What is a visceral feeling
In everyday life we are of the opinion that although emotions are private events that are not accessible to others, they are communicated externally through physical "symptoms":
- Anyone who is afraid trembles.
- If you are angry, your face turns red.
- Those who are surprised hold their breath.
- Anyone who is sad has sagging facial muscles or is crying.
- Anyone who is happy laughs.
These examples already indicate that we normally assume that the experience of emotions causes certain physical changes: the tremor is a consequence of fear, not the other way around. There are certainly exceptions, for example when we say: "Because you tickled me and I had to laugh so much, I became very happy." or "All that chopping onions makes you feel very sad."
But by and large we already assume that the emotional experience is the decisive factor, not the physical changes. In contrast, the philosopher and psychologist William now thinks James 1884, that the physical changes precede the emotions and that emotions are nothing but the sensations of those changes ("I am sad because I am crying").
In parallel with James, the Dane developed Carl Long a similar theory. The only important difference: Lange assumes that vasomotor Reactions (i.e. widening and narrowing of the blood vessels and the associated different supply of blood to the organs) are responsible for the development of emotions, while James visceral Considers reactions (heart, lungs, stomach) to be crucial. Because of this similarity, one often speaks of the "James Lange theory". We will just go into more detail on James' theory.
The theory: three key assumptions
1. The mere perception of an exciting fact is a sufficient condition for physical changes to occur.
2. These changes are emotion-specificand we are able to experience them in a differentiated and conscious manner.
3. The conscious experience (the sensation) of the physical changes is the emotion.
A quote should decorate the third assumption:
"If we imagine any strong emotion and then try to subtract all sensations of its physical symptoms from our experience, we find that we have nothing left (other than a cold, neutral state of intellectual perception)."
According to James, the variety of physical changes is the basis for our rich emotional experience. When we are afraid, for example, we feel the trembling of the lips, an increased heart rate, "turmoil in the bowels" etc.
Due to two points of criticism, James soon (1894) revised his theory. The two resulting changes are as follows:
a. While James spoke of physical changes in general in the early version, including voluntary motor reactions (actions, facial expressions, gestures) as relevant for the development of emotions, he now sees visceral, i.e. involuntary, ones Reactions of the viscera as far more important.
He gave in to the criticism that there was none Emotion specificity in the case of arbitrary reactions: Running away from a bear can lead to fear, but running away from a rain shower does not.
b. James also changes his theory so that it is no longer the mere perception of an object that triggers an emotional reaction, but the Assessment of the overall situation, or, according to James, "the idea of the vital element of an overall situation".
Critics had pointed out that the mere perception of an object is not enough to evoke an emotion: The perception of a bear by no means always triggers physical reactions that lead to fear, e.g. not when the bear is behind a large one in the zoo Fence is located. In order for a fear reaction to occur, the assessment must therefore be made that this bear can be dangerous to oneself.
James' theory in summary:
|Step 1||2nd step||3rd step|
|Everyday understanding||Perception of an exciting fact||emotion||physical changes|
|Original version||Perception of an exciting fact||emotion-specific physical changes||Sensation of physical changes = emotion|
|More precise version||Perception and evaluation of the overall situation||emotion-specific visceral changes||Sensation of visceral changes = emotion|
Walter Cannon criticized James' theory on five points in 1927:
1. The complete separation of the viscera from the CNS does not lead to any change in emotional behavior. This was proven by a corresponding experiment on a bitch. But it is not in direct contradiction to James, because he only makes statements about the experience of emotions, but not about emotional behavior. The latter could only be tested in humans, but this creates ethical problems ...
2. The same visceral changes occur in different emotional and also in non-emotional states. Because, for example, the same changes occur in both anger and shivering, the experience of a particular emotion cannot be determined by these changes. With this point of criticism, the emotion specificity assumed by James (see assumption 2) is called into question.
3. The intestines are relatively insensitive organs (i.e. they have few receptors, etc.), so that we can perceive their states with little differentiation.
4. Visceral changes are too slowto come into question as the cause of the emotional experience. According to Cannon, this latency is up to one second, but there are no reliable findings on this question.
5. The artificial induction of the specific visceral changes postulated by James does not lead to the occurrence of these emotions. This has been confirmed by Maranon, which we will discuss in the next section.
The abundance of criticism seems overwhelming. Even if most of the points of criticism are not clearly substantiated, they call James' basic assumptions into question. We refrain from making a clear assessment here and prefer to consider the further development of Cannon's ideas, which then led to the next important theory, namely Schachter's ...
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