The James-Lange Theory of Emotion is a theory of emotion which proposes that physiological arousal is the basis for the experience of emotion. It suggests that an external stimulus leads to physiological arousal which is then interpreted by the individual, resulting in the experience of an emotion.

Two-factor theory of emotion

For Herzberg’s theory of motivation, see two factor theory.

The two factor theory of emotion says emotion it is based on two factors: physiological arousal and cognitive labeling. The theory was created by researchers Stanley Schachter and Jerome E. Cantor. According to the theory, when an emotion is felt, a physiological arousal occurs and the person uses the immediate environment to look for emotional cues to label the physiological arousal. This can sometimes cause misinterpretations of emotions based on the physiological state of the body. When the brain doesn’t know why it feels an emotion, it relies on external stimuli for cues on how to label the emotion.

empirical support

Stanley Schachter and Jerome E. Singer (1962) conducted a study that tested how people use cues in their environment to explain physiological changes. His hypotheses were:

  • If a person experiences a state of arousal for which he has no immediate explanation, he will label that state and describe his feelings in terms of the cognitions currently available.
  • If a person experiences a state of arousal for which he has an appropriate explanation (eg, ‘I feel this way because I just got an adrenaline shot’), he is unlikely to label his feelings in terms of available alternative cognitions. .
  • If a person is placed in a situation that in the past could have made him feel an emotion, he will react emotionally or experience emotions only if he is in a state of physiological arousal.

Participants were told that they were being injected with a new drug called “Suproxin” to test their eyesight. Participants were actually injected with epinephrine (which causes breathing, increased blood pressure and heart rate) or a placebo. There were four conditions that participants were randomly placed into: epinephrine informed, epinephrine ignorant, epinephrine misinformed, and a control group. The epinephrine-informed group was told that they might experience side effects, including that their hands would start shaking, their heart would start pounding, and their face might feel hot and flushed. In the epinephrine-ignorant group, the experimenters did not explain to the subjects what symptoms they might experience. The epinephrine-uninformed group was told that they would likely experience numb feet and an itchy feeling in parts of the body and a mild headache. The control group was injected with a placebo and had no expected side effects. This group was used as a control because they were not experiencing a physiological change and did not have any labeled emotions. After the injection, an accomplice interacted with the students, who were euphoric or angry. The experimenters looked through a one-way mirror and rated the participants’ state on a three-category scale. Participants were given a questionnaire and their heart rate was checked.

The researchers found that the impact of confederate was different for participants under different conditions. From high to low euphoria, their ranking was as follows: uninformed epinephrine, ignorant epinephrine, placebo, informed epinephrine. In the anger condition, the classification was: ignorant epinephrine, placebo, informed epinephrine. Both results show that participants who had no explanation for why their bodies felt the way they did were more susceptible to the accomplice. These findings are considered to support the researchers’ hypotheses.

Incorrect attribution of excitation

The arousal study misattribution tested Schachter and Singer’s two-factor theory of emotion. Psychologists Donald G. Dutton and Arthur P. Aron wanted to use a natural setting that would induce physiological arousal. In this experiment, they had male participants cross two different styles of bridges. A bridge was too scary (awakening) suspension bridge, which was very narrow and suspended over a deep ravine. The second bridge was much safer and more stable than the first.

At the end of each bridge, an attractive researcher found the [male] participants. She gave participants a questionnaire that included an ambiguous image to describe and her number to call if they had more questions. The idea of ​​this study was to find out which group of men were more likely to call the female experimenter and to measure the sexual content of the stories the men wrote after crossing one of the bridges. They found that men who crossed the scary bridge were more likely to call the woman to follow up on the study and that their stories had more sexual content. The two-factor theory would say that this is because they transferred (misattributed) their arousal from fear or anxiety on the suspension bridge to higher levels of sexual feeling towards the female experimenter.

Schachter & Wheeler

In the study by Schachter & Wheeler (1962), subjects were injected with epinephrine, chlorpromazine, or a placebo (chlorpromazine is a tranquilliser). None of the subjects had any information about the injection. After receiving the injection, the subjects watched a short comic film. While watching the film, the subjects were monitored for signs of mood. After the movie was watched, participants rated how funny the movie was and whether they liked it. The results concluded that individuals with epinephrine showed more signs of mood. Placebo participants demonstrated fewer mood reactions, but more than chlorpromazine participants.


Criticism of the theory came from attempts to replicate the study by Schachter and Singer (1962). Marshall and Zimbardo (1979, and Marshall 1976) attempted to replicate Schachter and Singer’s euphoria conditions. As Schachter and Singer did, the subjects were injected with either epinephrine or a placebo, except that the administrator told the subjects that they would experience symptoms of non-arousal. Subjects were then placed in four different conditions: subjects injected with epinephrine and exposed to a neutral accomplice, another where they received the placebo and told to expect symptoms of arousal, and two conditions where the epinephrine dosage was determined by body weight. instead of being fixed. Results found that confederate euphoria had little impact on subjects. Furthermore, the euphoric accomplice did not produce more euphoria than the neutral accomplice. Concluding that subjects who were injected with epinephrine were no more susceptible to emotional manipulation than unexcited placebo subjects.[citation needed]

Maslach (1979) designed a study to attempt to replicate and extend the Schachter and Singer study. Rather than being injected with epinephrine, administrators used hypnotic suggestions to the source of arousal. Subjects were either hypnotized or used as a control (same as the placebo effect in the Schachter and Singer study). Subjects who were hypnotized were given a cue to become aroused by the presentation of a cue and instructed not to remember the source of that arousal. Shortly after the subjects were hypnotized, an accomplice began to act out in a state of euphoria or rage. Later in the study, the subjects were exposed to two more euphoric accomplices. One accomplice had to keep an eye out for the source of the arousal, while the other accomplices told the subjects to expect different symptoms of arousal. Results found that all subjects, both in self-reports and observation, found that unexplained arousal causes negative conditions. The subjects still showed angry emotions, regardless of the euphoric accomplice. Maslach concluded that when there is a lack of explanation for an arousal, it causes a negative emotion, which evokes anger or fear. However, Maslach mentioned a limitation that there may have been more self-reported negative emotions because there are more terms referring to negative emotions than positive ones.

There are also criticisms of the two factor theory that come from a theoretical point of view. One such criticism is that the Schachter-Singer Theory focuses primarily on the autonomic nervous system and does not provide any explanation of the emotional process within the central nervous system, other than signaling the role of cognitive factors. This is important considering the strong implication of certain brain centers in the mitigation of emotional experience (eg fear and the amygdala).

It may also be noted that Gregorio Marañon also had early studies in the development of cognitive theories of emotion and should be recognized for making contributions to this concept.

See too



  • Cotton, JL (1981). “A review of research on Schachter’s theory of emotion and the misattribution of arousal”. European Journal of Social Psychology. 11 (4): 365–397. It hurts:10.1002/ejsp.2420110403.
  • Dutton, DG; Aron, AP (1974). “Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction in conditions of high anxiety”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 30 (4): 510–517. CiteSeerX It hurts:10.1037/h0037031. PMID 4455773.
  • Erdmann, G.; Janke, W. (1978). “Interaction between physiological and cognitive determinants of emotions: experimental studies on Schachter’s theory of emotions”. biological psychology. 6 (1): 61–74. It hurts:10.1016/0301-0511(78)90007-8. PMID 623859. S2CID 597601.
  • Izard, CE The face of emotion. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971.
  • LeDoux, JE (1995). “Emotion: Cues from the Brain”. Annual Review of Psychology. 46: 209–235. It hurts:10.1146/annurev.ps.46.020195.001233. PMID 7872730.
  • Marshall, DG (1976). The affective consequences of “inadequately explained” physiological arousal. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.
  • Marshall, DG; Zimbardo, PG (1979). “Affective consequences of inadequately explained physiological arousal”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37 (6): 970–988. It hurts:10.1037/0022-3514.37.6.970.
  • Maslach, C (1979). “Negative Emotional Prejudice of Unexplained Arousal”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 37 (6): 953–969. It hurts:10.1037/0022-3514.37.6.953.
  • Pruett, C (2011). “Two-factor theory of emotion displayed by video games”. Games developer. 18 (2): 33.
  • Schachter, S.; Singer, J. (1962). “Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state”. Psychological Review. 69 (5): 379–399. It hurts:10.1037/h0046234. PMID 14497895.
  • Schachter, S.; Wheeler, L. (1962). “Epinephrine, chlorpromazine and fun”. Journal of Social and Abnormal Psychology. 65 (2): 121–128. It hurts:10.1037/h0040391. PMID 14497896.

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