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Theories of Emotion

James-Lange Cannon-Bard Two-Factor Theory

Emotions are our bodys adaptive response.

Theories of Emotion
Emotions are a mix of 1) physiological activation (heart pounding), 2) expressive behaviors (angry look on face), and 3) conscious experience (I cant believe this jerk thinks he can steal my glue!).

1) Does physiological arousal precede or follow your emotional experience? 2) Does cognition (thinking) precede emotion (feeling)?

Commonsense View
When you become happy, your heart starts beating faster. First comes conscious awareness, then comes physiological activity.

Bob Sacha

James-Lange Theory
William James and Carl Lange proposed an idea that was diametrically opposed to the common-sense view. The James-Lange Theory proposes that physiological activity precedes the emotional experience. In other words, the JamesLange theory of emotion holds that you see a snake, your pulse races, and you feel afraid because your pulse is racing.

Evidence to Support James-Lange Theory?

Remember that the James-Lange theory states that our experience of emotion is our awareness of our physiological responses to emotion-arousing stimuli Study done by Hohmann Interviewed 25 soldiers who suffered injuries to the spinal cord Those who suffered injuries that left them paralyzed from the neck down responded that their emotions were much less intense Seemingly supports the James-Lange Theory

Cannon-Bard Theory
Walter Cannon and Phillip Bard questioned the JamesLange Theory and proposed that an emotion-triggering stimulus and the body's arousal take place simultaneously one does not cause the other. The Cannon-Bard theory holds that you see a snake, the information is sent to the thalamus, which relays the signals simultaneously to the cortex and to the autonomic nervous system.

Two-Factor Theory
Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer (1962) proposed yet another theory which suggests our physiology and cognitions create emotions. Emotions have two factorsphysical arousal and cognitive label. Because emotions are physiologically similar (anger might have the same physiological sensations as fear, for example), an emotional experience requires a conscious interpretation of the physiological arousal. Therefore, Schacters TwoFactor Theory holds that you feel autonomic arousal and look around to see whyif theres a snake you feel fear.

The Schacter and Singer Study

Gave men injections of epinephrine (adrenaline) which increases the heart rate and makes the body feel flushed. The men were put into four groups and were told different things about the drug: Adrenaline Ignorant - participants were given an adrenaline injection and not told of the effects of the drug. Adrenaline Informed - participants were given an adrenaline injection and warned of the side effects of the drug (hand shake, heart pounding, dry mouth, etc.). The participants were therefore prepared for the effects of the adrenaline (although they thought they were to do with suproxin). Adrenaline Misinformed - participants were given an adrenaline injection and told to expect side effects but were told these would be numb feet and headache. These participants would, therefore, not be expecting the effects of the adrenaline. Control Group (Placebo) - participants were given an injection that would have no effect and were given no instructions of what to expect. They then placed the men in one of two situations - in the first they were with a confederate who was extremely irritated, in the other they were placed with a confederate who was euphoric

The Results
In the euphoria condition:
The misinformed participants were feeling happier than all the others. The second happiest group was the ignorant group. This demonstrates that these participants were more susceptible to the confederate because they had no explanation of why their bodies felt as they did. The informed group felt the least happy because they understood why they felt as they did.

In the anger condition:

The ignorant group felt the angriest. The second angriest group was the placebo group. The least angry group was those who were informed. Again, this shows that participants were more susceptible to the confederate because they had no explanation of why their body felt as it did.

Misattribution of Arousal in the Two-Factor Theory

Misattribution of arousal can occur when people misinterpret their autonomic arousal. Dutton and Aron (1974) conducted a study where they arranged for young men crossing two bridges to meet an attractive female with a questionnaire in handone bridge was 10 feet above a small stream, while the other was a swaying, five-foot-wide, 450-foot-long suspension bridge that crossed 230 feet above the Capilano River. When they reached the other side of each bridge, they were asked to write a brief dramatic story based upon a picture they were shown (a young woman covering her face with one hand while reaching out with the other). When they had completed the questionnaire, they were given the interviewers phone number along with an invitation to call if they were interested in talking further.

The suspension bridge men had more sexual content in the stories they wrote upon completing their walk across the bridge. The suspension bridge men also called the woman for a date significantly more often than the low bridge men (more than twice as likely), suggesting misattribution of arousal as attraction rather than fear. Conclusion? Emotional arousal of any kind (like anxiety) can be interpreted as sexual attraction if the appropriate environmental cues are present (like an attractive female interviewer instead of a male interviewer)

Classic Theories of Emotion - Recap

Figure 12.1 Theories of emotion Myers: Psychology, Ninth Edition

Copyright 2010 by Worth Publishers

Fig. 10-23, p. 405

Other Theories of Emotion

(These arent quite as significant)
Evolutionary Theories Cognitive Theories (Cognitive Appraisal and Opponent-Process)

Evolutionary Theories
Evolutionary theories of emotion assume that emotions are innate reactions that require little cognitive interpretation. They are arousal states that help organisms cope with important recurring situations. For example:
Fear helped individuals in your family tree react to situations that could have killed them. Love commit to a family, which helps us continue the genetic line. Jealousy dealing with the biologically important problem of mate infidelity, which threatens the individuals chances of producing offspring. Humor social bonding, also important to survival.

Cognitive Appraisal Theory

Frijda (1986) and Lazarus (1991) Theory of emotion which theorizes that individuals decide on an appropriate emotion following the event. The appraisal aspect of this comes into play when we decide whether the event was in our favor and what we believe the cause to be.
For example, reading the comments your teacher made on an essay you wrote your assessment of those comments tells you whether they are positive. In primary appraisal we look at how the event affects us, and in secondary appraisal we look at how we deal with the event.

For more information on cognitive appraisal theory, see

Cognitive appraisal theory suggests that your reaction to a situation is based on the way it is interpreted by you and not on the situation itself. Thus, a situation which is stressful for someone may not be so for others. For instance, school examinations may be stressful for some students, while some may perceive it as a challenge. Lazarus states that emotions are the outcome of cognitive appraisal of the situation, followed by physiological response and suitable action to cope with the situation. For instance, seeing a snake will naturally be seen as a threat, followed by rapid breathing and heart rate, and finally resulting in the person running away from it. For those not afraid of snakes, however, seeing one may be followed by keen interest and the person angling for a better view.

Opponent-Process Theory
Theory of emotion which theorizes that emotions have pairs. When one is triggered, the other is suppressed. For example, when we feel happy, sad is the suppressed emotion. This theory has been expanded to describe drug use, in that the high associated with the use of the drug is later replaced by a low, or withdrawal symptom. In later stages of drug use, following habituation, individuals take a drug not for the high associated with it when they started using drugs, but rather to avoid the lows.