affective properties. Psychological Science, 24, 6: 947-956. DOI: 10.1177/0956797612464242
  76. Zhou Y., Fishman A., Maskit B., Bucci W. & Murphy S. (2019). Capturing the Reflection/Reorganizing Function: The development of WRRL. A new computerized measure (Paper submitted to special issue: “Empirical and Clinical Studies of the Referential Process”). Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, in stampa.

Wilma Bucci, Il ruolo del linguaggio nella vita emotiva in "PSICOTERAPIA E SCIENZE UMANE" 3/2019, pp 379-404, DOI: 10.3280/PU2019-003001