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Chapter 5

Book/ Chapter 5


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYC18H3
Professor
Michelle Hilscher
Chapter
5

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Chapter 5
William James turned the field of research on emotions on its head. Most writers until that time
had argued that the experience of an emotion follows the perception of an emotionally exciting
event.
James altered this sequence locating the origins of emotional experience in the body.
He contended that an emotionally exciting fact provokes bodily responses, which in turn lead to the
experience of an emotion. My thesis, he said, is that the bodily changes follow directly the
perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the
emotion.
It is that every emotion, from anger to sympathy to the rapturous delight of hearing a favourite
musician, involves a distinct bodily reverberation” detected by the autonomic nervous system
and by neural signals from the workings of our muscles.
Jamess rather counterintuitive analysis points to five questions.
Is there emotion-specific activation in the autonomous nervous system?
Do bodily changes of heart rate, breathing, and the like support specific kinds of action such as
fight or flight?
To what extent is the experience of emotion based on activation of the autonomous nervous
system?
Do bodily changes produce the experience of emotion?
Is the body really the primary organ of emotional experience?
The autonomic nervous system
The autonomic nervous system: The autonomic nervous systems most general function is to
maintain the internal condition of the body, to enable adaptive response to varying environmental
events. The parasympathetic branch helps with restorative processes, reducing heart rate and
blood pressure and increasing digestive processes. The sympathetic branch increases heart rate,
blood pressure, and cardiac output and shuts down digestive processes, to help the individual to
engage in physically demanding actions.
The autonomic nervous system is also closely associated with various behaviours with direct
relevance to emotion, including defensive behaviour, sexual behaviour, and aggression.
The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches
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The parasympathetic autonomic nervous system incorporatesnerves that originate in two different
parts of the spinal cord: the vagus nerve, at the top of the spinal cord, and in the sacral region near
the bottom of the spinal cord. The parasympathetic system decreases heart rate and blood pressure.
In a few places it facilitates blood flow by dilating certain arteries. It increases blood flow to
erectile tissue in the penis and clitoris, and thus is essential to the sexual response. It increases
digestive processes by moving digested food through the gastrointestinal tract. The parasympathetic
system also constricts the pup[il and bronchioles. It stimulates the secretion of various fluids
throughout the body, including those in the digestive glands, salivation, and tears.
The sympathetic system involves over a dozen different neural pathways originating at several sites
on the spinal cord, and most typically acts in the opposite was from the parasympathetic system.
For these reasons, many have argued that the sympathetic system helps prepare the body for fight
or flight responses.
One finds two kinds of potential support for Jamess claims regarding autonomic specificity and
emotion. A first is that there are over a dozen distinct autonomic pathways that activate different
regions of the body, so different emotions could potentially be involved with distinct pathways in
the autonomic nervous system. A second kind of support is that one can imagine many different
ways in which components of the autonomic system could combine, including heart rate, blood
flow of the skin (e.g., blushing), sweating, production of tears, stomach activity, and breathing.
Cannons critique of autonomic specificity
Walter Cannon was a student of William James at Harvard University, and apparently was
unconvinced by Jamess arguments about emotion.
Cannon argued against James theory. He proposed instead that bodily changes are produced by the
brain, and that they are similar during different emotions such as anger and fear. He proposed that
quite different emotions involved exactly the same general activation of the sympathetic nervous
system. This so-called arousal response includes release of the hormone adrenaline. The effects of
this sympathetic-adrenal response are a shift of bodily resources to prepare for action, including
what have been known as the three Fs: fight, flight, and sexual behaviour.
A two-factor theory of emotion
Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer proposed a two-factor theory of emotion that would help
shift the emphasis from bodily responses to how people construe emotional situations as the source
of emotional experiences. One important component of an emotional experience with Schachter
and Singer’s theory is undifferentiated physiological arousal. Clearly, Schachter and Singer were
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convinced of physiologican specificity. They assumed that a single type of general arousal is
associated with very different emotions.
Notwithstanding the fact that the experiment of Schachter and Singer has not been replicated in
full, the theory has had two lasting influences upon the field of emotion. First, because it became
so well known, the theory added to the interest in appraisal of the kind that Arnold and Gasson
had proposed. The second influence was the finding that has been replicated, that when
physiological arousal or an anxiety state does not have an obvious source, people do tend to label
and experience their arousal according to what is happening in the current situation.
People experience specific emotionsexcitement or love as a result of attributed heightened
arousal or anxiety to what is happening in their immediate social environment.
The idea of misattribution of arousal has been pursued in many experiments exploring how
arousal from one source (e.g., difficulties at work) can be attributed to some other, salient source in
the environment (tensions over housework at home). One major finding is that participants who
engage in arousing physical exercise later have greater emotional responses to stimuli presented a
few moments later when participants think their arousal has subsided.
Evidence for autonomic specificity in emotion
Ekman and his collaborator Wallace Friesen developed a coding system that allowed them to
identify facial muscle action of the face.
Ekman noticed that moving his facial muscles seemed to change how he felt. When he furrowed
the brow his heart rate seemed to increase and his blood pressure to rise. When he wrinkled the
nose and stuck out the tongue, as one does during intense disgust, his heart rate seemed to slow
down. Might moving facial muscles into emotions configurations produce specific autonomic
activity? This would be in keeping with William Jamess idea that specific bodily responses give
rise to specific emotional experiences.
To answer this question, Robert Levenson, Paul Ekman, and Wallace Friesen conducted the
following study employing the directed facial action task. They had participants follow muscle-
by-muscle instruction to figure their faces into the six different expressions of the emotions that
Ekman had studied in his cross-cultural judgment studies. For example, for one expression
participants were instructed to:
1. Wrinkle your nose
2. Raise your upper lip
3. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue
Lets put these results in the context of the claims about physiological specificity. The first was all
emotions involve elevated sympathetic response. The second was that the negative emotions
anger, disgust, fear, and sadness in this study – all involve increased sympathetic arousal, whereas
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