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Created by Jeffrey Walsh.
Video transcript
So let's continue our discussion of emotions. If you remember from the previous video, emotion is made up of a series of cognitive, physiological, and behavioral responses to a stimulus. But which response comes first? And this one of those topics that I think a lot of us take for granted. It's something that occurs in everyday life. But we generally don't break it down and think of it in these components and wonder, gee, which one comes first? So thank goodness we have psychologists who do that for us. And as you might imagine, this is a pretty complicated topic. So there isn't just one theory of emotion. There's many theories of emotion. And for our purposes, we're going to discuss four different theories of emotion. The first one is called the James-Lange theory of emotion. And it's named after two researchers who both independently came up with this theory back in the 1800s. So they actually weren't working together. They just each came up with it around the same time. So in the interest of fairness, they decided to name it after both of them. So that's why it's known as the James-Lange theory of emotion. And what it hypothesizes is that the experience of emotion is due to the perception of your physiologic responses. So what does that mean? Well, let's think about an example of maybe holding your pet. Let's say you have a pet cat. And holding your pet cat elicits the emotion of happiness. So how does it do that? Well according to James-Lange theory of emotion, holding your pet cat causes the physiologic response of maybe increased heart rate. Certain neurotransmitters change in your brain. Maybe you'll start to smile as you're holding your cat. And what makes the James-Lange theory of emotion unique is that they say it's the interpretation of this physiologic response that causes the emotion of happiness. So it's not actually holding your cat per se that's making you happy. It's what the cat is doing to your body that makes you feel the way you do. So it's your awareness of these processes occurring that make you realize you're happy. In another example, you could say that when you're sad, you don't cry because you're sad. You're sad because you cry. It's your mind's interpretation of your physiological response. Now, you might be sitting there finding that hard to believe. And if you feel that way, it might interest you to know that there are other theories of emotion as well that sprung up because they didn't agree with this James-Lange approach. And one such theory is known as the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion. And these were two theorists who disagreed with the James-Lange theory. And they believed there were some major flaws in the idea that physiologic responses triggered emotion. So first they felt that a person could experience physiological arousal without feeling any particular emotion. So think about it. Your heart will race when you're feeling afraid. But your heart also races if you just had a long run. So how can that be? If the physiologic response was all that was necessary to produce an emotion, shouldn't any person with a racing heart feel afraid? In that same line of thought, these researchers also noticed that many different emotions had the same patterns of physiological response. So think about like your heart racing or rapid breathing, those accompany feelings of anger, as well as excitement. And those are two totally different emotions. And lastly, they felt that the physiological response system was just too slow to produce emotions that often seemed to happen almost instantly. So for example, if you hear a loud sound, maybe you'll feel fear or surprise almost instantly. And subsequent physiologic responses of your heart racing, increased muscle tone, et cetera, they come later. And the theory they put forth was the Cannon-Bard theory. And they believed that the physiological responses and the experience of emotion both occurred simultaneously. So you have an event occurring, which causes a physiological response, as well as an emotion at the same time. So going back to the example of holding your cat, if you hold your cat, that's the event. And by holding your cat, maybe your heart rate starts to increase ever so slightly. Maybe there's some changes going on in your brain in terms of your neurotransmitters. And while that's happening, at the same time you're feeling a feeling of joy. And that's the emotion that you're experiencing. But the main point here is this theory says these two actions happen at the same time. Now, another key theory of emotion is the Schachter-Singer theory of emotion. And in this view, physiological and cognitive responses may simultaneously form the experience of emotion. More specifically, if we become physiologically aroused, we don't feel a specific emotion until we're able to label or identify the reason for the situation. So in our previous example, we spoke about holding your cat. So the event is holding your cat, which produces a physiological response of again maybe increased heart rate or changes in your neurotransmitter levels. But we don't necessarily feel happy until we consciously label the situation. So you identify the reason for this physiologic response. And you identify the reason for the event. So you would say to yourself, this is really nice. I like holding my cat. This makes me happy. And that's what produces the emotion of happiness, this identification and that cognitive ability to understand what's going on that causes it. Now, another theory is known as the Lazarus theory. And that proposed that the experience of emotion depends on how the experience is cognitively appraised. Now, you might think that sounds very similar to the one we just discussed in the Schachter-Singer theory. But it's different. And I'll show you why. So we have an event, let's say again holding your cat. In the Lazarus theory, next comes appraisal or labeling the situation. And what the Lazarus theory says, if we label the situation as bad, the emotion will be negative. And if we label the situation as good, the emotion will be positive. So one of differences here is that how we label the event is completely dependent on personal experience or cultural differences and situational factors. And once this appraisal has occurred, then the emotion will occur simultaneously with the physiological response. And as you can see, it is a different order of things, as compared to the Schachter-Singer theory. So using our example holding a cat, if a person has held a cat before and happened to be maybe bitten by a cat or had a bad experience with a cat, that individual may label the situation as scary. And the emotion that will be produced is fear. But on the other hand, if someone is a cat lover, grown up with cats their whole life, they might label that situation of holding a cat as wonderful and feel joy. So it's all in the label. And the way I like to think about this is in terms of hobbies. So take skydiving, for example. Some people would label the activity of jumping out of a plane as something terrifying. And they would experience the emotion of fear. Whereas someone else who's maybe a daredevil, they would label the situation as exhilarating. And they would experience happiness. But as you can see here, the event of skydiving is the same. But it's producing two very different emotions in different people, who have different appraisals on the event occurring. So that's the four theories of emotion that we're going to discuss today.