PSYC18: The Psychology of Emotion
Chapter 1: Approaches to Understanding Emotions
¾ For over two thousand years, many thinkers have argued that our emotions are base and destructive and that the more
noble reaches of human nature are achieved when our passions are controlled by our reason.
¾ We begin by looking at three theorists: Darwin, James, and Freud, who laid foundations not just for our understanding of
emotions but for the whole fields respectively of evolutionary biology, psychology, and psychotherapy.
Charles Darwin: The Evolutionary Approach
¾ In 1872, Charles Darwin, the central figure in modern biology, published the most important book on emotions written yet
t The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).
¾ Earlier, in The Origin of Species (1859) he had described how living things have evolved to be adapted to their
¾ Many psychologists and biologists assume that Darwin proposed that emotions had functions in our survival, but he did not
¾ Darwin began writing notes on his observations of emotions in 1838. At that time, the accepted theory was that God had
given humans special facial muscles that allowed them to express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals.
¾ vov}(Á]v[Z}ÇUZ}ÁÀUÁZZµuvv(}u}Zer species: we are not only closer to
animals than had been thought, but we ourselves are animals.
¾ In his book on emotions, Darwin asked two broad questions that guide emotion researchers today. First, how are emotions
expressed in humans and other animals? Second, Darwin addressed, where do our emotions come from?
¾ Darwin concluded that emotional expressions derive largely from habits that in our evolutionary or individual past had once
been useful. These are based on reflex-like mechanisms
¾ For Darwin, emotional expressions showed the continuity of adult human behavioural mechanisms with those of lower
animals and with those of infancy.
¾ He thought that emotional expressions were like vestigial parts of our bodies. Ex: in our digestive system, for instance, is a
small functionless organ, the appendix. Darwin proposed that this is evidence that we are descended from prehuman
ancestors in whom this organ had use.
¾ /vÁ]v[UÇUZvU}µu}]}vo]vlµ}}µU}Z}Z}(}µ]v}}ur own infancy.
¾ Darwin thought that emotions have useful functions too.
William James: The Bodily Approach
¾ ``...bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact... and feeling of the same changes as they occur, IS the
u}]}vX_ t James, 1890, p.449
¾ In this well-known quotation from The Principles of Psychology (1890), William James argued against the commonsense
idea that when we feel an emotion it impels us to a certain kind of activity t that if we were to meet a bear in the woods we
as he put it, then the emotion is the perception of changes of our body as we react to that fact
¾ The core of an emotion, James contended, is the pattern of bodily responses.
¾ This vital point about the embodied nature of emotion is captured in this idea of JamesW_If we fancy some strong emotion
and then try to abstract from our consciousness of it all the feelings of its bodily symptoms, we fine we have nothing left
behind._ This proposal of James has guided the contemporary study of emotion in two important ways.
¾ First, James stressed that our experience of many emotions, from few to joy, is the set of changes of the autonomic nervous
system, that part of the nervous system, that part of the nervous system that supplies inner organs including the heart, the
blood vessels, the stomach, and the sweat glands. James also thought that changes from movements of muscles and joints
were parts of the felt bodily changes.
everything would be pale.