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The Elements of Emotional Experience

   Google - Images of "Emotion"

What is an "emotion"?

Cognitive Component

Physiological Component: Our bodies respond biologically to the world around us and this includes any situation evoking an emotion
Autonomic NS

LeDoux & Amygdala Limbic system

Behavioral Component

A.  Facial Feedback Hypothesis

        Feedback Hypothesis

B. Botox (Botulinum toxin)


Are behavioral expressions of emotions innate?

Culture and Emotion

Cross-Cultural Similarities

[6 Faces]
Are emotional expressions perceived the same way all over the world?

[Ekman Facial Research]

Paul Ekman
Paul Ekman (the model for the psychologist in Lie To Me) used photographs of people's faces showing the emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise to study this question.

Considerable evidence of agreement found in both the industrialized world and less developed cultures (e.g., New Guinea) for the emotional meaning of facial expressions. Psychologists have also generally found similarity in physiological arousal associated with different emotions.

Cross-Cultural Differences

Theories of Emotions

Popular or "Commonsense"

We see an emotion-creating stimulus which leads to a feeling (like "fear") which leads to autonomic arousal of our bodies.

          - Popular Notion]

            JamesJames-Lange Theory

We see an emotion-creating stimulus which leads to autonomic arousal of our bodies which leads to a feeling (like "fear")

[Emotion -
          James-Lange Theory]

CannonCannon-Bard Theory

We see an emotion-creating stimulus which is processed in our subcortical brain which leads simultaneously to both autonomic arousal of our bodies and the conscious experience of a feeling (like "fear")
[Emotion -
          Cannon-Bard Theory]
SchacterStanley Schachter's Two-Factor Theory

We see an emotion-creating stimulus which leads to autonomic arousal of our bodies which leads to a cognitive appraisal of the context which leads to labeling the arousal with the name of a feeling (like "fear")

[Emotion -
          Schachter Theory]

Evolutionary Theories of Emotion

                  & Emotions]

[Plutchik_Emotions]Modern evolutionary theories (Silvan Tomkins, Carroll Izard, & Robert Plutchik)

Evolutionary theories tend to agree that there are "appraisal" mechanisms. But claim that they come in two different types: (1) an automatic & in-built assessment mechanism which uses the minimal amount of data to draw a conclusion very quickly and (2) a more elaborated assessment system which builds on and may overturn the automatic assessment mechanism.


Ahmari, S. (2015, Aug 6). Inside the fear factor. Nature, 524, 34.

LeDoux, J. (2015). Anxious: Using the brain to understand and treat fear and anxiety. New York, NY: Viking.

Strack, F., Martin, L. L., & Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 768-777.

Wagenmakers, E.-J., Beek, T., Dijkhoff, L., & Gronau, Q. F. (in press). Registered replication report: Strack, Martin, & Stepper (1988). Retrieved at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/StrackRRR_manuscript_accepted.pdf


This page was originally posted on 10/21/03 and last updated on Oct. 24, 2016