It has been claimed that human emotions are the sole product of biological functioning. The James Lange Theory of Emotion (1884) proposes that there are three components of emotions which can be attributed to the automatic nervous system (ANS). The three components are Cognition (appraisal of the event), Action (Fight or flight) and Feeling (Aspect of the emotion). Here we see that a biological attribution of emotion has been in place since the 1800s and has been common knowledge for some time. This essay will assess and examine evidence that has been provided to support the idea that emotions are the product of biology.
Certain areas of the brain have been identified when studying fear. The amygdala is involved in processing emotions (McGaugh, 2001). It is also responsible for ‘fight or flight’ reactions which are essential for survival among humans. In addition to this, certain emotions have been studied and attributed to biology, for example, fear. LeDoux (2000) explains that fear is a conditioned response which is essential for the process of natural selection to occur. Fear increases a human’s likelihood of survival. To continue to support that idea that fear is a biological product, experiments using rats were conducted. If certain parts of the brain are removed such as the auditory thalamus, the fear response cannot be learned. This indicates that cetain areas of the brain are vital in maintaining and producing emotions such as fear.
LeDoux’s experiments led to further research with 9/11 survivors. These people had learned a fear of tall buildings and they were also unable to visit the site where the attack took place. This fear would cause people to ‘freeze’ and not be able to perform certain behaviours. Ledoux formed a treatment to allow the amygdala to respond to fear in a different way. The new response to the fear would be to take a step forward rather than freeze which in turn creates a new route within the fear pathways in the amygdala. This shows that emotions such as fear can be learned from experience but treatments can be formed related to ‘rewiring’ the brain to try to eliminate this problem.
Emotional Memory also exists which isn’t conscious (Claparede, 1911). When studying patients with amnesia, it was found Claparede would introduce himself to a patient every day and she would not remember ever meeting him previously. He began to hold a pin when shaking hands with her which would cause her pain. Although the woman could not remember the man each day, she began to refuse to shake his hand due to fear of being hurt. This showed that the patient could not form new memories but the brain can ensure that the systems related to fear can override cognitive processing when encountering a threat.
As we can see, the brain plays a strong role in producing fear responses. Additionally, there are physical indicators of fear too. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ affect producing increased...