Early Theory – Term Paper Example
Emotion theory I think the theory of James–Lange theory is probably the best known of all theories of emotion, if for no other reason than that it has generated a controversy that has spread from the 19th to the 21st century. Perhaps because of this it has also acted heuristically and stimulated other theories and much research (Cannon 106). He characterized, rightly, the everyday way of theorizing about these emotions as being:
we mentally perceive something
This produces a mental affect emotion
This produces some bodily expression.
James argued that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the existing fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur IS the emotion. For instance, in terms of the everyday theory, rather than face some public performance to which we are unused at this point we become anxious and then have butterflies in the stomach, tremble, stutter and so on. In James’s terms we face the public performance, have butterflies, tremble, stutter, and as a result feel anxious (Cannon 109). James was making a clear volte-face on previous thought, the guts of his theory depending on the view that the visceral discharges associated with some external situation actually lead to the emotion as we know and experience it. Support for this theory was based largely on introspection. The argument can be reduced to a few main points. James asserted that any sensation has extremely complex physiological manifestations and that these are all felt, some obviously, some more obscurely. We imagine some strong emotion and then try to push from consciousness all feelings of the bodily symptoms associated with it (Cannon 115). If we do this successfully, then in James’s terms there will be nothing left; the emotion will be gone. He cited many examples of how everyday situations lead to these complex, strong bodily feelings (seeing a child peering over the edge of a cliff, for example) and argued that his case is supported by the idea of how easily we can classify both normal and abnormal behavior according to bodily symptoms.
In conclusion, this theory argues that afferent feedback from disturbed organs produces the feeling aspect of emotion. Any cortical activity that comes from this feedback is the emotion itself. It should be remembered that James not only emphasized the role of the viscera in emotion but also gave a similar role to the voluntary muscles. This laid the groundwork for a search for bodily patterns in emotion and for theories that stress the significance of facial expression in emotion.
Cannon, Walter. "The James-Lange Theory of Emotions: A Critical Examination and an Alternative Theory". The American Journal of Psychology 1997 (39): 106–124.