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PSYC18H3 Lecture Notes - Somatic Marker Hypothesis, Dither, Antonio Damasio

Course Code
G Cupchik

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PSYC18 Chapter 5 – Bodily changes and Emotion
- Autonomic nervous system
- If you took away the physiological sensations such as heart palpitations, trembling,
muscle tensions, etc, what would happen? James argued that you would be left with a
purely intellectual state. Emotion = absent.
The autonomic nervous system
- Neural signals from the cortex communicate with the limbic system and the
- Most general function is to maintain the internal condition of the body, to enable adaptive
response to varying environmental events
- Parasympathetic brach helps with restorative processes, reducing heart rate and blood
pressure and increasing digestive processes
- Sympathetic branch increase heartrate, blood pressure, shuts down digestive processes
to help individual engage in physically demanding actions
- Maintains inner environment of body by controling digestion, body fluids, blood flow and
- The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches
oParasympathetic: incorporates nerves that originate in two different parts of the
spinal cord: vagus nerve (top of spinal cord) and in the sacral region (bottom of
spinal cord)
Decreases heart rate and blood pressure. Facilitates blood flow. Essential to
sexual response.
oSympathetic system: a dozen different neural pathways originating at several sites
on the spinal cord
Increases heart rate abd blood pressure, shuts down digestive system.
Creates goosebumps. Prepares for fight-or-flight response.
- Support for James’ claims regarding autonomic specificity and emotion:
o1) dozen distinct autonomic pathways, so different emotions could potentially be
involved with distinct pathways
o2) One can imagine many different ways in which the autonomic system could
- Cannon’s critique of autonomic specificity
oProposed that bodily changes are produced by the brain, quite different emotions
involved exactly the same general activation of the sympathetic nervous system
Arousal response includes release of the hormone adrenaline Body prepares for
action (3 Fs): Fight, flight and sexual behaviour
o1) Changes in heart rate, breathing, sweat responses, etc, are too diffuse and non-
specific to account for distinct varieties of emotional experience The nuances are
thus found in the brain, not the body
o2) Autonomic responses are too slow to account for the rapidity with which we
experience emotion
o3) The main actions of autonomic nervous system actually occur in a variety of
other states such as fevers, cold exposure or asphyxia.
o4) Sensitivity to change in autonomic nervous system is not refined enough to
result in the many emotional states we experience: People are only moderately
attuned to their heart rate activity or to other bodily responses
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