Emotions and Nonverbal Behavior

  • Richard Heslin
  • Miles L. Patterson
Part of the Perspectives in Social Psychology book series (PSPS)


The attempt to understand emotions is not a new concern for psychology. Although centuries of philosophical speculation preceded him, William James’s (1908/1950) theory of emotions provides a starting point for a discussion of the psychology of emotional behavior. That theory stimulated considerable theoretical controversy and helped to initiate a whole area of research on emotions. One probable reason for the substantial interest in James’s theory is that it is counterintuitive, that is, the theory’s description of the development of emotional experience runs counter to common sense. In particular, James proposed that we feel an emotion because our bodily responses involve a particular pattern of activity which informs us of what we are feeling. That is, we are sad because we cry or we are happy because we are laughing and smiling, and not the opposite. The bodily changes which James believed to be critical to the feeling of an emotion included both overt motor activity, such as smiling, clenching a fist, or running, and internal physiological reactions involving changes in heart rate or visceral activity. The patterns of neural feedback from these bodily changes were believed to be specific enough so that different patterns identified different emotional states.


Facial Expression Nonverbal Behavior Arousal Model Emotional Behavior Equilibrium Theory 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Heslin
    • 1
  • Miles L. Patterson
    • 2
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.University of MissouriSt. LouisUSA

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