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Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion

The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion was developed in the 1920s in response to the James-Lang theory. The James-Lang theory maintains that emotions are the result of a physiological response to a stimulus. Walter Cannon, a physiologist at Harvard, and Philip Bard, one of his doctoral students, studied the response of the brain and concluded that emotional expression comes out of the hypothalamus and that emotional feeling comes from stimulations in the dorsal thalamus. Cannon-Bard theory of emotion research papers have been written by psychology experts. We can produce a custom written project following your guidelines.

Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion


As the result of Cannon’s work, he believed that emotion is the result of processes in the thalamic regions. The process is as follows:

  1. First, an external stimulus activates receptors in this region of the brain
  2. The stimulus sends electrical impulses towards the cortex.
  3. In the cortex, these impulses are associated with various conditioned processes determining response.

Central to the Cannon-Bard theory is the notion that when thalamic discharges occur, bodily changes occur simultaneously with emotional response. Both the bodily changes and the emotion are separate and independent, and that a physical stimulus does not need to precede an emotional response. Cannon-Bard theory also maintains that a person can react to a specific stimulus only after undergoing the related emotion. The Cannon-Bard theory has generated controversy in scientific circles as the result of its suggestion that emotion is without a mechanism in the human body.

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