Theories of Emotions as Formulated by Different Psychologists are : 1. James-Lange Theory 2. Cannon-Bard Theory 3. Cognitive Theory.
Each theory emphasizes different aspects of emotion. Though each theory sounds true in its own way, no theory is comprehensive and adequate.
A few theories are discussed in brief here under:
1. James-Lange Theory:
Generally a layman believes that the physiological changes associated with emotion follow the conscious experience of the individual. Accordingly, we cry because we are sad, we run because we are afraid, we fight because we are angry.
Thus, emotion produces necessary physiological changes and expresses itself overtly. But American psychologist William James and Danish physiologist Carl Lange proposed that the physiological changes give rise to corresponding emotional experiences.
Accordingly, we are afraid because we run, we are angry because we strike, we feel sorry because we cry. This theory proposes that we perceive the situation, we react and then we notice our emotions.
Hence, according to this theory, fear, anger or sorrow is not the cause, but the effect of stirred up state of the body- that is, the felt emotion is the perception of bodily changes. However, many objections are raised against this theory (See Panel A below).
2. Cannon-Bard Theory:
Walter B Cannon and Philip Bard proposed a new theory, on the basis of their findings by conducting operations on various parts of brain, including hypothalamus and cerebral cortex. According to this theory, the felt emotion and bodily reactions in emotion are independent of each other, both are triggered simultaneously. These theorists propose that, the cerebral cortex receives the sensory input from the environment, processes it and then passes the results to the thalamus.
Then the thalamic activity produces the emotional experience and as a switch board mechanism, relays the impulses to the brain and the hypothalamus at a time.
In turn the hypothalamus reacts with corresponding emotional feeling and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to eventual behavioural expression of emotional states. In other words, impulses are sent simultaneously to the cerebral cortex and peripheral nervous system. Thus, the stimulus and the response to the stimulus are experienced at the same time but independently (See Panel B below).
3. Cognitive Theory:
Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer proposed this theory in 1962. This is also known as ‘cognitive appraisal theory’, because the intensity of emotion depends upon the cognitive appraisal of the situation.
These theorists state that generalized physiological excitation is the characteristic of emotional state. This emotional state may be considered a function of a state of physiological arousal and of cognition (past experience) appropriate to this state of arousal.
Thus, people experience internal arousal, seek an explanation for it, identify an external cue and finally label the cue.
For example, a person labels and understands his feelings as anger, fear, joy, etc., in terms of the nature of the event that trigger the emotion, and his understanding or interpretation of that event. If the situation involves the presence of a snake, he interprets the arousal of fear, whereas if it involves someone using his camera for recording, he would interpret as anger.
Thus, cognitive factors do play a very significant role in emotions. This theory has incorporated the elements of both James-Lange and Cannon-Bard theory (See Panel C above). In addition to the above, there are other theories also, viz., Watson’s theory of emotion, Emergency theories, Evolution theory, Homeostasis theory, etc. which explain the emotional process in the individual.