Emotion: Theories, Physiological Correlates, and Psychology
We often use the terms “feelings” and “emotions” interchangeably, but there is a big difference between the two. Feelings are more like physical sensations, while emotions are more mental and complex. Emotions involve thoughts, physiological changes, and behaviors. They also motivate us to take action.
2. Emotion: Theories, Physiological Correlates, and Psychology
When we feel an emotion, our brain is working hard to create a response. Theories of emotion try to explain how this process works. There are three main theories of emotion: the James-Lange theory, the Cannon-Bard theory, and the Darwin theory.
The James-Lange theory says that emotions are created by our physiological response to a stimulus. For example, if we see a snake, our brain will trigger a physical response like increased heart rate and sweating. We then interpret these physical responses as fear and feel the emotion of fear.
The Cannon-Bard theory says that emotions are created by both our physiological response and our cognitive interpretation of the stimulus. So, in the same example, we would see the snake and have a physical response like increased heart rate and sweating. But, unlike in the James-Lange theory, we would also interpret these reactions as fear at the same time.
The Darwin theory says that emotions are based on our evolutionary history. This means that we have certain emotions because they helped our ancestors survive. For example, the emotion of fear helps us avoid dangerous situations.
Each of these theories has some evidence to support it. However, most researchers believe that all three play a role in how we experience emotion.
The limbic system is a group of structures in the brain that are important for emotional processing. These structures include the hypothalamus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the thalamus.
The hypothalamus is important for maintaining homeostasis (balance) in the body. It also regulates autonomic processes like heart rate and blood pressure. The amygdala is important for processing emotional memories and triggering the fight-or-flight response. The hippocampus is important for forming new memories, particularly long-term memories about emotional experiences. The thalamus is important for sending information from all over the body to the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of the brain).
Cerebral lateralization is the idea that certain functions are controlled by one side of the brain or the other. Researchers have found that emotions are often lateralized to either the left or right hemisphere of the brain. However, this varies depending on which emotion you’re experiencing.
For example, happiness is often lateralized to the left hemisphere, while sadness is lateralized to the right hemisphere. Fear is lateralized to both hemispheres, but it is more often seen in the right hemisphere than the left hemisphere.
There are four main methods used to study emotions: self-report measures, facial expressions, psychophysiological measures, and behavioral measures.
Self-report measures ask people to describe their emotions using words or numbers (on a scale from 1-5). Facial expressions can be used to infer what someone is feeling based on their facial muscles (for example, raised eyebrows often indicate surprise). Psychophysiological measures look at changes in the body like heart rate or skin conductance. Behavioral measures look at changes in behavior like how much someone is smiling or how often they blink.
3. Methods of Studying Emotions
4. Theories of Emotion
5. Physiological Correlates of Emotion
6. Emotions in Psychology
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