In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Introduction to James-Lange Theory 2. Arguments for James-Lange Theory 3. Criticism.
Introduction to James-Lange Theory:
Psychologists do not agree about the importance of psychological changes in an emotional state. The behaviourists place much emphasis on the physiological changes due to emotion and do not give any credence, whatsoever to the mental responses. On the other hand, some psychologists lay an equal emphasis upon the mental changes. Looking at it realistically, psychological changes cannot be assumed to everything, but then neither can they be neglected or considered insignificant.
Similarly, the mental aspect of emotion can neither be neglected nor relief upon exclusively. It is necessary to understand both the aspects for understanding emotion completely. As experiments are still being conducted in both these aspects, it is necessary to keep in view the physiological changes as well as the function of the different parts of the brain, while making a comprehensive study of emotions. A fully satisfactory theory of emotions can be evolved in the future only with a balance viewpoint.
In 1884, the famous American psychologist, William James published his theory of emotions. In 1885, a Danish psychologist, Lange, independently presented his theory of emotions. Due to many points of similarity between the two theories, this theory became famous as the James-Lange theory.
The James-Lange theory is the very anti-thesis of the popular belief about emotions. The theory states that many physiological changes take place upon perceiving the circumstances and knowledge of these changes make an emotion felt. Thus, according to this theory, emotion is a pattern of organic sensations. The external stimulus excites one or more sensory nerve impulse to the cerebral cortex whence there is knowledge of the specific stimulation. Next, the nervous impulse goes to the muscles and the viscera which are excited.
The excitement is, then conveyed to the brain via the sensory nerve impulses. And from this results the experience of emotions. James, in his book, Psychology has presented his theory saying that physical changes immediately succeed the perception of the stimulating element and emotion is the result of these changes as they take place. General opinion says that when we lose our wealth, we are grieved and we cry; when we see a bear, we are frightened and we run away; when we are humiliated by our rival, we feel angry and we attack.
It is more logical to say that we feel aggrieved, because we cry, we feel angry because we attack; we are frightened because we tremble. Similarly, Lange has also held that physical actions cause emotion. He writes that the vasomotor system is responsible for our pleasures and discomforts, joys and sorrows, in fact, the entire emotional side of our mental life.
Arguments for James-Lange Theory:
The following are the more important arguments in favour of the theory:
1. Perception Causes Bodily Changes Without Arousing the Emotion:
According to James, if we see a mobile black image in the jungle, our heart stops beating and we start trembling before any clear idea of danger is conceived. Apparently, in this case, the perception and bodily change precede the emotion.
2. An Emotion cannot occur in the Absence of Physical Expression:
According to James, if we imagine an emotion and then try to remove the signs of its physical experiences from our consciousness, we do not find any such thing which may constitute an emotion. Whatever is left is only an immutable state of feeling-less intellectual perception. To experience an emotion, it is necessary to adopt a suitable bodily posture. Without it, the emotion cannot occur.
3. Suppression of Physical Expression Results in the Suppression of Related Emotion:
If the emotion is not permitted to express itself, it is destroyed. One tries to amuse a person who is crying on account of sorrow, because it is generally believed that if he ceases weeping, his sorrow will be reduced, or that he will be happy, if he laughs. In practice, it is seen that this is exactly what happens generally.
4. Artificial Creation of Physical Expression Creates that Related Emotion:
Presenting the examples of actors, James said that, while acting they experienced the emotion the physical expressions of which they were enacting. When alcohol and other stimulating drugs are consumed, the manifestation of the various physical conditions results in the experiencing of various emotions.
5. Some Bodily Abnormalities Cause Emotions:
Giving an example of this, James says that the mental diseases cause fear and despair. In Jame’s opinion, objectless emotion is the result of bodily infirmity.
In this way, this theory does not distinguish between emotion and physical changes. Ward rightly says that, in this theory emotions are a group of physical changes and these changes are emotions. They are not only complementary but identical.
Criticisms of the James-Lange Theory:
This theory has been bitterly criticised.
The following are the main points of criticism:
1. Emotional Reactions are Possible Even in the Absence of the Physical Correlation:
Sherrington operated upon many dogs and severed the connection of the extremities and the brain by operating upon the spinal cord. But this did not affect their emotions in any way. Cannon and his assistants proved a similar thing in the case of cats. Dr. Dana proved it too, by observing the case of a forty-year old lady, who exhibited an experienced emotion even though she would not receive any sensations from the sympathetic nervous system.
2. Contradictory Reports have been obtained from Actors:
Archer found that many factors do not feel any emotion when they act.
3. Visceral and Internal Changes and Infirmities do not Make Emotions Inevitable:
Cannon and his followers administered injections of the excretion of the adrenal gland to normal people and caused many internal and visceral changes. But nobody experienced any emotion due to these changes. Vernon, Cantrial and Hunt also achieved similar results from their studies. Even alcoholic drinks failed to arouse an emotion.
4. Absence of the Sex-Organs did not undermine a Person’s Sexual Emotions:
Maccurdy wrote that a person unaware of his sex organs still expressed sexual interest in the hospital nurses.
5. Emotions cannot be differentiated on the Basis of Psychological Changes:
If emotions are the result of psychological changes, then the creation of one emotion by various changes on the presence of the same changes in different emotions cannot be explained though this is noticed in daily life.
6. So-Called Objectless Emotions are not Really Objectless:
Titchener pointed out objectless emotions are unmotivated remnants of motivated emotions which result from old motivated tendencies.
7. Emotions and Physical Changes are not inseparable:
In different people, one emotion produces varied physical changes, while the same changes may be observed as a result of different emotions. Therefore, emotion and physical changes cannot be inseparable.
8. James has not distinguished between Emotion-Producing and Unproductive Physical Changes:
Stout rightly pointed out that every bodily change is not emotion. Hunger and stomach ache are not emotional experiences.
9. In Emotions Result from a Mere Perceptive of the Object, then why it is that Similar Stimulants do not Arouse Similar Reactions:
Ward said that suppose at first James is faced with a caged bear and then with a free bear. In the first case he feeds it groundnuts while in the latter, he runs away from it. Obviously, emotions are aroused not by objects but by circumstances. Woodworth opined that emotions are aroused when some instinct excited by the circumstances is not satisfied. Drever is also of the same opinion. Mc Dougall has also stressed the instinctive element in emotion.
The arguments against this theory of emotion prove its unscientific nature. Later on James made some amendments in the theory and accepted that the perceptible object is influenced by the back-ground. He went so far as to accept the presence of a feeling core between perception and the physiological changes.
As a result of this change, motion was no longer considered to be the result of perception, nor was physical expression predominant in emotion. Consequently, the amended James-Lange theory confirmed the popular opinion. As a matter of fact, the importance of this theory in psychology lies in its emphasis upon physiological changes in emotion. Its elaboration upon the subject of emotions is, however unsatisfactory.