Over the past few years, scientists have been carrying out research in an aim to explain the various functions of the brain. Nevertheless, this has not been an easy task. Perhaps in an attempt to explore the various functions of the brain, these scientists have limited their research into two performances of the brain: cognitive and volitional.
Additionally, these scientists have divided the brain into two empirical centers, that is, sensorial and motor. Ironically, this division has dealt blow to empirical psychology by stating the exact opposite. However, the main concern in this paper is to explain the meaning of emotion and use one theory of emotion to explain its meaning.
To begin with, emotion is a multifarious psychophysiological experience in a person’s mind as influenced by the exterior and interior factors, popularly known as biochemical and environmental factors respectively. Emotion consists of an assortment of visible conducts, expressed feelings, and some alterations in the body state. It is important to note that emotions exist at personal states thus, making it very hard to characterize or classify unless in the most common and palpable instances (Myers 500).
Interestingly, many features of emotion appear comatose to human beings hence, difficult to explain. Since emotion is a complex term that involves many concepts, it is important to define emotion in terms of its concepts. So far, three definitions of emotion enable us to define and comprehend the meaning of emotion.
Firstly, some scientists define emotion as a confidential and prejudiced feeling. Under normal circumstances, human beings experience or feel extraordinary array of states. For some, it is enjoyment and happiness while to others it is distress and pain. Explicitly, this explains the different states of emotions as experienced or felt by individuals.
Secondly, we can define emotions as a state of psychological stimulation normally accompanied by expressions or a show of unique somatic and habitual retorts. This means that emotional states become explainable when an individual undergoes various body responses, as one can observe them. In other words, these retorts engross separately innervated intuitive body organs for example, the stomach and the heart (et. Al. 501-502).
Undoubtedly, by using this second definition, individuals can examine the emotion of other people and even that of animals. Lastly, we can define emotion as actions that people take when they are responding towards something for example, calamities or threats. This definition concurs with Darwin’s analogy on the practical tasks of emotion, which asserts that emotion play a significant role in the survival of human beings since they generate actions into perilous state of affairs.
With the three definitions of emotion, it is imperative to note that emotion primarily rivets three concepts: animated actions, conscious incident and physiological stimulation. Research shows that research correlates to feelings such as character, individuality, disposition, inspiration and the doldrums.
All human beings irrespective of their age, color, sex and ethnic background experience various emotions. However, it is important to note that an individual cannot experience all emotions at one particular time. It all depends on one’s state of affairs and the circumstances. For instance, a person facing threats will have different emotions from another person who is experiencing contentment.
The most common faculties of emotions include love, annoyance, self-assurance, contentment and stress. Depending on one’s condition, a person can experience one or a mixture of these emotions (Freitas-Magalhaes 12-18).
Conceivably, in an attempt to define emotion, several scientists came up with theories in order to explain the implicit meaning of emotion. As we have seen, the brain is a complex structure that performs an assortment of functions.
These various function of the brain that influence emotions prompted scientist to come up with different theories of emotion that falls into three categories: cognitive, physiological and neurological. To start with, neurological theories tend to explain how the body responds emotionally due to actions on it. On the other hand, neurological theories examines how various activities directed to the brain influence an emotional rejoinder hence, expressive feelings.
Lastly, the cognitive theories tend to explain how individual thoughts and psychological bustles play a significant role in the configuration of emotions. The three categories of emotional theories have so far been a success story of trying to explain the meaning of emotion. In fact, the theories of emotions as crafted by psychologists and ancient philosophers enjoy an assortment of ideas- ideas fundamentally originating from diverse sources (Dalgleish 582-589).
Starting from the ancient Greeks to Sartre to contemporary scholars, these theories of emotion continue to explain the meaning of emotion. Interestingly, even experts from fields not related to biology and psychology for example, creative art, anthropology and sociology have come up with theories to explain the meaning and impact of emotion.
For instance, in trying to explain the meaning of emotion, creative scientists have developed various works of art that range from sculpture to paintings, which show various expressive feelings.
On the other hand, psychologists and animal behaviorists have mastered the art of emotions, and even conjectured the basis, progression, and roles of emotion. In addition, these natural scientists have gone ahead to proliferate the theories of emotion and their impacts to the individual and society.
In overall, these theories examine the genesis and evolution of emotion and facial expression. Thus, the study and analysis of the theories of emotion will not only assist us in knowing the meaning of emotion, but also, it will enlighten us on the precepts of emotional expression and bring them into perspective (James 188-189).
Some theories tend to emphasize emotional expression as the fundamental facet of the entire emotion process. In fact, some architects of these theories of emotion believe that emotional expression brings about the familiarity of emotion, which comprises the felt eminence of emotion. For instance, during the 19th century, William James and Lange were among the first persons to propose a theory to explain emotional expression.
Known as the James-Lange theory, this theory of emotion examines the genesis, development and functional roles of emotion. James and Lange observed that emotional perceptions trigger body changes, which results into emotional experience. He went further to explain that in the absence of perception, it would be hard to explain emotion any attempt will appear insipid and colorless.
According to James, the brain does not house emotion, which can cause body actions. Instead, James argued that the mind contains body activity that precipitates into emotion. In addition, James believed that the body is like a sounding board. Once smacked by neural impulses, there will be a generation of waves all over the body.
The brain has the capacity to sense the generated neural impulses and consequently produce an eminence of emotional feeling. Therefore, the multiplicities and shade of emotion becomes inestimable just like bodily patterns whose origin is neural actions. James also failed to recognize the various categories of emotion, that is, neurological, physiological and cognitive, and instead, branded them as subjective and academic (James 188-194).
Later on, James proposed that the best way to explain emotion is to set up an experiment, and not just gripping to hypothetical statements. He therefore proposed a myriad of nature experiments of destroying the entire neural system and observing whether the body will experience changes-precisely, without any generated nerve impulse.
Nevertheless, although the experiments attracted diverse scholarly analysis and literature, the interpretations seems parallel, and eventually goes against the hypothesis proposed by James William. Largely, the experiments fail to meet the expected results.
However, these experiments ignited research and deliberations aimed at explaining the real meaning of emotion. Leaving that aside, the James-Lange theory also explains the meaning of emotion from another perspective. This theory explains that the nervous system through its travelling nerve impulses causes bodily changes through a multifaceted process superior than a reflex or instinctual response.
In fact, some recent research into the emotional process shows that it takes quite long time for emotional changes to transpire. According to James, every instinctual reaction commences an emotion, although there are many very many sources of emotional rejoinder, which appear too ire just like gross, and others appear subtle just like an artistic admiration of exquisiteness. In addition, James believed that the brain does not have specific regions responsible for emotion.
However, some researchers have criticized this proposition terming it unfounded. According to James, individual abilities differ to the extent that each person recalls and preserves emotional experiences differently, and that the degree of emotional experience varies from one individual to another. The theory goes further to explain that recurring emotion results into the most common feeling other than the hidden.
James-Lange theory, a theory developed by Carl Lange and William James is a hypothesis that traces the origin of emotion. The theory starts by explaining that in the world we live in, people have to respond to experiences. The routine nervous system is the foundation of proceeding psychological episodes for example, perspiration, parchedness of the maw, and strapping nervousness.
Thus, emotions are general feelings that precede a psychological change. That is, experiences and not psychological changes cause emotion. In many times, the theory has been successful in explaining the origin of emotion notwithstanding the bedeviling criticisms. Captivatingly, the two architects of this theory, James and Lange, worked under different platforms but came up with similar findings (James 195-205).
According to Lange, there is no difference between vasomotor changes and emotions. This means that if an individual is laughing, then that person is happy.
On the other hand, James justifies the theory by stating words that echo the sentiments of Lange. He stated, “My theory … is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion. Common sense says we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we receive insults from a rival, are angry and strike.
The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect … and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble … Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry (Ellsworth 222-229).”
Nevertheless, even with the explanations given by these two scholars of the 19th century, the contemporary scholars have found various weaknesses with this theory. All the same, it is also important to note that some scholars have found some evidences that support the authenticity of this theory. For instance, persons suffering from panic disorders normally undergo psychoemotional ordeal probably due to physiological responses within the body. On the other hand, some scholars feel that the theory does not provide enough information that brings out the real meaning of emotion.
For instance, in the above example of persons experiencing panic disorder, the theory assumes that the responses correlate with a scrupulous emotional state resulting into a psychoemotional ordeal. However, during therapy, experts have found out that there is no association of any kind between the responses and particular emotional states. This means that although the theory has been a success story in explaining the origin of emotion, the experimental aspect of it remains a dark spot especially to modern research.
In some circumstances, some scientists have chosen to advance the James-Lange theory in order to explain the meaning of emotion. Among the very many scientists who chose to advance this theory, include 20th century psychologist, Silvan Tomkins.
Tomkins proposed that emotional experiences or expressions results into sensations, vascular changes and other behavioral changes. Such changes exhibit on the victim’s face and qualitatively display diverse an assortment of emotions. For example, depending on the source of the emotional experience faces can turn sad from happy, or fury to fright.
Tomkins further explained that perceptions about other bodily changes do not provide more information concerning the explicit feelings of emotion. Contrary to the explanation given out by James, Tomkins asserts that other than the three categories of emotions, more categories have evolved each with a definite functional and adaptive role. These functional and adaptive roles exhibit in neural organization and revolve around facial expressions (Ellsworth 224-227).
For instance, some people do not take certain foods because they believe that they are not only dangerous, but also deleterious. This results into emotions of disgust, and in many occasions, whenever these people hear or see these kinds of foods, they open their mouth and push the tongue in and out as an expression of disgust.
Research shows that the response to this disgust has caused a myriad of rejection scenarios, for example, emotion of condescension, where the object is a different individual, and the sentiment of indignity, wherever the object is the one experiencing the response.
Tomkins did a lot of work in itemizing both existing and emerging categories of emotion, and further denoted the resultant facial expression of each category. In addition, the expanded theory describes each emotion comprehensively aimed at explaining the meaning of emotion. Today, many researchers and scholars have found the multi-volume work done by Tomkins of great significance in the study of emotion (Laird 8-36).
In conclusion, the concept of emotion is vast and involves a comprehensive study of various disciplines. This is the reason why various scientists have come up with theories to explain the meaning of emotion. The James-Lange theory is among the very many theories of emotion that explain the origin, evolution and functional roles of emotion. This theory has so far been a success story in the field of psychology, as it explains the meaning of emotion both in literature and in experiment.
Dalgleish, Tim. The emotional brain. Nature Perspectives, 5, 2004, 582–589.
Ellsworth, Phoebe. William James and Emotion: Is a Century of Fame worth a Century of Misunderstanding? Psychological Review, (101)2, 1994, 222-229.
Freitas-Magalhaes, Armindo. The Psychology of Emotions: The Allure of Human Face. Oporto: University of Fernando Pessoa Press. 2007. Print.
James, William. What is an Emotion? Mind, 9, 1884, 188–205.
Laird, James, Feelings: the Perception of Self, Oxford University Press. 2007. Print.
Myers, David. Theories of Emotion: Psychology. Seventh Edition, New York, NY: Worth Publishers. 2004. Print.