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The Perceptual-Motivational Theory

Updated on March 23, 2012

Two American psychologists, Magda Arnold in 1960 and R. W, Leeper in 1965, arrived at a similar view of emotion, known as the perceptual-motivational theory. In her theory, Arnold stressed the judgment that the individual makes of the provoking situation, She asserted that the individual appraises the provoking situation immediately as potentially pleasant or unpleasant and that the emotion follows promptly from this judgment.

This theory holds that emotion is a form of motivation, a drive to experience circumstances that are judged to be pleasant and to avoid situations that are judged to be unpleasant. Whereas the James-Lange theory holds that the body reacts reflexively on encountering the provoking situation, the Arnold view is that the body responds to the individual's appraisal of the provoking situation.

No fully satisfactory explanation or theory of emotion has been formulated. From the psychological view, it has been difficult to establish theories of emotional responsiveness because different people may react in widely different ways to the supposedly same emotion. From the physiological view, a persistent problem has been that most of the bodily mechanisms that have been described as occurring in emotion have been known also to occur in the absence of emotion.


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