In developing a model of the emotional regulation in the Insular Cortex it is almost impossible to continue without reference to one of the landmark theories on emotions – the James-Lange theory. William James was an American physician and psychologist who wrote the widely regarded Principles of Psychology textbook and other landmark texts on psychological phenomenon with an emphasis on introspection. Carl Lange was a physician who made important contributions to Neurology and Psychiatry including the James-Lange Theory.
Essentially the James-Lange Theory states that we perceive environmental stimuli which trigger physiological responses which in turn lead to emotional experiences. In other words our body reacts physiologically and only then do we have an emotional response. Our emotions are in effect responses to the world around us rather than being triggered by an inner self. If this theory is correct then we do not choose to be joyful but rather we experience a ‘joyful’ stimulus which then triggers a physiological response and then the emotion of joy. William James put it in these terms
‘Our natural way of thinking about these standard emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion and this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestation must first be interposed between and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble and not that we cry, strike or tremble because we are sorry, angry or fearful as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry‘
There are of course many critiques of this theory (e.g this one) but the James-Lange theory serves as a useful starting point for discussion of the emotions. In terms of this model it would also feature as one of the higher level concepts in the hierarchy of assumptions within the model. The opposite view can be taken – that the emotions direct the physiological response and this can certainly be considered in model-building. However the model resulting from this alternative consideration would take a different direction. The point is that a great multitude of different models are possible depending on the decisions taken about which theories or assumptions to incorporate.
In the model building process I will remain flexible, keeping alternative assumptions or theories in reserve. The larger model (or in one sense the gestalt) will be significantly influenced by these decisions.
Insular Cortex Resources on this Site
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