Emotional psychology: main theories of emotion

Emotions are an area of ​​research that has fascinated scientists for centuries.

However, their complexity has made it difficult to both define them and understand how they work, which has not stopped many researchers from proposing to advance in this line of knowledge.

The existence of various theories of emotion produced throughout the history of psychology as a science, it accounts for these efforts. Throughout this article we will know the most important.

  • Article for further study: “The basic emotions are four, not six as we think”

Emotions: what exactly are they?

the emotions they exert great force on us and influence our thinking and our conduct, which is why they carry great weight in the study of psychology. In recent years, different theories have emerged that attempt to explain the how and why of human emotions and, moreover, in the world of psychology, emotional intelligence is gaining ground for its benefits on the well-being and emotional development of people.

Concepts such as emotional validation, emotional self-control or emotional management are increasingly familiar to us, and in the organizational world and in sport, good emotional management is closely linked to performance.

Now … how do we understand what an emotion is? Emotions are often defined as a complex emotional state, A subjective reaction that occurs as a result of physiological or psychological changes that influence thinking and behavior. In psychology, they are associated with different phenomena, including temperament, personality, humor or motivation.

According to David G. Meyers, an emotional psychologist, human emotions involve “physiological arousal, expressive behavior, and conscious experience.”

Theories of emotion

The most important theories of emotion can be grouped into three categories: Physiological, neurological and cognitive.

Physiological theories suggest that intracorporeal responses are responsible for emotions. Neurological theories suggest that activity in the brain leads to emotional responses. And finally, cognitive theories claim that thoughts and other mental activities play an essential role in the formation of emotions.

But, What theories of emotion do you have? Below, we present the most well-known theories of emotional psychology.

Evolutionary theory of emotion (Charles Darwin)

The evolutionary theory of emotion finds its origin in the ideas of Charles Darwin, who claimed that emotions evolved because they were adaptive and allowed humans to survive and reproduce. For example, the emotion of fear forced people to fight or avoid danger.

Therefore, according to the evolutionary theory of emotion, our emotions exist because they serve us to survive. Emotions motivate people to react quickly to an environmental stimulus, which increases the chances of survival.

In addition, understanding the emotions of other people or animals also plays a crucial role in safety and survival.

James-Lange theory of emotions

It is one of the most well-known physiological theories of emotion. Independently proposed by William James and Carl Lange, this theory suggests that emotions result from physiological reactions to events.

Moreover, this emotional reaction depends on how we interpret these physical reactions. For example, imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a bear. You start to shake and your heart speeds up. According to the James-Lange theory, you will interpret your physical reaction and conclude that you are afraid: “I am shaking and therefore afraid.” So this theory says that you are not shaking because you are afraid, but you are afraid because you are shaking.

Cannon-Bard theory of emotions

Another well-known theory of emotion is that of Cannon-Bard. Walter Cannon disagreed with the above theory for various reasons. first suggest that people experience the physiological reactions associated with emotions without feeling the emotion. For example, the heart may be sped up because you play sports, not necessarily out of fear. Additionally, Cannon suggested that we experience emotions at the same time as physiological reactions. Cannon proposed this theory in the 1920s, but physiologist Philip Bard in the 1930s decided to expand this work.

Specifically, this theory suggests that emotions take place when the thalamus sends a message to the brain in response to a stimulus, which causes a physiological reaction. At the same time, the brain also receives a message about the emotional experience. It is happening simultaneously.

Schachter-Singer theory

This theory is part of the cognitive theories of emotion, and suggests that physiological activation occurs first. The individual must then identify the reasons for this activation in order to experience the emotion label. A stimulus triggers a physiological response which is then interpreted and cognitively labeled, which becomes the emotional experience.

Schachter and Singer’s theory is inspired by the previous two. On the one hand, like the James-Lange theory, it proposes that people infer their emotions from physiological responses. However, it differs from it in the importance of the situation and the cognitive interpretation that individuals make to label emotions.

On the other hand, like the Cannon-Bard theory, it also argues that similar physiological reactions cause a wide variety of emotions.

Cognitive Assessment Theory

According to this theory, thought must occur before experiencing emotion. Richard Lazarus pioneered this theory, which is why it is often called the Lazarus Theory of Emotion. In summary, this theoretical artifact states that the sequence of events first involves a stimulus, followed by an emotion.

For example, if you are in a forest and you see a bear, you will first think that you are in danger. This causes the emotional experience of fear and the physiological reaction, which can end in flight.

Facial Feedback Emotions Theory

This theory claims that facial expressions are linked to emotional experience. Some time ago, Charles Darwin and William James noticed that sometimes physiological responses have a direct impact on emotions, rather than just being a consequence of the emotion. According to theorists of this theory, emotions are directly related to changes in facial muscles.

For example, people who have to force their smile in a certain social environment will have a better time than those with a more neutral facial expression.

The relationship of emotions to well-being

Over the past decade, the theory of emotional intelligence has started to gain traction. This type of intelligence, which started to become popular thanks to Daniel Goleman, Has its origin in Professor Howard Gardner’s view of intelligence, the theory of multiple intelligences.

Numerous studies claim that emotional intelligence is essential for the well-being of people, as self-knowledge, emotional regulation or empathy positively affects the psychological well-being of individuals, as well as personal relationships or the development of the person. work or sport.

To learn more about emotional intelligence, we recommend that you read the following articles:

  • “What is emotional intelligence? Discover the importance of emotions”
  • “The 10 Benefits of Emotional Intelligence”

References bibliographic:

  • Dalgleish, T. (2004). The emotional brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 5 (7): pages 583 to 589.
  • Darwin, C. (1872). The expression of emotions in humans and animals. London: John Murray.
  • Ellsworth, PC (1994). William James and emotion: is a century of glory worth a century of misunderstanding? Psychological review. 101 (2): pages 222 to 229.
  • Friedman, BH (2010). Feelings and Body: The Jamesian Perspective on the Autonomous Specificity of Emotion. Biological psychology. 84 (3): pages 383 to 393.

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