James-Lange Theory of Emotion: Reacting to Bodily Reactions
The James-Lange theory of emotion, in laymen's terms, theorizes that our emotions are a result of our interpretations of our bodily reactions to a stimulating event. A wonderful example to illustrate such an event would be stumbling upon a bear while hiking through the woods; your body freezes, your palms begin to sweat, and your knees are buckling. When your mind realizes all of these bodily reactions are taking place, you now know you are in a state of fear.
The James-Lange Theory of Emotion is not only important because of how it explains the formation of emotions, but it explains the chain of events in situations such as a "fight or flight" scenario as described above. Understanding that emotion stems from bodily reactions to stimulating events which then leads to a justified response--such as running away from the scenario above--makes you fully understand the chain of events that take place within emotion.
In order to turn this situation into a more relatable one for the students of Psychology 1001 here at the University of Minnesota, we can relate this theory to those pre-test anxieties. Students pile into Humphrey 50 and sit down at the computer, their heart begins to pound faster and faster, their palms begin to sweat, and the sick feeling in their stomach begins to arise. It is at this point when every student says quietly to themselves, "Damn, I am really nervous for this test". Their conscious awareness of emotion stems from their mental awareness of their bodily reaction to the stimulating event of taking a Psychology 1001 test.