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Chapter 12

PSY 220 Chapter Notes - Chapter 12: Behavioral Neuroscience, Antonio Damasio, Corticosteroid

Course Code
PSY 220
Hurwitz Barry

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Chapter 12- Emotional Behaviors
Evolutionary theory of emotion
What good do emotions do?
Fear alerts us to escape from danger
Anger directs us to attack an intruder
Facial expressions allow people to quickly judge someone’s intent/ communicate
intentions to others
Disgust tells us to avoid something that might cause illness
Emotions provide a useful guide when we need to make a quick decision
All human cultures share six primary emotions:
1. Anger
2. Sadness
3. Disgust
4. Fear
5. Happy
6. surprise
People who are good at detecting their autonomic responses may have valid gut feelings
about dangers they cannot identify consciously.
Characteristics of emotions & tripartite mind-body process
Psychologists define emotion in terms of a tripartite mind-body interaction:
Cognitive awareness of an event
Emotional response physiological response behavioral response
(ex. annoyance, fear, (ex. autonomic arousal, (coping efforts:
anxiety, anger, grief) hormonal & neurotransmitter lashing out, running)
The brain uses the autonomic nervous system to convey the physiological response
occurring during emotional expression.
Theories of emotion (common sense vs James-Lange vs Cannon-Bard vs Schacter-
Singer); pros & cons

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Common sense theory of emotion: initially we perceive an emotion & from the
emotion, a specific pattern of autonomic arousal & skeletal action occurs
event emotion action
James-Lange theory- autonomic arousal & skeletal actions come before emotion; what
you experience as emotion is the label you give to your responses
Event appraisal of the stimulus action (behavioral/physiological) emotion
(conscious feeling)
Main contribution: the experience of one’s emotion may involve “reading” the state of
one’s own body
“I feel afraid because I tremble”
The James-Lange theory leads to two predictions:
1. People with weak autonomic or skeletal responses should feel less emotion
2. Causing or increasing someon’s responses should enhance an emotion
Evidence for the James-Lange theory:
*Pure autonomic failure- uncommon condition in which output from the autonomic
nervous system to the body fails, either completely or almost completely; heartbeat and
other organ activities continue, but the nervous system no longer regulates them
Someone with pure autonomic failure does not react to stressful experiences with
changes in heart rate, blood pressure, or sweating
^According to the James-Lange theory, we would expect such people to report no
emotion, but they do report having the same emotions as anyone else, only much
less intensely than before (presumably by “emotion” they are referring to their
appraisal of the situation)
Therefore their decreased emotional feeling is consistent with the James-Lange
Botox patients can’t feel sadness as intensely because they can’t frown
People with brain damage that prevents voluntary facial movements have trouble
recognizing other peoples’ emotional expressions, especially expressions of fear
Most people rate the cartoons funnier when holding a pen with their teeth- which
forces a smile- than when holding it with their lips

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The implication of all of these studies is that feeling a body change is important for
feeling an emotion.
Evidence against the James-Lange theory:
People with damage to the right somatosensory cortex had normal autonomic
responses to emotional music but reported little subjective experience
People with damage to part of the prefrontal cortex had weak autonomic
responses but normal subjective responses; rating photos with golf tees
However, it was not clear whether peoples’ reports of their “emotional experience”
accurately recorded the feeling aspect of emotion, as opposed to the cognitive aspect.
Cannon’s criticisms of the James-Lange theory:
1. People who show different emotions may have the same physiological (visceral)
state; ex. we cry when we are both happy & sad
2. Visceral changes are often too difficult to notice by a person having the
experience to be used as cues
3. Visceral changes are often too slow to be a source of emotions, which erupt very
quickly (ex. when something bad happens to you, do you always cry before you
feel sad? Or can you feel sad before crying?)
4. Physiological arousal may occur without the experience of emotion (ex. increased
heart rate during exercise)
Cannon-Bard theory- the emotion is produced in the brain alone; an emotion is
mediated via brain activity following receipt & processing of sensory info
Thus the emotional cognition & the autonomic arousal & skeletal action occur
autonomic arousal
Stimulus subcortical brain activity &
conscious feeling
“The dog makes me tremble and feel afraid”
Schacter-Singer theory- relatively nonspecific feelings of physiological arousal occur &
then emotional labels are attributed to them
These attributions occur by CNS systems that interpret the current social,
physical, and cognitive situation
Thus the physiological response is a cue to the brain that something important
may be happening to us
Stimulus autonomic arousal cognitive appraisal conscious feeling
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