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Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Bodily Changes and Emotions.docx

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University of Toronto Scarborough
G Cupchik

Bodily Changes and EmotionsChapter 5 y In 1884 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 y Emotional experience in turn generates emotionrelated bodily changes Within this formulation emotion originates in the mind James altered this sequence locating the origins of emotional experience in the body 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 y There is no doubt that bodily changes such as sweats trembling heart flutters blushes and flushes tensed muscles and tears do invade our experience of emotion y It is that every emotion from anger to sympathy to the rapturous delight of hearing a favorite musician involves a distinct bodily reverberation detected by the autonomic nervous systemThe Autonomic Nervous Systemy 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 y 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 actionsThe Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Branchesy The parasympathetic autonomic nervous system incorporates nerves that originate in two different parts of top of the spinal cord and in the sacral region near the bottom of the the spinal cord the vagus nerve at the spinal cord The parasympathetic system decreases heart rate and blood pressure y 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 way from the parasympathetic system It increases heart rate blood pressure and cardiac output y This may account for chronic stress producing poor health outcomes For these reasons many have argued that the sympathetic system helps prepare the body for fight or flight responses y 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 systemCannons Critique Autonomic Specificity y Walter Cannon was a student of William James at Harvard University and apparently was unconvinced by Jamess arguments about emotion As we described in chapter 1 Cannon argued against Jamess 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 y He proposed that quite different emotions involved exactly the same general activation of the sympathetic nervous system This socalled arousal response includes release of the hormone adrenaline y The specificity and nuance of different emotions Cannon contended was to be found not in the body but in the brain y A second criticism was that autonomic responses are too slow to account for the rapidity with which we experience emotion or move from one emotion to another y A third criticism was that the main actions of the autonomic nervous system which James contended were specific to emotion actually occur in a variety of other states such as fevers cold exposure or asphyxia If
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