8 Emotion

History of Psychology

  1. Nicholas J. S. Christenfeld PhD,
  2. George Mandler PhD

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop201010

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Christenfeld, N. J. S. and Mandler, G. 2012. Emotion. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 1:8.

Author Information

  1. University of California, San Diego, Department of Psychology, San Diego, California, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


There have been roughly as many theories of emotion as there have been people thinking about the topic. Despite several millennia of investigation, there is still little agreement about what constitutes an emotion, how many emotions there are, and whether such a number is even meaningful. One important and abiding distinction between various theories of emotion is that between the mentalist and the organic traditions. The organic tradition largely grows from the work of James, with his argument that the feeling of bodily changes—quickened heartbeat, gooseflesh and the like—was the emotion. Such a view, after some decades in remission following the apt criticisms of Cannon, was revived, in modified form, by Schachter, who suggested that the emotion was not simply the sensation of the bodily changes, but instead their attribution to a particular emotional cause. In this theory, as in James's, the peripheral response, albeit without specific patterning, was critical. It was, however, perhaps the cognitive component of Schachter's two-factor theory that gave rise to rapidly multiplying centralist theories in the following years, with, as in the approach of Lazarus, cognitive appraisals as a central notion. This view is consistent with modern work in neuroscience, and with efforts to link emotions to predispositions to particular acts, risk tolerance, and the like. Other domains of theories include psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and, with an even longer tradition, the conflict theories. While the area is hugely fertile, it, overall, remains more a jungle than a garden.


  • Emotion theory;
  • history of emotions;
  • mentalist;
  • organic;
  • history of emotions