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What Is the Cannon-Bard Theory?



The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion is a physiological explanation of emotion developed by Walter Cannon and Philip Bard. Cannon-Bard theory states that we feel emotions and experience physiological reactions such as sweating, trembling and muscle tension simultaneously. More specifically, it is suggested that emotions result when the thalamus sends a message to the brain in response to a stimulus, resulting in a physiological reaction.

For example: I see a snake --> I am afraid --> I begin to tremble.

According to the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion, we react to a stimulus and experience the associated emotion at the same time.

The Cannon-Bard theory of emotion differs from other theory of emotion such as the James-Lange theory of emotion, which argues that physiological responses occur first and result and are the cause of emotions.

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Cannon, W. B. (1927) The James-Lange theory of emotion: A critical examination and an alternative theory. American Journal of Psychology, 39, 10-124.

Also Known As: Thalamic theory of emotion

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