In this lesson, we’ll discuss the James-Lange theory of emotion proposed by William James and Carl Lange. Learn about emotions and the James-Lange theory, then test your knowledge with a quiz.
Emotion and Reaction
Which comes first: the emotion or the reaction? Some people believe our emotions dictate our response and others believe our reaction dictates our emotion.
For example, are we afraid because we run, or do we run because we are afraid? According to the James-Lange theory of emotion, our physiological (bodily) reaction occurs first, followed by an emotional reaction – we are afraid because we run.
James-Lange Theory of Emotion
The James-Lange theory of emotion was proposed by psychologist William James and physiologist Carl Lange in the mid 1880s. This theory states that our emotions are caused by our interpretation of bodily reactions. James and Lange both believed that, when an event occurs, our body reacts, and then we feel emotion after the brain interprets that physiological change. Rather than being the cause of physiological events, emotions happen as a result of physiological events, such as muscular tension, increased heart rate, perspiration, dry mouth, and running.
Emotions have a powerful force on human behavior. Emotions can cause you to react in uncharacteristic ways and impact our thoughts and behavior, but people don’t always understand how their emotions impact their lives. According to the James-Lange theory of emotion, observing something leads to a physiological reaction, and the way your brain interprets your body’s physical reaction impacts your emotional response.
For example, if you enter a party and your stomach is in knots, the James-Lange theory of emotion proposes that your brain interprets your physical reaction (stomach in knots) to determine your emotion (nervous).
Emotions are a powerful force in the lives of human beings. Understanding our emotions, how emotions are created, and how they impact our lives is important. The James-Lange theory of emotion, which was proposed by psychologist William James and physiologist Carl Lange, is just one theory explaining the process of emotions and how they impact our lives. This theory states that our emotions are a result of physiological reactions in our body; it states, for example, that we are happy because we smile, not that we smile because we are happy.