Module 5 Discussion -- A developmental
model of emotion
Michael Lewis (1997) offers an important model of emotion that considers both the "low road" emotional
system described by James-Lange and a "high road" cognitive component similar to that proposed by
Schachter and Singer. It goes like this: at birth people have a group of pre-wired and genetically determined
basic emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, happiness, surprise, and disgust. Each emotion has a unique
facial expression and body posture. Somewhere between 18-24 months old, babies develop a sense of
themselves separate from the world (self-awareness) and this allows a second group of emotions to emerge
– the so-called self-reflective emotions of empathy, jealousy, and embarrassment.
Here's the evidence for this second stage – Lewis tested a group of babies between 18 and 24 months old to
see if they are self-aware by putting unscented rouge on their noses and putting them in front of a mirror.
Some touched the mirror trying to see what the rouge was all about on that other baby. Others looked in the
mirror and were just as curious but touched their own nose (they passed the classic test for self-awareness).
Next Lewis did the following with each of the self-aware and non-self-aware babies: the baby began on her
mother's lap, happy and at ease. Someone came in who the mother greeted warmly and talked with for a
while. At some point, when everyone was relaxed, the visitor leaned toward the baby and gave her a
compliment like, "What a great shirt you have!" Some babies reacted with embarrassment -- they looked
down, blushed, touched their faces, turned their heads, and so on. Other babies just laughed or smiled
Guess which ones were embarrassed? Right, the self-aware babies.
Wait, there's more to this theory! It proposes that somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 years old, toddlers begin
to internalize standards they use to judge their own behavior as good or bad. A third group of selfsanctioning emotions then emerge -- shame, guilt and pride.
Here’s what Lewis did to show this to be true: he gave children in this age group different puzzles to solve.
Some of the puzzles appeared very easy, but he engineered them so that they were actually impossible
(they had a misshapen or missing piece). Toddlers would begin working on one of these, and when they
realized the seemingly simple puzzle was too much for them, they would look down, avoid everyone’s
eyes, draw their shoulders inward and their head down (the classic look of shame), and quietly move away,
pretending they never had tried to do the puzzle at all. Lewis had made other puzzles look difficult that
were actually quite simple – the pieces just fell into place. When toddlers started one of these and suddenly
got it right, they’d pull their shoulders back, grin and look eagerly around the room for their mother’s eyes
or someone else to notice them – the classic look of pride (not in the sense of hubris but of satisfaction and
So… a three stage developmental model of emotion. Does it fit with what you know? How or how not?
Module 5 Discussion -- Guilt -- the gift
that keeps on giving
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Many of my students initially think that shame and guilt are the same emotion. However, psychologists
draw a clear distinction between them: with guilt, the focus is on the action you did that was wrong – you
feel terrible and want to fix it somehow. You did a bad THING and want to do better. With shame, you also
feel terrible but the focus is more on you as a person. You are a bad PERSON and want to give up. Shame
tends to shut you down and make you want to go away.
For example, suppose that when I am working on a paper with a tough deadline my son comes to me upset
about something important in his life and asks me for advice. Suppose the impossible :-) and I react in an
impatient and irritated way. If I catch myself a moment too late but in time to notice his hurt expression and
the tears that come into his eyes, I will feel sick. If what I feel is mostly guilt, I will apologize for being
thoughtless, explain that I love talking with him, ask him to forgive me, and then spend real time listening
to what he has to say. If however what I feel is mostly shame, I am likely to think something like, “What
kind of a father am I to put my papers ahead of this wonderful boy who I am responsible to raise? I am a
joke as a father, always concerned with my issues and my things. I don’t deserve to even have a child...”
And so forth, accusing, depressing and incapacitating myself. Do you see the difference? Guilt makes you
want to fix things; shame makes you want to give up because there is nothing you can do – you are just
When people feel intense shame they tend to withdraw from others and begin a cycle of ever more negative
thinking. Ironically, the situation that initially caused the shame may not even be addressed.
People who are ashamed look as if they are trying to disappear – their shoulders come in and down and
they seem to shrink, trying to creep away. Shame leads toward depression, but guilt likely spurs a person to
action and better behavior that in the end brings a sense of satisfaction.
Does this distinction between shame and guilt fit with what you know?
Can you see how this perspective can inform the process of raising a child, dealing with
employees or even how you conduct yourself as a friend?
Module 5 Discussion -- Making faces
Bear with me on this one and do your best to take it seriously -- it may show you something extremely
cool. It might help to first close your eyes for a moment while you take a breath and relax... OK, here we
Make an angry face, clench your fist, and if you can, quietly snarl and lift your lip to expose your
canine tooth (kind of like a growling dog). What do you feel?
Now shrug and lift your hands up and outward with your elbows in and against your sides, and lift
your eyebrows a little, tilting your head to the side with a small smile. Any difference in your
Roll your shoulders forward and drop your head and make a very sad face. How about now?
Try to display a few other "typical" faces and body positions for different emotions - do your
feelings differ for each?
Okay, here are your questions:
(a) What do the results of the above exercise suggest about your ability to change your own mood? Whose
theory does your experience support?
(b) Why might your empathy for someone increase if, as they speak, you mimic their facial expressions?
Module 5 Discussion -- The munchies
(1) Try applying the drive-reduction theory of motivation to your experience of having the munchies in the
middle of the night. Be sure to include need, drive, behavior and homeostasis. Using this example,
comment on why the concept of "drive" is critical. Why not just assume we go directly from need to
behavior? Can you give an example?
(2) In the 50's Clark Hull developed a remarkable variant of the drive-reduction theory that included
incentive as well. He said that we can determine the likelihood of a particular behavior of a person (such as
eating a hot dog or going to meet a friend) if we know the strength of the drive, the strength of the
incentive, and how realistic the goal is. All three are expressed as percentages. You just multiply them
together and you get the likelihood of the behavior. For example, say your hunger is 80%, the incentive of a
hot dog is 50% and an estimate of how realistic it is for you to find a hot dog to eat is 90%. The likelihood
of eating a hot dog then is 80% x 50% x 90% = 36%, therefore you have a 36% chance of going to eating a
hot dog. So, given perfect knowledge about the three factors for all possible behaviors, we could perfectly
predict what someone will do. Thoughts? Examples?
Module 5 Discussion -- Yikes!
Take a close look at how the theories of James-Lange and Schachter-Singer (the two-factor theory) are
differentiated. Pay special attention to the role of physiological arousal, the Amygdala, and facial
expressions in the experience of emotion.
Now here's a scenario: Suppose a woman is at a movie with a date and is asked in the middle of the movie
to estimate her level of attraction to her date. According to the theories of James-Lange and Schachter and
Singer (Two-factor theory), would her estimated level of attraction be different if they were at an extremely
frightening movie than it would be if they were at a milder movie? For both theory, why or why not? (It
should help you understand how these theories would predict different things if you carefully diagram the
way the emotion would flow according to each.)
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