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Lecture 11

PSYC 391 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Walter Bradford Cannon, Autonomic Nervous System, Thought Experiment

Course Code
PSYC 391
Matthew M. Gervais

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PSYC 391 WK 11 Emotions & Social Relationships
What is an emotion?
James- Lange Theory
- James (1890) proposed that emotions are the physiological responses or “bodily
reverberations” to stimuli in the world
- Thought experiment: imagine someone out for a hike stumbled upon a bear →
heart pounding → fear
- Eg embarrassment is the sensation of blood rushing to the face; love is the
feeling of one’s stomach turning end over end
- Suggests that all cultures have the same emotional experiences
- Carl Lange (contemporary): products of the autonomic nervous system, eg changes in
heart rate, breathing, pupil dilation, tear secretion, blood flow to the skin, stomach
Two-factor theory
- Walter Cannon/ Schachter & Singer, 1962
- 2 factors
1. Factors of the physiological signals
2. Interpretation of those signals
- Suggests that emotions are grounded in a belief system, that is affected
by culture (cultural variability)
- (Schachter & Singer, 1962)
1. Provide participants with situational cue to guide their interpretation
- One situation that led Ps to interpret their feelings as euphoria
- One situation that led Ps to interpret their feelings as anger
2. Manipulate the amount of physiological arousal
- Placebo condition
- Epinephrine-informed condition (Ps were told that the e would increase their
- Epinephrine- uninformed condition (EU)
- Results
- Strongest emotions in EU condition
- Ps feel a lot of arousal, but no good explanation for it → look at
- Euphoria situation → explain arousal as a result of euphoria

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- Anger situation → explain arousal as a result of anger
Basic Emotions Theory (Evolutionary psyc)
- Ekman et al.; Tobby & Cosmides 1990
- Starts from Charles Darwin (1872/ 1965) Ekman et al.
- Charles proposed that the various facial expression evolved as a product of
natural selection
- (Ekman & Friesen, 1971)
- Asked Ps to match photos with one of the 6
emotion terms
- Results: agreement about what feelings the different
facial poses were expressing
- BUT, WEIRD samples have been exposed to a lot of
same media images
- Solution: Ekman chose the Fore of the inner highlands of
New Guinea
- Never been exposed to any movies/ magazines/
western cultures
- Results: some facial expressions are universally
similar around the world
- Ekman et al. proposed a set of basic emotions
- Anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust
Conceptual Act Theory (Psyc Constructivism)
- (L.F. Barett 2006, 2017)
- Suggests that basic emotions are not biologically hardwired, but instead are
phenomena that emerge in consciousness “in the moment” from more fundamental
- Instances of emotion are constructed throughout the entire brain by multiple brain
networks in collaboration (eg interoception, concepts, social reality)
Facial expressions

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Other than facial expressions
- Pride expression: an erect posture, head tilted back, slight smile on
the face, arms extending away from the body
- Guilt: giving a gift to show contrition
Cultural variation in emotion expression & experience
- Cultural universals due to same biological makeup (mostly)
- But still better at recognizing facial expressions of people
from one’s own culture (more exposure)
- Eg when only showing pictures of people’s eyes/
stronger fear response/ straight men judging
sexual orientation just by looking at their faces
- Better guessing of nationality by looking at
targets who expresses emotion
- Cultural variability in the parts of the face people
attending (Americans: mouth VS Japanese: eyes; european: both)
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