Emotions. Central to our lives, yet somewhat ineffable….for what is the difference between anger and frustration? Jealously and anger? Happiness and contentment? Fear and Nervousness? And of course, as good psychologists we ask, “What gives rise to emotions?” “Are they unique to the human experience?” and “What role do they play in my cognition?”
Theories of Emotion:
The main theories of Emotion we’ll discuss are Schacter and Singer’s Two Factor Theory supported by LeDoux’s theories on emotion and emotional processing in the brain.
Schacter Singer’s Two Factor Theory:
This theory states that A COGNITIVE APPRAISAL applied to the physiological response derived from environmental perception is what creates an emotional reaction. You can read about and supporting studies here:
In LeDoux’s 1999 book, “The Emotional Brain,” he describes his theory for emotional response. He believes there are two pathways, the “short route” of emotion and the “long route.”
Short Route: The short route involves interpretation of an environmental stimulus via the thalamus, activating the amygdala which in turn activates the brain stem and the resulting hormonal and neurotransmitter reactions occur.
The Long Route: Stimulus, thalamus, sensory cortex => Hippocampus + Amygdala simultaneously. This involves higher brain regions and this is when our “cognitive appraisal” of the situation occurs.
Studies supporting: Speisman et al 1964— Researchers showed participants a documentary film dipicting a violent genital mutilation scene. There were 3 different conditions:
- Trauma condition: Narration and music designed to emphasize brutality
- Denial condition: narration and music designed to emphasize willingness and contentness of participants
- Intellectualization Condition: Narration and music providing an anthropological explanation of the procedure
Schachter & Singer 1962: Study Here
- Be careful while reporting the above study however, as the “joy” condition did show an effect as predicted by their theory: that the adrenaline ignorant group would report higher levels of joy than the adrenaline informed group. however they did not achieve this effect in the anger condition!
Dutton and Aron 1974: Study Here
- Study placed male particpants on either a suspension bridge (eliciting a physiological response of fear) or a low bridge. The male participants were approached by an attractive female researcher who asked the participants to write a quick story; she then gave them her phone number for experimental procedure purposes. The results showed that the stories written by the men on the high bridge were more sexual in content and those men also were more likely to attempt to contact the female via her phone number. This supports the 2 factor theory as the men on the tall bridge labeled their physiological arousal as sexual attraction instead of fear.