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Cannon Bard theory of emotions

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The Cannon-Bard theory is a psychological theory developed by physiologists Walter Cannon and Philip Bard, which suggests that people feel emotions first and then act upon them. These actions include changes in muscular tension, perspiration, etc. The theory was formulated following the introduction of the James-Lange theory of Emotion in the late 1800s, which alternately suggested that emotion is the result of one's perception of their reaction, or "bodily change."

The theory sparked much controversy in cognitive circles due to its suggestion that emotion lacks a mechanism, and many theorists attempted to provide explanations of emotion that suggested a mechanism. One such theory was provided by Schachter & Singer's Two factor theory of emotion, in which they posited that emotion is the cognitive interpretation of a physiological response. For many, this remains the best formulation of emotion. Most people consider this to be the "common sense" theory to explain physiological changes; their physiology changes as a result of their emotion.


Example Edit

I see a spider. I am afraid. I begin to perspire.

The Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion is based on the premise that one is only able to react to a specific stimulus after experiencing an emotion. Therefore, if one is afraid of heights and is travelling to the top of a skyscraper, they are likely to experience the emotion of fear. Subsequently, the perception of this emotion (fear) influences the person's reaction to the stimulus (heights). Cannon and Bard posited that one is able to react to a stimulus only after experiencing the related emotion.

Model Edit

STIMULUS (Bear) --> EMOTION (Fear) --> REACTION/RESPONSE (Run Away)

This sparked much controversy in cognitive circles due to its suggestion that there is no mechanism to emotion, and many theorists attempted to provide explanations of emotion that suggested a mechanism. One such theory is the James-Lange theory of Emotion, which suggests that one's emotion and reaction to a specific stimulus occur simultaneously. James and Lange believed emotion is the result of one's perception of their reaction, or "bodily change". Another alternative explanation was provided by Schachter & Singer's Two factor theory of emotion, in which they posited that emotion is the cognitive interpretation of a physiological response. For many, this remains the best formulation of emotion.

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