timeline
Time 1890
Title William James' research on emotion emerges
Event American philosopher, psychologist, and physician William James claims that emotions are tied to perception. In other words, how we “see” or interpret an event creates the reaction we call emotion. What actually happens to us is relatively unimportant, but our emotional reaction to events has a far-reaching impact on our memory and perception. James is probably best known for his book Varieties of Religious Experience, which some still consider a classic today.

The study of mind and body are inseparable in James’ work. (See "body" for more).

James' theory states that unconscious processes in the body, not the brain, cause emotions. James’ is one of the first respected researchers to study both the physiology and pathology of emotions.

James hints at his religious concerns in his earliest essays, but they become clearer in later writings. He shifts between two theories about science and religion. At times, he believes that study of human nature might help us understand the “Science of Religion.” At other times, he believes that religious experience is entirely supernatural, accessible to individual humans, but inaccessible to science.

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