Emotions and theories of Emotions

are feelings that generally have both physiological and cognitive
elements and that influence behavior. For example, about how it feels
to be happy. First, we obviously experience a feeling that we can
differentiate from other emotions. It is likely that we also experience
some identifiable physical changes in our bodies: perhaps the heart rate
increases, or we find ourselves “jumping for joy.” Finally, the emotion
probably encompasses cognitive elements: our understanding and
evaluation of the meaning of what is happening prompts our feelings of
happiness. Emotions are difficult to define or place. Even though it is a
happy day, many people cry at weddings.
Emotions wrote Aristotle (384–322 BCE), “are all those feelings that so
change men as to affect their judgments, and that are also attended
by pain or pleasure. Such are anger, pity, fear and the like, with their

Determining the range of Emotions: labeling our Feelings
If were to list the words in the English language that have been used to
describe emotions, we would end up with at least 500 examples (Averill,
One challenge for psychologists has been to sort through this list to
identify the most important, fundamental emotions. Theorists have
hotly contested the issue of cataloging emotions and have come up with
different lists, depending on how they define with the concept of
emotion. In fact, some reject the question entirely, saying that no set of
emotions should be singled out as most basic, and that emotions are
best understood by breaking them emotions are best understood by
breaking them down into their component parts. Other researchers
argue for looking at emotions in term of a hierarchy, dividing them into
positive (Love and Joy) and negative (Anger, Sadness, and Fear)
categories. Still, most researchers suggest that a list of basic emotions
would include, at a minimum, happiness, anger, fear, sadness, and
disgust. Other lists are broader, including emotions such as surprise,
contempt, guilt, and joy.

The Roots of Emotions
Although it is easy to describe the general physical reactions that
accompany emotions, defining the specific role that those
physiological responses play in the experience of emotions has
proved to be a major puzzle for psychologists. As we shall see, some
theorists suggest that specific bodily reactions cause us to
experience a particular emotions-we experience fear, for instance,
because the heart is pounding and we are breathing deeply. In
contrast, other theorists suggest that the physiological reaction
results from the experience of an emotion. In this view, we
experience fear, and as a result the heart pounds and our breathing
The major theories of emotion can be grouped into three main categories:
physiological, neurological, and cognitive. Physiological theories suggest




Neurological theories propose
to emotional responses.





for emotions.





Theories of Emotions









psychological appraisal, and subjective experiences. Together, these are
known as the components of emotion. These appraisals are informed by
our experiences, backgrounds, and cultures. Therefore, different people may
have different emotional experiences even when faced with similar
circumstances. Over time, several different theories of emotion.

The James-Lange Theory
The James-Lange theory of emotion asserts that emotions arise from
physiological arousal. Recall what you have learned about the sympathetic
nervous system and our fight or flight response when threatened. If you were
to encounter some threat in your environment, like a venomous snake in your
backyard, your sympathetic nervous system would initiate significant
physiological arousal, which would make your heart race and increase your
respiration rate. According to the James-Lange theory of emotion, you would
only experience a feeling of fear after this physiological arousal had taken
place. Furthermore, different arousal patterns would be associated with
different feelings.
Cannon-Bard theory of emotion
Other theorists, however, doubted that the physiological arousal that occurs
with different types of emotions is distinct enough to result in the wide variety
of emotions that we experience. Thus, the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion
was developed. According to this view, physiological arousal and emotional
experience occur simultaneously, yet independently (Lang, 1994). So, when
you see the venomous snake, you feel fear at exactly the same time that
your body mounts its fight or flight response. This emotional reaction would

be separate and independent of the physiological arousal, even though they
Does smiling make you happy? Alternatively, does being happy make you
smile? The facial feedback hypothesis proposes that your facial expression
can actually affect your emotional experience. Research investigating the
facial feedback hypothesis suggested that suppression of facial expression
of emotion lowered the intensity of some emotions experienced by
participants. Other research found that the intensities of facial expressions
affected the emotional reactions. In other words, if something insignificant
occurs and you smile as if you just won lottery, you will actually be happier
about the little thing than you would be if you only had a tiny smile.
Conversely, if you walk around frowning all the time, it might cause you to
have less positive emotions than you would if you had smiled.
The Schechter-Singer two-factor theory of emotion
This is another variation on theories of emotions that takes into account both physiological
arousal and the emotional experience. According to this theory, emotions are composed of two
factors: physiological and cognitive. In other words, physiological arousal is interpreted in context
to produce the emotional experience. In revisiting our example involving the venomous snake in
your backyard, the two-factor theory maintains that the snake elicits sympathetic nervous
system activation that is labeled as fear given the context, and our experience is that of fear. If

you had labeled your sympathetic nervous system activation as joy, you would have experienced
joy. The Schechter-Singer two-factor theory depends on labeling the physiological experience,
which is a type of cognitive appraisal. Schechter and Singer believed that physiological arousal is
very similar across the different types of emotions that we experience, and therefore, the cognitive
appraisal of the situation is critical to the actual emotion experienced. In fact, it might be possible to
misattribute arousal to an emotional experience if the circumstances were right (Schechter & Singer,
1962). They performed a clever experiment to test their idea.

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