Emotional responses: how to change your emotion

Change your emotions

We take a look at various theories and how our psychological responses impact on our emotions.

Facial Feedback Theory

Facial feedback theory posits that emotion is driven by changes in facial muscles. Frowning engenders anger or sadness  while smiling invites happiness. Theory goes that changes in our facial muscles cue our brains to create associated emotions.

Example:  You hear a noise in the house late at night and your automatic response is to clench your jaw and widen your eyes. This facial change triggers the brain to assume you are scared and follow suit with actual fear.

James-Lange Theory

This theory proposes that physiological arousal triggered by an event must be interpreted in order to experience emotion. If you fail to recognise or consider the physiological arousal, you will not experience an associated emotion.

Example: You hear a noise in the house late at night. You shake, experience a faster heartbeat and deeper breathing. You note these changes and attribute them to the body preparing to enter a fearful situation. Then fear kicks in.

Cannon-Bard Theory

This theory asserts that physiological arousal and emotion occur simultaneously, but it doesn’t factor in thought or behavioural expression.

Example: You hear a noise in the house late at night and experience a faster heartbeat, shaking and deeper breathing. At the same time, you feel fear.

Schachter-Singer Theory

This relies on tracing physiological arousal back to your situation before you experience and classify the emotion.

Example:  You hear a noise in the house late at night and your body responds with a racing heartbeat, deep breathing and shaking. Noticing this heightened arousal, you link it to the fact that you are in the house alone and heard a strange noise. You realise you could be in danger and experience fear.

Lazarus Theory

According to Lazarus Theory, a thought must precede any emotion or physiological arousal.

Example: You hear a noise in the house late at night and think it must be an intruder – not, say, a possum – so your eyes widen, your jaw clenches, your heart races and your feel fear.

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