Chapter 5. Bodily Changes and Emotion
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William James proposed that every emotion involves a distinct "bodily reverberation" detected by the autonomic
nervous system and by neural signals from the workings of our muscles.
Most general function is to maintain the internal condition of the body, to enable adaptive response to
varying environmental events.
Closely related to various behaviours with direct relevance to emotion, including defensive behaviour,
sexual behaviour, and aggression.
Controls processes such as digestion, bodily fluids, blood flow, and temperature.
Helps with restorative processes, reducing heart rate and blood pressure and increasing digestive
Parasympathetic nervoussystem: one of the two divisions of the ANS. Actions of this system tends toward
quieting and recuperation.
Increases heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output and shuts down digestive processes, to help
the individual to engage in physically demanding situations.
Sympathetic nervous system: one of the two divisions of the ANS. Actions of this system tends toward
arousal, and preparation for fight or flight.
Autonomicnervoussystem: part of the nervous system concerned with the inside of the body, and thought by
William James to be important in the production of emotions as perceptions of bodily change. It has two divisions:
the parasympathetic and sympathetic.
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 ANS.
One can imagine many different ways in which components of the autonomic system could combine,
including heart rate, blood flow to the skin, sweating, production of tears, stomach activity, and breathing.
Such patterns could plausibly account for the diversity of emotional experience.
William James' autonomic specificity has two kinds of support:
Effects of this sympathetic-adrenal response are a shift of bodily resources to prepare for action,
including the three Fs: fight, flight, and sexual behaviour.
This so-called arousal response includes release of the hormone adrenaline.
The specificity and nuance of different emotions are found in the brain.
Responses of the ANS are too diffuse and nonspecific to account for the distinct varieties of
Autonomic responses are too slow to account for the rapidity with which we experience emotion, or
move from one emotion to another.
Does not support James's hypothesis that each emotion is associated with a distinct autonomic
Main actions of the ANS actually occur in a variety of other states, such as fevers, cold exposure, or
asphyxia, not just specific to emotion.
Questioned whether our sensitivity to change in the ANS is refined enough to result in the many
emotional states we experience.
He criticized James's autonomic specificity in the following ways:
Walter Cannon proposed that quite different emotions involved exactly the same general activation of the
sympathetic nervous system.
One important component in this theory is undifferentiated physiological arousal -a single type of general
arousal is associated with very different emotions.
Theory added to the interest in appraisal: evaluation of an event according to a number of criteria.
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.
Theory had two lasting influences upon the field of emotion:
Misattribution: attribution of a mood to an object rather than that which caused it; thus anxiety can
sometimes be misattributed to sexual attraction.
Two-factortheory: proposed by Schachter and Singer to help shift the emphasis from bodily responses to how
people construe emotional situations as the source of different emotional experiences.
They found that large increases of heart rate occurred for fear, anger, and sadness, but almost none for
Paul Ekman conducted a study using directed facial action task, where they had participants follow muscle-by-
muscle instructions to configure their faces into the six different expressions of the emotions that Ekman had
studied in his cross-cultural judgment studies. Meanwhile, their physiological changes were measured.
Chapter 5. Bodily Changes and Emotion
Monday, February 14, 2011
PSYC18 Page 1
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