term activation theory was most prominently used by the American physiological psychologist Donald B. Lindsley (1907-2003) as a working theory for emotion. The concept activate means not only "to make active" but also
"to render capable of reacting." At one end of a continuum of activation is a strong reaction to stimulation, and at the other end is the condition of quiescence, sleep, or death, with little or no reaction to stimulation. The activation/arousal theory developed from work in the area of physiology, specifically on the electrical activity of the brain where the cerebral cortex was seen to be aroused by discharge of a lower center of the brain in the hypothalamic region. The general form of the activation theory is a form of the older "energy-mobilization" concept of emotion (e.g., Cannon, 1915) where early studies showed how the body prepares for emergency action during states of rage and fear. The use of the term activation is restricted generally to the energizing influence of one internal system, such as the reticular activating system, on another one and is not an exact synonym for either "arousal" (a general term) or "stimulation" (activation produced by specific external sources). Historically, the concept of activation was central to the study and development of drives, motives, and emotions in psychology (cf., affective arousal theory - the speculation that individuals learn to seek out anticipated pleasure and to avoid anticipated pain, and where motives originate in changes in affective states; McClelland, 1951). It has been relatively easy to identify behavioral states as levels of arousal (cf., D. Berlyne's "aesthetic arousal," which may be raised via properties of stimulus patterns such as novelty), but parallel physiological processes are more difficult to discover. The electroencephalograph (EEG) has been a somewhat successful indicator of arousal level where the lower frequency EEG is observed when behavioral arousal declines but, given certain exceptions to this simple relationship, the EEG is only an approximate indicator of arousal. Associated also with the arousal theory is the sleep-wakefulness cycle of organisms where an individual goes to sleep when input falls below a certain level. This hypothesis is tenable when considering the general nocturnal sleeping habits of humans, but it has difficulty when explaining the behavior of certain animal species that sleep during the day and are most active at night. The sensory input interpretation of arousal was predominant until the studies by G. Moruzzi and
H. Magoun at the University of Pisa in Italy, and D. B. Lindsley, J. Bowden, and H. Magoun at the University of California at Los Angeles, showed that severing all the sensory nerves in cats (without damaging the reticular formation) was accompanied by normal wakefulness-sleep patterns in the EEG. The view today has changed somewhat from the simple picture of the reticular formation as the major activator for arousal patterns and includes the recognition that EEG arousal signs are not always consistent with changes in behavioral arousal. See also CANNON/CANNON-BARD THEORY; DRIVE, THEORIES OF; EMOTION, THEORIES/LAWS OF; LINDSLEY'S ACTIVATION THEORY; MOTIVATION, THEORIES OF; SPREADING-ACTIVATION MODEL OF MEMORY. REFERENCES
Cannon, W. (1915). Bodily changes in pain, hunger, fear, and rage. New York: Appleton.
(1949). Effect upon EEG of acute injury to the brain stem activating system. EEG & Clinical Neurophysiology, 1, 475-486. Moruzzi, G., & Magoun, H. (1949). Brain stem reticular formation and activation of the EEG. EEG & Clinical Neuro-physiology, 1, 455-473. Duffy, E. (1951). The concept of energy mobilization. Psychological Review, 58, 30-40.
Lindsley, D. B. (1951). Emotion. In S. S. Stevens (Ed.), Handbook of experimental psychology, pp. 473-516. New York: Wiley. McClelland, D. C. (1951). Personality. New
York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Duffy, E. (1957). The psychological significance of the concept of "arousal" or "activation." Psychological Review, 64, 265-275. Malmo, R. (1959). Activation: A neuropsy-chological dimension. Psychological Review, 66, 367-386. Berlyne, D. (1960). Conflict, arousal, and curiosity. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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