The Nature of Emotion

  • James R. Averill
Part of the Springer Series in Social Psychology book series (SSSOC)


That anger is an emotion no one would deny. But what is an emotion? Few other questions in the history of psychology have proven as troublesome as this one. Surfeited by too much reading on the topic, William James (1890) commented that he would “as lief read verbal descriptions of the shapes of the rocks on a New Hampshire farm” as toil again through the “classic works” on emotion. Nowhere, James complained, do such works give “a central point of view, or a deductive or generative principle” (p. 448). Anyone familiar with the rocky soil of New England and with the classic works to which James referred can readily sympathize with the feeling of frustration which he expressed. James’s own deductive principle-that bodily changes follow directly the perception of an exciting event and that an emotion is the feeling of those changes as they occur-has continued to stimulate psychological thought, but is quite inadequate as a general theory of emotion. In the 100 years since James first wrote on the topic of emotion, various other principles have been proposed, but none has proven to be enduring or widely accepted.


Instrumental Response Physiological Arousal Intentional Object Emotional Role Overt Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Averill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Tobin HallUniversity of Massachusetts—AmherstAmherstUSA

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