Emotion

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If the psychological state that we are in can affect how we feel so much, it raises the question of what is happening when we do feel an emotion. Is it purely psychological, which correlates with it? Alternatively, is it that, unconsciously, we recognise the psychological state that our body is in and attribute feelings to it, depending on what is happening at the time? In psychology, emotion is often defined as a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence thought and behaviour. Emotionality is associated with a range of psychological phenomena including temperament, personality, mood and motivation. Many psychologists have investigated this question, and developed theories to explain what is happening. One of the first is called the James-Lange Theory of Emotion, because it was developed by William James and Carl Lange. James argued that what is happening when we feel an emotion, like fear, anger or sadness is that we are unconsciously seeing the psychological changes that happen in the body. For instance, if you trip going down the stairs, you would grab the handrail in a reflex way before you actually fall, causing your heart to beat faster. James argued that the actual event is not what makes us frightened, but that our fear comes from the psychological changes that happen as result of the event. With these changes, there would be no emotion.

Not every psychologist has agreed with this theory. Walter Cannon, who discovered the ‘flight or flight’ reaction, had a different viewpoint. The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion states that the emotion we experience and the psychological reaction that happens are entirely separate from each other. Cannon thought that the mind and body were entirely separate and the state of the body did not affect the mind. This is called dualism. Both the James-Lange theory and the Canon-Bard theory are extreme points of view. Most psychologists see the answer as being...
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