The History Of Theories of Emotions

Theories of Emotions - The Emotional You

The Emotional You

Philosophers and scientists have been intrigued by emotions, feelings, and moods since the beginning of recorded history. Cognitive processes, physiological arousal, and environmental factors have a profound impact on emotions, feelings, and moods. So, what, how, and why do we experience emotions, feelings, and moods? Although all three fictions are closely related, each concept is quite different, and the distinctions can be difficult.

Definitions of Emotions, Moods, and Feelings:

  • Emotions last for a shorter duration than moods and feelings and are associated with a trigger. Emotions involve cognitive appraisal and physical response.  
  • Moods last longer than emotions and don't necessitate a physical response. Moods are associated with a positive or negative status; therefore, a person can be in a good mood or a bad mood.   
  • Feelings can be used to describe both emotional and physical sensations. For example, "I feel sick.” Or”I feel angry." Feelings are a state of mind and are influenced by emotions.   

   Many theories have been proposed regarding what, how, and why are emotions formed?

What, how, and why are emotions formed?

I consider The following as a few of the most studied Theories. 

James-Lange Theory

William James and Carl Lange autonomously proposed one of the oldest theories of emotion; the combined theories gave birth to what we now refer to as the James-Lange Theory of Emotion. During a period when Freud was experimenting and advocating the extract of the Coca leaf, American psychologist William James (1884) and Danish Physiologist Carl Lange (1887) Contrived the notion that emotions are dependent on the interpretation of physiological changes that occurred to the body because of external factors. 

Therefore, according to the James-Lange Theory, physiological reactions occur first, followed by emotion. However, contemporaries widely accept the notion that fear response, also referred to as stress response, is mediated in part by the hypothalamus, corticotropin-releasing hormone, pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, triggering sympathetic and parasympathetic responses. According to Wikipedia," The basic premise of the theory is that physiological arousal instigates the experience of emotion."

Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion

The James-Lange theory asserts that emotions are the result of the interpretation of the physiological responses of the body. However, the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion, in opposition to the James-Lange theory, proposes emotions and physiological responses are independent responses that occur simultaneously.  To say it another way, emotions are not a reaction to physiologic responses; however, emotions and physiological responses are a separate independent process that co-occurs. According to Wikipedia, "The main concepts of the Cannon–Bard theory are that emotional expression results from the function of hypothalamic structures, and emotional feeling results from simulations of the dorsal thalamus. The physiological changes and subjective feeling of an emotion in response to a stimulus are separate and independent; arousal does not have to occur before the emotion. Thus, the thalamic region is attributed a major role in this theory of emotion. The theory is therefore also referred to as the thalamic theory of emotion."

Schachter-Singer theory of Emotion

The two-factor theory of emotion, proposed by American psychologists Stanley Schachter and James Singer during the 1960s, suggested that emotion is based on two factors physiological arousal and cognitive labeling. Environmental stimuli trigger a physical response followed by cognitive labeling. However, when the brain relies on external stimulation for cues on how to label the emotion, misinterpretations based on the body's physiological state may occur.

Lazarus's cognitive appraisal

The Lazarus theory of emotion proclaims; the experience of emotion is determined by our appraisal of an event. 

The sequence of events is as follows: 
  • the setting event, 
  • cognitive appraisal, 
  • effective response and physiological arousal occur simultaneously. 
The cognitive appraisal takes place in two phases; the primary appraisal is the individual's judgment of the stimuli, setting event, or stressor, and the primary concern is safety; is there a threat? 

Yes, no, or maybe so; if the answer is yes, then the person may experience physiological changes such as the following: muscle tension, increased heart rate, and perspiration; as well as, an emotional reaction, anxiety or fear. During the secondary appraisal, the individual rationalizes how best to cope with the environmental stimuli, the most important factor during cognitive appraisal is the event threatening, and how best cope with the situation(threat).

 According to Wikipedia," To simplify Lazarus's theory and emphasize his stress on cognition, as you are experiencing an event, your thought must precede the arousal and emotion (which happen simultaneously). For example, You are about to give a speech in front of 50 of your peers. Your mouth goes dry, your heartbeat quickens, your palms sweat, and your legs begin to shake and at the same time you experience fear."

Emotions are closely related to stress; how we experience and cope with our emotions can negatively or positively affect our psychological and physical well-being. For example, Chronic Stress can affect sexual functioning and may cause Impotency. If not managed, emotions like fear and anger can be highly stressful and may lead to anxiety-related disorders and psychosomatic illnesses. 

Webster's dictionary defines psychosomatic as follows," of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance." Symptoms of physical illnesses and or disease can be exacerbated or triggered by the inability to manage negative emotions due in part to an antagonized parasympathetic and sympathetic response due to chronic and cumulative stress.

 Therefore, I believe by a better understanding of emotions and how to better manage emotions like anger and fear, individuals ought to experience a reduction in stress, anxiety, anxiety disorders, and psychosomatic disorders. In an article written by Linda Esposito LCSW featured in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY  in titled The Surprising Emotion Behind Anxiety" Anger is a powerful emotion, and if not handled appropriately, serious health consequences can ensue. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, anxiety and anger have been proven to be hazardous to health."

Author: Gregory M. Green is  the author of various topics in the Social Sciences section of Inveigle MagazineHe writes on informative topics that brings awareness to the world. We are so pleased to have him as a part of Inveigle Magazine's Team. Follow us @Inveiglemagazi1 View more articles by Gregory M. Green

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