Emotional psychology: main theories of emotion.
A tour through the main ideas, research and theories on human emotions.
Emotions are a field of research that has fascinated scientists for centuries.
However, their complexity has made it difficult to define them and to understand how they work, which has not prevented many researchers from advancing in this line of knowledge.
The existence of several theories of emotion produced throughout the history of psychology as a science is evidence of these efforts. as a science is evidence of these efforts. Throughout this article we will learn about the most important ones.
- Article to deepen: "The basic emotions are four, and not six as it was believed".
Emotions: what exactly are they?
The emotions They exert a great force on us and influence our thinking and behavior, which is why they have a great weight in the study of psychology. In recent years, different theories have emerged that try to explain the how and why of human emotions and, moreover, in the world of psychology, emotional intelligence has been gaining ground for its benefits in people's well-being and emotional development..
Concepts such as emotional validation, emotional self-control or emotional management are becoming more and more familiar to us, and both in the organizational world and in sports, proper emotional management is closely related to performance.
However... how can we understand what an emotion is? Emotions are usually defined as a complex affective state.a subjective reaction that occurs as a result of physiological or psychological changes that influence thought and behavior. In psychology, they are associated with various phenomena, including temperament, personality, mood or motivation.
According to David G. Meyers, a psychologist with expertise in emotions, human emotions involve "physiological arousal, expressive behavior, and conscious experience."
Theories of Emotion
The most important theories of emotion can be grouped in three categories: physiological, neurological y cognitive.
Physiological theories suggest that intra-body responses are responsible for emotions. Neurological theories propose that activity in the brain leads to emotional responses. And finally, cognitive theories argue that thoughts and other mental activities play an essential role in the formation of emotions.
But, what theories of emotion are there? The following are the best known theories of emotional psychology.
Evolutionary theory of emotion (Charles Darwin)
The evolutionary theory of emotion has its origin in the ideas of Charles Darwin, who stated that emotions evolved that emotions evolved because they were adaptive and allowed human beings to survive and reproduce.. For example, the emotion of fear compelled people to fight or avoid danger.
Therefore, according to the evolutionary theory of emotion, our emotions exist because they serve us to survive. Emotions motivate people to respond quickly to an environmental stimulus, which increases the likelihood of survival.
In addition, understanding the emotions of other people or animals also plays a crucial role in safety and survival.
James-Lange theory of emotion
This is one of the best known physiological theories of emotion. Proposed independently by William James and Carl Lange, suggests that emotions occur as a consequence of physiological reactions to physical events..
Moreover, this emotional reaction is dependent on how we interpret those physical reactions. For example, imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a bear. You start to tremble and your heart races. According to the James-Lange theory, you will interpret your physical reaction and conclude that you are afraid: "I am trembling and therefore I am afraid." Thus, this theory states that you are not shaking because you are scared, but that you are scared because you are shaking.
Cannon-Bard theory of emotion
Another well-known theory of emotion is the Cannon-Bard theory. Walter Cannon disagreed with the above theory for several reasons. First, suggested that people experience the physiological reactions associated with emotions without feeling the emotion.. For example, your heart may race because you play sports, not necessarily because of fear. In addition, Cannon suggested that we feel the emotions at the same time as the physiological reactions. Cannon proposed this theory in the 1920s, but physiologist Philip Bard, during the 1930s, decided to extend this work.
Specifically, this theory suggests that emotions occur when the thalamus sends a message to the brain in response to a stimulus, which triggers a physiological reaction. At the same time, the brain also receives a message about the emotional experience. This occurs simultaneously.
This theory is part of the cognitive theories of emotion, and it suggests that physiological suggests that physiological activation occurs first. Next, the individual must identify the reasons for this activation in order to experience the emotion label. A stimulus elicits a physiological response that is then interpreted and labeled cognitively, which becomes the emotional experience.
Schachter and Singer's theory is inspired by the previous two. On the one hand, like James-Lange's theory, it proposes that people infer their emotions from physiological responses. However, it differs from the latter in the importance of the situation and the cognitive interpretation that individuals make to label emotions.
On the other hand, like Cannon-Bard's theory, it also argues that similar physiological reactions elicit a wide variety of emotions.
Cognitive appraisal theory
According to this theory thinking must occur before the experience of emotion.. Richard Lazarus pioneered this theory, which is why it is often referred to as the Lazarus theory of emotion. In short, this theoretical artifact states that the sequence of events first involves a stimulus, followed by an emotion.
For example, if you are in a forest and you see a bear, you will first think that you are in danger. This triggers the emotional experience of fear and the physiological reaction, which may end in flight.
Facial feedback theory of emotions
This theory states that facial expressions are connected to emotional experience.. Some time ago, both Charles Darwin and William James noted that physiological responses sometimes had a direct impact on emotions, rather than simply being a consequence of emotion. According to the theorists of this theory, emotions are directly related to changes in facial muscles.
For example, people who have to force their smile in a given social environment will have a better time than those who have a more neutral facial expression.
The relationship of emotions to well-being
In the last decade, the theory of emotional intelligence has begun to gain ground. This type of intelligence, which began to become popular thanks to Daniel GolemanThe theory of emotional intelligence, which began to become popular thanks to Daniel Goleman, has its origins in Professor Howard Gardner's vision of intelligence, the theory of multiple intelligences.
There are numerous studies that affirm that emotional intelligence is key to people's well-being, since self-knowledge, emotional regulation or empathy positively affect the psychological well-being of individuals, as well as personal relationships or work or sports development.
To learn more about emotional intelligence, we recommend reading the following articles:
- "¿Qué es la Inteligencia Emocional? Descubriendo la importancia de las emociones"
- "Los 10 beneficios de la inteligencia emocional"
- Dalgleish, T. (2004). The emotional brain. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 5(7): pp. 583 - 589.
- Darwin, C. (1872). The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Londres:John Murray.
- Ellsworth, P.C. (1994). William James and Emotion: Is a Century of Fame Worth a Century of Misunderstanding? Psychological Review. 101(2): pp. 222 - 229.
- Friedman, B.H. (2010). Feelings and the body: The Jamesian perspective on autonomic specificity of emotion. Biological Psychology. 84 (3): pp. 383 - 393.