Emotions are psychological responses that involve an interplay among (1) physiological arousal,
(2) expressive behavior, and (3) conscious experience.
James and Lange argued that we feel emotion after we notice our bodily responses. Cannon
and Bard contended that we feel emotion when our body responds. Schachter and Singer’s two-
factor theory states that to experience emotion, we must be aroused and cognitively label the emo-
tion. Although emotional arousal is not as undifferentiated as Schachter and Singer believed,
arousal from diverse emotions can spill over from one to another.
Although the physical arousal that occurs with the different emotions is for the most part
indistinguishable, researchers have discovered subtle differences in brain circuits, finger tempera-
tures, and hormones. In using physiological indicators to detect lies, the polygraph does better
than chance but not nearly well enough to justify its widespread use.
Some emotional responses are immediate as sensory input bypasses the cortex triggering a
rapid reaction outside our conscious awareness. Others, especially responses to complex emotions,
We decipher people’s emotions by “reading” their bodies, voices, and faces. Although some
gestures are culturally determined, facial expressions, such as those of happiness and fear, are uni-
versal. Facial expressions not only communicate emotion but also amplify the felt emotion.
Carroll Izard has identified 10 basic emotions (joy, interest-excitement, surprise, sadness,
anger, disgust, contempt, fear, shame, and guilt), most of which are present in infancy. In describ-
ing their emotions, people place them along two basic dimensions: arousal and valence.
This chapter examines three human emotions in detail: fear, anger, and happiness. Although
we seem biologically predisposed to acquire some fears, what we learn through experience best
explains the variety of human fears. Anger is most often aroused by frustrating or insulting acts
that seem willful and unjustified. Expressing anger may be temporarily calming, but in the long
run, it can actually arouse more anger. Happiness boosts people’s perceptions of the world and
their willingness to help others. However, even significant good events seldom increase happiness
for long, a fact explained by the adaptation-level and relative deprivation principles.