As the performance of ordinary movements of an opposite kind, under opposite impulses of the will, has become habitual in us and in the lower animals, so when actions of one kind have become firmly associated with any sensation or emotion, it appears natural that actions of a directly opposite kind, though of no use, should be unconsciously performed through habit and association, under the influence of a directly opposite sensation or emotion. On this principle alone can I understand how the gestures and expressions which come under the present head of antithesis have originated. If indeed they are serviceable to man or to any other animal, in aid of inarticulate cries or language, they will likewise be voluntarily employed, and the habit will thus be strengthened. But whether or not of service as a means of communication, the tendency to perform opposite movements under opposite sensations or emotions would, if we may judge by analogy, become hereditary through long practice; and there cannot be a doubt that several expressive movements due to the principle of antithesis are inherited.



The principle of direct action of the excited nervous system on the body, independently of the will and in part of habit-- Change of colour in the hair--Trembling of the muscles-- Modified secretions--Perspiration--Expression of extreme pain-- Of rage, great joy, and terror--Contrast between the emotions which cause and do not cause expressive movements--Exciting and depressing states of the mind--Summary.

WE now come to our third Principle, namely, that certain actions which we recognize as expressive of certain states of the mind, are the direct result of the constitution of the nervous system, and have been from the first independent of the will, and, to a large extent, of habit. When the sensorium is strongly excited nerve-force is generated in excess, and is transmitted in certain directions, dependent on the connection of the nerve-cells, and, as far as the muscular system is concerned, on the nature of the movements which have been habitually practised. Or the supply of nerve-force may, as it appears, be interrupted. Of course every movement which we make is determined by the constitution of the nervous system; but actions performed in obedience to the will, or through habit, or through the principle of antithesis, are here as far as possible excluded. Our present subject is very obscure, but, from its importance, must be discussed at some little length; and it is always advisable to perceive clearly our ignorance.

The most striking case, though a rare and abnormal one, which can be adduced of the direct influence of the nervous system, when strongly affected, on the body, is the loss of colour in the hair, which has occasionally been observed after extreme terror or grief. One authentic instance has been recorded, in the case of a man brought out for execution in India, in which the change of colour was so rapid that it was perceptible to the eye.[1]

Another good case is that of the trembling of the muscles, which is common to man and to many, or most, of the lower animals. Trembling is of no service, often of much disservice, and cannot have been at first acquired through the will, and then rendered habitual in association with any emotion. I am assured by an eminent authority that young children do not tremble, but go into convulsions under the circumstances which would induce excessive trembling in adults. Trembling is excited in different individuals in very different degrees. and by the most diversified causes,--by cold to the surface, before fever-fits, although the temperature of the body is then above the normal standard; in blood-poisoning, delirium tremens, and other diseases; by general failure of power in old age; by exhaustion after excessive fatigue; locally from severe injuries, such as burns; and, in an especial manner, by the passage of a catheter. Of all emotions, fear notoriously is the most apt to induce trembling; but so do occasionally great anger and joy. I remember once seeing a boy who had just shot his first snipe on the wing, and his hands

[1] See the interesting cases collected by M.

The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals Page 28

19th Century English Literature

Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

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