PhD Student | Game Designer / QA

Honours Blog

Theories of Emotion

To find out how to create an emotive experience for the player, I first have to understand the theories behind emotion. There are many  recognised theories behind emotion, some of which are: The Evolutionary Theories,  the Cannon-Bard Theory, Schacter and Singer's Two-Factor Theory, Cognitive Appraisal and the James-Lange Theory.

All of the above stated theories carry their own argument as to what 'emotion' is. The theories that interest me most are the Evolutionary Theories and Cognitive Appraisal. The Evolutionary Theories pioneered by Charles Darwin in the 1870's stated that emotions evolved to increase communication and survivability. It is the more recent evolutionary theories that discuss the 7 primary emotions; happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, contempt, disgust and fear. These are widely regarded as the universal 'base' emotions. The emotions are considered to be innate responses to stimuli, with more complex emotions resulting from mixtures and levels of intensity of a base emotion.

Cognitive Appraisal was a theory by Richard Lazarus which takes the view of how expressed emotion will differ between different people. This means that two people may experience the same environment, object etc. with differing emotional responses.