Emotion Theories

I tend to get all of the theories surrounding emotion mixed up (such as the theory that we are physiological aroused, then consciously feel emotions, or if they’re simultaneous, etc.). Can I get some help with which each one means? Thanks!

I use the mnemonic device that Cannon-Bard (physiological reaction and emotion happening all at once) is like a cannon is. You heard the sound and the cannon ball comes out all at once. Schacter-Singer is two factor (it rhymes). You feel the physiological reaction first and then have an awareness to label it as an emotion in two steps. James-Lange Theory – the theory that our experience of emotion is our awareness of our physiological response to emotion-arousing stimuli.

1 Like

Zajonc and LeDoux theorized that there are some emotional responses that are immediate, and do not have any conscious appraisal, that is we do not think about them and/or label them.

Often we look at these theories and wonder, “why does this matter?” And then someone scares the crud out of you and you think, “ah, now I get it.” Understanding/differentiating the theories starts with the Schachter-Singer/Two-Factor theory: emotions consist of two parts - arousal/physical and cognitive/through process. I hear a noise in the dark and my heart beats faster (arousal) and I’m concerned if it’s an unwanted visitor (cognitive).

In the 1880s, four different psychologists looked at which comes first, physical (my heart beats fast) or cognitive (Hey, I’m scared). James and Lange said that the physical comes first (heart rate), then I realize I’m scared (cognitive). Cannon and Bard suggested they occurred at the same time (my heart rate increases while I’m getting scared).

To summarize: Schachter-Singer --> physical + cognitive = emotion
James-Lange --> physical, then cognitive = emotion
Cannon-Bard --> physical while cognitive = emotion

So the next time snookey lumps looks in your direction, you can decide for yourself who is right :slight_smile:
Hope this simplifies things a bit.

1 Like

Yes, this is super helpful!! Thanks so much!

Fiveable Logo

2550 north lake drive
suite 2
milwaukee, wi 53211

✉️ help@fiveable.me


about for students for parents for teachers for schools & districts content team privacy contact


🥇 2020 Fiveable Olympics study plans upcoming events trivia hypertyper resources cram passes


community tiktok discord twitter instagram facebook careers

*ap® and advanced placement® are registered trademarks of the college board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.

© fiveable 2020 | all rights reserved.