Why do we feel a certain way about different events in our life? How does this happen?
These are the questions experts have been trying to answer for centuries. Even though we don’t have all the answers, today we have a much better understanding of our emotional responses.
Many theories of emotion have been developed, but only a handful are relevant in modern psychology.
Let’s take a look at what we know about how emotions work.
In this article we will answer the following questions:
- The evolutionary theory of emotion
- The Lazarus theory of emotion
- The primary thesis of the James-Lange theory of emotion
What Are The Three Theories Of Emotion?
Emotions are there to tell us something – usually something important.
-Jon Butcher, Author of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Program
Here we’ll focus on the main three theories of emotion that explain the connection between the body and mind. These theories are:
- The evolutionary theory of emotion
- Lazarus theory of emotion (cognitive appraisal theory)
- James-Lange theory of emotion
Let’s see what some of the world’s brightest minds have to say about why we feel the way we feel.
The evolutionary theory of emotion
Proposed by the legendary Charles Darwin, the evolutionary theory assumes that emotions developed to help people and animals survive.
Negative emotions like fear trigger the “fight or flight” response necessary for dealing with danger. On the other hand, emotions such as love and affection are responsible for reproduction and the expansion of the human race.
According to Darwin, emotions are adaptive and stimulate people to react accordingly to life events. Interpreting other people’s emotions is also essential, which Darwin believed was necessary for survival.
Although dated and a bit simplistic, this theory explains why we’re able to feel. Now let’s take a look at how this happens.
What is the Lazarus theory of emotion?
Also known as the cognitive appraisal theory, the Lazarus theory explains that emotions depend on our thoughts.
When we encounter different stimuli, our brain processes them and decides how we feel about them. After that, emotions and physical sensations happen simultaneously.
For example, let’s say a stray dog growls at you. Your brain will register this as danger and trigger the “fight or flight” response in your brain. This will cause your adrenaline levels to rise, your senses to sharpen, and you’ll act according to the prevalent emotion.
This theory is widely accepted among psychologists worldwide, as it covers the main components of every emotion that we feel. Our thoughts influence the way we feel, which moves us to take a certain action.
What is the primary thesis of the James-Lange theory of emotion?
Proposed by William James and Carl Lange, this is an interesting theory that proposes the sequence of events that happens once an emotion arises. This theory assumes that emotion is a result of a physical sensation that happens once we start reacting to an event around us.
What is the order of reactions in the James-Lange theory of emotion?
James and Lange suggested that a stimulus can activate a physical response in your body, which then causes you to feel certain emotions.
In our stray dog example, you’d start trembling because you saw a dog growling at you, and this would cause you to feel fear. Basically, you interpret your bodily sensations and then attach it to an emotion.
Which theory of emotion is correct?
To this day, we still don’t know the exact mechanism behind emotions. Both the Lazarus and the James-Lange theory have valid points, and the combination of their theories may help us paint the bigger picture.
There’s no way to ignore our thoughts when it comes to our emotions. And it’s true that our thoughts can activate physical sensations and emotions. With this in mind, you could say that the Lazarus theory offers a logical explanation of what happens in response to a stimulus.
On the other hand, physical sensations can amplify existing emotions and create new ones, which sums up the James-Lange theory. This is mainly true for the secondary emotions which happen after we’ve processed the primary ones like the fear of getting attacked by a growling dog.
The bottom line? We’re in control of our emotions, but only so far as we can understand where they come from and why we feel them.
Gain Instant Clarity On What You Really Want In Life – And Have It AllThere’s a reason that so many brilliantly talented, naturally creative, intelligent and capable people never reach their potential, and it is, quite simply, a lack of direction.
Even if you have a vague goal in mind, you still need a plan, a process to get you there.
You can have the most expensive, fastest car in the world, but if you set off without a clear idea of where you’re going, then the rusty old Beatle with a map and compass will beat you there every time.
If You're Ready To Experience The Extraordinary Life Design System That Gives YOU The Power To Author Your Ultimate Life, Then Join Jon & Missy Butcher's Free Masterclass
Where You will Learn:
✅ Are you stuck on the hamster wheel of life, instead of rushing towards your fullest potential? Discover how to escape the 3 soul-crushing reasons most people unknowingly cheat themselves of their greatest lives.
✅ Do you always set goals and rarely achieve them? It’s not your fault – traditional goal-setting is seriously incomplete! Discover how Lifebook empowers you to rapidly and consistently take charge of your life, and realize your every dream.
✅ Experience the ‘Instant Clarity’ exercise: a powerful visualization exercise that guides you through your ideal day – and gives you instant clarity on who you really are, and what kind of life you really want to be living.
Step Into The New Year With A Crystal-Clear Vision For Your Ultimate Life
Why do you think we feel the way we feel? Share your thoughts below.