James-Lange Emotion Theory

American psychologist William James (1884) and Danish physiologist Carl Lange (1887) independently developed the same theory. For this reason, his subsequent researchers decided that the theory should be called the “James-Lange Theory”.

James and Lange argue that the data we obtain with our senses are analyzed by the brain, but as a result of an unconscious process that developed before, some physiological reactions occur in our body (increased heart rate, enlarged eyeballs, etc.) and our brain creates emotions by looking at these reactions. According to the theory; “Why do I feel excited?” The answer to the question is “Because I breathe fast and my heart pumps blood faster than normal”.

The James-Lange theory is opposed to the traditional view in terms of cause, effect and manifestations of emotions. According to the theory, in order for a person to feel a feeling, he must have some physiological changes in his body. One cannot feel emotion before bodily reaction occurs. Heart rate, muscle tension, dry mouth, sweating etc. we experience various changes that can cause many physiological changes. These changes are controlled by our autonomic nervous system. According to the James-Lange theory, emotions are by-products of these physiological changes.

According to the theory; stimulants from the environment are received and identified by the brain cortex. Then our internal organs and skeletal muscles; triggers autonomic and somatic nervous systems. As a result, the nervous system stimulates the brain and makes the analysis of the brain emotion experience.In a clinical experiment designed to test the James-Lange Theory, a patient diagnosed with depression is forced to laugh with a mechanical biomedical device. The patient is informed that he will be warned in a way that allows him to contract the facial muscles to create a laugh image. Muscles are stimulated repeatedly for 30 minutes. At the end of the experiment, the subjects reported that they felt better. In other words, although it was artificially realized, smile reflex, effective subjects felt better than before.

Critics of James-Lange Theory

Individuals may react differently to the same mood. For example, fear initiates different behavioral processes such as crying in some and tremors in others. James-Lange theory is inadequate to explain this situation.

• The autonomous system may not produce very different reactions to emotional situations. It can produce common responses, such as anger or meeting a loved one, such as a faster heart beat. At this point, it is not possible to expect a different physiological experience to occur for each emotion.

Since internal organs are not supported much with the nervous structure compared to other organs, internal changes occur slowly. For this reason, it is not possible to see the internal organs as the source of those who feel excited.

• It is possible to obtain physical changes that may occur in the body related to emotion with the help of any medication artificially. For example, when a drug or artificial substance is taken, it creates similar physiological conditions, but this does not mean that this emotion will be experienced or will be experienced at the same intensity.

Professor Walter Cannon from Harvard Medical School was one of the first critics of the James-Lange theory. James-Lange’s theory says, “Our hearts do not beat fast because we are afraid, we are afraid because our hearts are beat.” Because when we run and rejoice, just like when we are afraid, our hearts accelerate. In other words, according to Conan, for James-Lange theory to be correct, there must be a different physiological response for each emotion. Since there are no different physical reactions to enable us to separate emotions from each other, the James-Lange theory cannot be correct. Even in an experiment on a cat, Cannon eliminated the cat’s sympathetic nervous system by surgical intervention, but supported his thesis by showing that the cat’s fear, anger, and pleasure reactions did not disappear.

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