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Emotions: Emotion and Schachter-singer Theory
Topics: Emotion, Facial expression, Paul Ekman, Nonverbal communication / Pages: 6 (1383 words) / Published: May 2nd, 2008

Running head: What are emotions?

What are Emotions?
University of Phoenix

Jessika Morgan

Emotions are defined as “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness ( Emotions are part of our existence as human beings. They are part of what separates us from others. Emotions can be considered to be universal, but everyone’s are different. Imagine a world without happiness or sorrow, life would not be the way we know it.
Historical Theories
There are a few historical theories that exist concerned with emotion and arousal and how they affect human motivation. Two of these theories that will be discussed are the Yerkes-Dodson Law and also the Schachter-Singer Theory. Each of these, while alike in being concerned with how emotions and arousal can affect human motivation, also has their differences. The Yerkes – Dodson law is concerned with how arousal alone effects performance and motivation while the Schachter-Singer Theory is concerned with how both arousal and emotion effects performance and human motivation. “The Yerkes-Dodson law: (states that) low arousal produces maximal performance on difficult tasks, and high arousal produces maximal performance on easy tasks” (Deckers, 2005, p.143). In other words, tasks that are perceived as difficult and may take some concentration are maximized in performance with low levels of arousal. Whereas, tasks that require stamina and possibly have a more physical aspect to them, require higher levels of arousal. This law can be seen when taking into consideration writing a paper and going jogging. Writing a paper (difficult task), is a task where an abundant amount of concentration is required, therefore the low arousal that is associated with this results in an output of higher performance. Yet, jogging is considered by most a relatively easy task, but does require a high level arousal for performance to be high. The Schachter-Singer Theory is a theory composed of two parts. The theory proposes that in order to experience emotion, a person must first be aroused and then be able to interpret the emotion that is being felt and label it accordingly. In essence, if someone is not able to understand and interpret the emotion that they are experiencing it would be difficult for that person to be properly motivated according to the proposed emotion. For example, if a situation at work aroused a person in some way that made them angry, and they were not able to label their emotion as anger and understand it properly, then it would be quite difficult for that person to put the emotion of anger to work in a positive manner in order for the person to be motivated to find a possible solution for the situation. The Schachter-Singer Theory proposes that it is essential that a person fully understands and comprehends their emotions that are triggered by arousal for the emotion to be of any use in means of motivation.
Research Methods Technological tools for examining the face are essential for advancing research methods and scientific knowledge about the face. With better research tools for measuring behaviors and physical properties of the face, and for analyzing the data generated, scientists can better understand the face as a message system, its role in nonverbal communication, its function in generating ideas about the self, and other functions involving the face.(Dataface, 2008) Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is the most commonly used and versatile method for calculating and describing facial behaviors. Paul Ekman and W.V. Friesen developed the original FACS in the 1970s by determining how the contraction of each facial muscle (singly and in combination with other muscles) changes the appearance of the face. (Dataface, 2008) They studied videotapes of facial behavior to identify the exact changes that took place with muscular contractions and how best to distinguish one from another. They associated the appearance changes with the action of muscles that produced them by studying anatomy, reproducing the appearances, and palpating their faces. (Dataface, 2008) The FACSAID database contains FACS scores, each examined individually by experts who interpreted the meaning of the facial behavior represented by the score. This interpretation with the facial expression are stored in the database for later retrieval by researchers who want to know what a facial expression (coded as a FACS score) means.(Dataface, 2008) The FACSAID database contains several types of data: representations of facial expressions in terms of FACS, representations of meanings that can be attached to facial behaviors, and other facts about the behaviors, such as who attached meaning to a facial expression, how many times the behavior has been observed, pictorial representations of the behavior, etc.(Dataface, 2008) Although different meanings might be attached to the same facial behavior, only the one meaning agreed upon by experts in FACS for each facial behavior is currently in the database.(Dataface, 2008)
Facial Feedback Hypothesis
The facial feedback hypothesis is a hypothesis that states that facial movement influences emotional experiences. Expressions of emotions are believed to be universal. It is often said that a person can change their feelings at the time simply by using different facial expressions. The more you smile, the happier you are. The more you frown, the sadder you will feel. There are an enormous amount of facial expressions, along with emotions. Consider jobs in customer service. As an employee you are taught to always smile first at a customer. The reason behind this is that a smile is considered to be contagious. Smiling with customers will make their shopping experience more pleasurable, thus leading to more sales. Darwin once said, “Emotions hardly exist if the body remains passive (Buck 1980).”
Event-Appraisal-Emotion Sequence
The appraisal theory can be found to go back decades. This theory is based on the fact that “a person appraises the emotion stimulus pre-and post-aware and responds effectively, physiologically, expressively, and behaviorally (Unknown).” There are separate ways of processing emotional stimuli. There is the Separation of emotion and cognition. In this emotions occur automatically and result from appraisal that comes unaware. The Appraisal Without Awareness comes without the person knowing about it. In this situation a person’s mood can improve without actually acknowledging what brought it on. There is also the Priority of Negative Stimulus Appraisal. This is explains how negative situations usually have an effect on a person before a positive situation does. Lastly, there are several Appraisal Dimensions.
It is evident that emotion and arousal affect all daily activities. In every situation both of these variables lead to the motivation and performance of the individual. While these variables are always present, they do not affect each person and each situation the same. If a person was to witness something tragic in their life, there would most likely be very high levels of both arousal and emotion, but this does not mean that their performance would be more efficient, in most tragic situations it is often less. However, there are many situations where arousal and emotion can improve performance. For example, if a person was to have a baby they would be aroused and have an overwhelming amount of emotion, and these variables would most likely lead to a better performance in taking care of the newborn. Emotion and arousal will affect our daily schedules and events for the rest of our lives, and having a better understanding of these processes and theories, may lead not only to a more efficient performance but also allow us to know why we act the way we do in many situations.


Buck, Ross. Nonverbal Behavior and the Theory of Emotion: The Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1980, Vol.38, No. 5, 811-824. Retrieved on April 3, 2008 at
Author Unknown. The Unfolding and Functions of Emotions. Retrieved on April 3, 2008 at

Deckers, L.(2005). Motivation (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Perason.
Author Unknown. A Human Face. Retrieved on April 4, 2008 from

References: Buck, Ross. Nonverbal Behavior and the Theory of Emotion: The Facial Feedback Hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1980, Vol.38, No. 5, 811-824. Retrieved on April 3, 2008 at Author Unknown. The Unfolding and Functions of Emotions. Retrieved on April 3, 2008 at Deckers, L.(2005). Motivation (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Perason. Author Unknown. A Human Face. Retrieved on April 4, 2008 from

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