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The Cannon-Bard theory is a psychological theory developed by physiologists Walter Cannon and Philip Bard in 1927, which suggests that emotions and changes in the body (heartbeat for example) occur simultaneously. The theory was formulated following the criticism of the James-Lange theory of Emotion in the late 1800s, which alternately suggested that emotion is the result of one's perception of their reaction, or "bodily change."

An alternative theory was provided by Schachter & Singer's Two factor theory of emotion, in which they posited that emotion is the cognitive interpretation of a physiological response. 

Example[edit | edit source]

I see a spider. I think spiders are dangerous. I begin to perspire and experience fear.

The Cannon-Bard theory states that when you see a snake, your eye sends a signal to the visual thalamus. Your visual thalamus signals to the visual cortex and the visual cortex signals the amygdala, which directs the appropriate respons in the body. The emotion and the physiologically arousal occur at the same time.

This is in fact how most of our emotions work.

However, in emergency cases it is proven that the thalamus signals directly to the amygdala, so the body can reacte while the neocortex is still processing what is going on.

Model[edit | edit source]

STIMULUS (Bear) --> COGNITIVE INTERPRETATION (danger!) --> EMOTION (Fear) + REACTION/RESPONSE (Run Away)

The Cannon-Bard theory states that there is a stimulus, then there is a cognitive interpretation (a judgement), after the interpretation follows simultaniously the emotion and the physiological arousal (the response in your body by the autonomic nervous system).  

This theory has been around since 1927. Years before Walter Cannon proved the James-Lange theory wrong. James and Lange believed emotion is the result of one's perception of their reaction, or "bodily change". Another alternative explanation was provided by Schachter & Singer's Two factor theory of emotion, in which they posited that emotion is the cognitive interpretation of a physiological response. For many, this remains the best formulation of emotion.

See also[edit | edit source]

References & Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

Emotional Intelligence - why it can matter more than IQ - Daniel Goleman

Psychology - an introduction - Philip Zimbardo, Robert Johnson, Vivian McCann

Papers[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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