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James-Lange Theory Of Emotion: Overview

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  • 0:00 Emotion and Reaction
  • 0:29 James-Lange Theory of Emotion
  • 1:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

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.

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