Theories of Emotion
Discussion Questions


  1. Select your favorite quote from James and send it to the class Discussion Board no later than Tuesday, 9/10. Read it to the class at our next meeting, and explain why you picked it. (If someone else has already posted your favorite quote, you'll need to send another.)
  2. What is emotion according to James?
  3. Using James' theory of emotion, explain how a person's feeling of fear unfolds upon suddenly confronting a huge, lunging bear in the backyard.
  4. According to James, can one have an emotion without physiological involvement?
  5. Give some examples of physiological responses that might accompany perceptions of particular actions or events.
  6. What data did James use to formulate his Theory of Emotion?


  1. Sherrington and Cannon surgically eliminated, through the sympathetic channels, response possibilities to and from the viscera. Did the results of these experiments refute or support the James - Lange theory? In part or as a whole (i.e., the entire theory)?
  2. Be able to explain each of Cannon's five objections to the James-Lange theory. Critically evaluate each one in the light of the Ax and Schachter and Singer findings.

Schachter & Singer

  1. Describe the experimental procedure in Schachter and Singer.
  2. What is Schachter's theory of emotion? Illustrate it using the "lunging bear in backyard" example.
  3. How do the results of this experiment support Schachter's theory?

Ax [be able to answer these two questions]

  1. Discuss the general procedure Ax used in his study of the physiological differences between anger and fear; what were his methods of inducing these emotions and were they effective?
  2. What were the results of Ax's experiment? Specifically-- How did the physiological reaction in fear differ from that in anger? Do these results support or argue against Cannon's claim that the responses of the viscera are undifferentiated?


  1. How do James, Schachter, and Cannon differ in the role they assign to bodily arousal in explaining emotional experience? How about the role they assign to cognition?
  2. What kind of evidence is needed to provide crucial support for, or to refute, each theory?
  3. Considering the evidence you've encounted so far, how does each theory hold up? [Each week we will reconsider this question.]
  4. According to Lang, why did research into differential patterns of physiological response come to a halt after the Ax and Graham studies?