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?
Cannon-Bard Theory of EmotionShow moreShow less
The Cannon-Bard theory argues that physiological and emotional responses occur together.
Physiologists William Cannon and Philip Bard developed their theory of emotion as a direct critique of the James-Lange theory. Cannon and Bard observed that, contrary to the James-Lange theory's assertion that physiological arousal is the starting point for emotion, emotional sensations are often felt at the same time or even before any associated physiological responses. For example, the feeling of being afraid in a dangerous situation can be followed by physiological symptoms such as shivering and an increased heart rate.
The Cannon-Bard theory claims that both emotions and physiological symptoms are the result of neurological signals. When a person receives sensory information about some external stimulus, signals originating in the thalamus are sent to various parts of the brain which control emotional and physiological responses. Thus, physiology and emotions are affected simultaneously, without one sequentially causing the other.