Does Emotion Cause Behavior (Apart from Making People Do Stupid, Destructive Things)?

Roy F. Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall, Kathleen D. Vohs, Jessica L. Alquist

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The authors challenge the traditional view that emotion directly causes behavior, as represented in the claim that someone did something "because he was angry." Essentially, this is the view that "the impetus for the behavior is contained in the emotion," a premise that still leaves a miraculous gap between feeling the emotion and enacting the behavior. As an alternative, the authors advance the view that "conscious emotion tends to come after behavior and operates as a kind of inner feedback system." The authors bolster their argument against the traditional view with evidence that emotions are not specific enough to serve as impetus for specific behaviors, that emotions seem to have more impact on cognition than on behavior, and that emotional influences on behavior tend to disappear unless people believe that their actions will affect their emotional state.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThen A Miracle Occurs
Subtitle of host publicationFocusing on Behavior in Social Psychological Theory and Research
ISBN (Electronic)9780199864522
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Oxford University Press, 2014.


  • Behavior
  • Causation
  • Emotion
  • Emotional influences
  • Inner feedback system
  • Social psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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