Four Theories of Emotion

Four Theories of Emotion
Psy 240
July 26, 2013

Four Theories of Emotion
The Four Theories of Emotion

The main theories of emotion are the James-Lange theory, the Cannon-Bard theory, the

Schacter-Singer theory, and the Lazarus theory. Each of these theories explain the order of

events that occur when an emotion is present. The first of these theories is the James-Lange

theory. Discovered separately by William James and Carl Lange. This theory claims that an

event first causes physiological arousal and also a physical response. It is not until then that the

person interprets the physical response as an emotion. An example of this could be shown when

we are sorry we cry, angry because we strike out, or afraid because we shake. Simply put the

physical aspects appear before we are aware of the emotions. It is not until we physically

respond to a situation that emotions surface.

The second theory of emotion is the Cannon-Bard theory, developed by Walter Cannon

and later revisited and expanded upon by physiologist Phillip Bard. It suggests that following a

chain of events: emotion-provoking stimuli are received by the senses and are then relayed

simultaneously to the cerebral cortex, which provides the conscious mental experience of the

emotion, and to the sympathetic nervous system, which then produce the physiological state of

arousal. Or simply that we experience both the physical aspect and the emotion at the same time,

not one caused by the other.

The third theory is that of Schachter-Singer., a two-stage theory that states that for an

emotion to occur there must first be a physiological arousal, and second there must be an

explanation for the arousal. Something must grab our attention and have a reason as to why it

got that specific response.

The final theory is the Lazarus theory, this states that an emotion-provoking stimulus

triggers a cognitive appraisal, which is followed by the emotion and physiological arousal.



Pinel, J. P. J. (2011). Biopsychology. Boston, MA: Pearson.