Who is Stanley Schachter?

Who is Stanley Schachter?

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Stanley Schachter was an American social psychologist who lived between April 15, 1922 – June 7, 1997 and is known for his “two factor theory of emotions” that he created with Jerome E. Singer.

According to the “two factor theory of emotions”, emotions consist of two components, physiological arousal and cognitive label. The person first feels physiological arousal, seeks an appropriate explanation for this arousal, and experiences that emotion if he can associate this arousal with an emotional source. Schachter has conducted studies in many areas including obesity, group dynamics, birth order and smoking. According to the Review of General Psychology survey published in 2002, he was shown as the seventh most influential psychologist of the 20th century.

Stanley Schachter studied social psychology at Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan, where he completed his PhD in 1949. Following her work on social influence with psychologist Leon Festinger (1919-1989), she conducted fieldwork on cognitive dissonance. With his intuitive research methods and analytical style, Schachter published “When Prophecy Fails” (1956) and the award-winning “Psychology of Giving” (1959).

A native of New York, Schachter transferred from the University of Minnesota to Columbia University in New York in 1961 and spent the rest of her career analyzing data with her boyfriend. He won the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Contribution in 1969 and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983.

Schachter was primarily concerned with the idea that internal and external cues combine to determine human experience. This notion was originally formulated for the co-existence of physiological arousals as a true emotional experience and for an appropriate emotional label and an explanation, often provided by the environment, for these arousals. The absence of arousal or an appropriate emotional structure leads to an incomplete emotional experience. The empirical support for this notion was not as solid as one might prefer, but Schachter’s perspective has had a strong influence, largely due to its creative experimental scenarios and its beautifying and playful writing style. His students extended Schachter’s formula to the field of emotional misdirection.

It is stated that Schachter’s studies on obesity and eating emerged from his studies on emotion. While it is true that both formulations contain internal and external cues, what is often overlooked is that the formula is actually quite different in these two areas. While a true emotional experience requires both an internal cue (arousal) and an external cue (label), Schachter shifted gears when he talked about obesity. For one thing, it was no longer aimed at subjective experience; instead, his work focused on the act of eating rather than the experience of hunger. Moreover, he claimed that he acted in isolation rather than explaining his eating habits with internal and external cues. According to him, the obese person does not respond to internal cues and relies entirely on external cues (i.e., environmental food cues). Whereas, normal-weight individuals respond to internal cues (and possibly external cues as well). Although Schachter’s distinction between internal and external effects on obesity and eating habits is contested, his research has shed light on many scientific arguments.

Schachter also worked on his smoking habit, eventually adopting a radical “inner” perspective. He studied the link between psychological factors and the effect of nicotine reuptake on blood circulation. He also studied psychological factors related to money and verbal disorganization before retiring in 1992. His unique methods, born from the combination of his creativity and effort to support his intuition, went down in the history of science as a legacy that defies conventional wisdom.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Ömer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; Translation: Tuba Yildirim