Video:Profile of William Jameswith Dr. Julie Kolzet
William James was an influential psychologist and philosopher who published many theories of emotion still popular today. Learn about the life and work of this renowned psychologist in this short biography by About.com.See Transcript
Transcript:Profile of William James
Hello, my name is Dr. Julie Kolzet, I'm a clinical psychologist at Behavioral Associates in New York City. Today for About.com I'm going to be talking about William James.
William James and The Principles of Psychology
William James was born in 1842, he was an influential psychologist and philosopher who trained as a physician at Harvard University. His 1200 page masterwork, The Principles of Psychology, is a unique blend of psychology, philosophy and physiology that has given us ideas such as the 'stream of thought', as well as the notion of an infant's existence as one that is chaotic and characterized by confusion.
William James' Theory of Emotion
Perhaps where James received the most notoriety is in his theory of emotions, which both he an Karl Lange, a Danish physiologist came up with independently, hence the theory is called the James/Lange Theory of Emotion. According to this theory, emotions occur as a result of physiological processes or reactions to events. In simple terms: "I am trembling and then I become afraid". Here we see that our emotions are a result of physiological reactions and not the other way around.
The James-Lange Theory of Emotion
Although the James-Lange theory has received criticism by modern-day researchers, where it really holds weight is in the field of psychology. Particularly in the acquisition and the maintenance of anxiety disorders, panic disorders and a specific phobia, for example. Panic disorders are characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear. They are often triggered by physical reactions such as sweating or a rapid heartbeat. In the case of a specific phobia, a person might experience a physiological reaction such as sweating in a public place. In cognitive behavioral therapy we incorporate the James-Lange theory of emotions. We work to diminish and ultimately extinguish the association between the negative emotional state, anxiety, and the public place.
For more information about William James, please visit About.com.