The James-Lange theory
In the 1890s William James attempted to explain what emotional feelings were. Around about the same time, a Dane by the name of Carl Lange was also writing about emotion and proposed similar things to William James. As a result, the two usually get put together. What they were suggesting was that the subjective experience of emotion is a consequence of perceiving our own emotional responses. For example, if we are in a threatening situation, such as being attacked, we may defend ourselves or prepare to run. According to the common-sense view, what is happening is that we are firstly perceiving the situation, then giving an assessment of the situation, and this assessment results in an autonomic response and emotion being produced. What James and Lange suggested, however, is that instead of running because we are afraid, we are afraid because we run. So it is the action or emotional response that comes before the sensation or perception of the emotion. Once changes in our body have occurred we can then experience the emotion. James claimed that you cannot distinguish the feeling from the perception of the responses. So James argued that the subjective experience of emotion is simply the perception of these various responses that occur when you perceive emotional stimuli or perceive stimuli that produce an emotional response. Of course it is the sympathetic part of the ANS that is associated with the bodily responses, as it is this system that is responsible for arousal.
James-Lange theory – CRITICISM
Cannon (1929) was an outspoken critic of the James-Lange theory. He made three observations:
1. If the same or similar bodily changes are associated with a range of emotional responses, as some research suggests, how can we distinguish between emotions such as anger and fear?
2. Where bodily changes are artificially induced, as with an adrenaline injection (Maranon 1924), most participants reported a...