Mata Hari’s Emotions

According to Michel Aubé, if motivation involves managing resources, then emotion, a subset of motivation, involves managing commitments (human resources). Combine this idea with the fact that emotional episodes involve perturbance, where a cluster of affectively charged mental content, or motivators, tend to disrupt and maintain attention.


Limerence (c. romantic attraction/grief) is the prototypical human emotion. Whereas emotion researchers continue to disagree about the core features and purposes of emotion, limerence necessarily involves perturbance and commitment concerns; similarly, it is no doubt biologically adaptive.

I find it helpful to interpret narrative art with these theories of emotion. Helpful for what purposes? For understanding emotions, human relations and the artifact itself.

It is in this context that, last night, I attended Mata Hari by Rachel Peake and Sinziana Corozel. In this theatrical production, three actors present the dramatic life of Mata Hari, while a bassist sets the emotional tone.

Mata Hari’s doom involves her being accused, not without grounds, of treason. Jailed, she remains in love, hence obsessed. The judgment and punishment of this woman who was ensnared, yet again, in the dark side of male behavior, are over the top.

How can we describe the state of her mind, its eye wide open upon the traitors of her life? That’s one of many emotion-related questions about which this play can keep us busy for a very long time.


Studio 16, Maison de la francophonie 1555 West 7th Avenue, Vancouver. Last performance is Sunday, April 3. Tickets.

NB: French with English surtitles.


Aubé, M. (2009). Unfolding commitments management: A systemic view of emotions. In J. Vallverdú & D. Casacuberta (Eds.), Handbook of research on synthetic emotions and sociable robotics: New applications in affective computing and artificial intelligence (pp. 198–277). New York, NY.

Aubé, M. (2005). Beyond needs: Emotions and the commitments requirement. In D. N. Davis (Ed.), Visions of mind: Architectures for cognition and affect (pp. 21-44). Hershey, PA: Idea Group., Inc.

Peake, R. & Corozel, C. (2016). Mata Hari

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Luc P. Beaudoin

Head of CogZest. Author of Cognitive Productivity books. Co-founder of CogSci Apps Corp. Adjunct Professor of Education, Simon Fraser University. Why, Where, and What I Write. See About Me for more information.

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