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< Back to question What are the theories of emotion? Show more Show less

Emotions are a central part of the experience of being human. People's feelings and moods affect their behavior, choices, and perspectives in myriad ways. The physical and psychological mechanisms behind emotions are correspondingly complex, and many different theories of emotion have been proposed to explain them. What are these theories, and are they supported by biology, psychology, physiology, or even common sense?

Schachter-Singer Two-Factor Theory Show more Show less

The Schachter-Singer theory offers an explanation of emotions based on two factors, physiological arousal and cognitive interpretation.
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Emotions are determined through cognitive processes

After a physiological response occurs, cognition interprets and labels the correct emotion.
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The Argument

In the Schachter-Singer Two-Factor theory of emotion, the second factor in causing an emotion is cognitive interpretation. The Schachter-Singer theory points to cognitive processes to resolve one of the major disagreements between two earlier theories of emotion: the James-Lange theory, which argued that emotions are the direct result of physiological responses, and the Cannon-Bard theory, which rebutted James-Lange in part by observing that many physiological symptoms, such as those experienced during exercise, do not correlate neatly with emotions. Whereas Cannon and Bard entirely rejected James-Lange's claim that physiology causes emotions, Schachter and Singer bridged the gap between James-Lange and Cannon-Bard by theorizing an additional cognitive step after physiological arousal to explain why specific physiological responses only sometimes cause specific emotions. According to the Schachter-Singer theory, cognitive interpretation is the second step in forming emotions following physiological arousal. When a physiological response occurs, this triggers a person's cognitive processes, which search for a source of the physiological symptom in their external environment. If a person begins sweating, for example, cognitive interpretation might check for signs of heat, ongoing exercise, or danger in the person's environment, and initiate and label the relevant emotional response based on this information. Thus, two factors are involved in emotional responses, the physiological factor and the cognitive factor.

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    This page was last edited on Friday, 21 Feb 2020 at 21:29 UTC

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