PSYC18 FINAL LECTURE NOTES
George Mandler’s Information Theory Approach to Emotion (1962, 1975)
This approach emphasized the active role played by people in interpreting and understanding the world around
them. His information processing approach to emotion places an emphasis on the role of ―meaning analysis and
cognitive evaluation‖ that deals ―both with events in the external world and with the organism‘s own actions and
Like Schachter, Mandler focuses on ―undifferentiated arousal‖.
―Human beings apparently have difficulty in discriminating slight changes in physiological patterns.‖ It is
determined by the meaning analysis that caused it given the individual’s values and environmental events.
This arousal ―which decays relatively slowly, will potentiate subsequent feeling states‖.
―Discrepancy and interruption‖ of ongoing plans and actions signals important changes in the environment and is the most
important cause of the arousal. This arousal prepares the organism physiologically to respond to the evoking events. It
also signals consciousness for ―troubleshooting‖ and ―attention, alertness, and scanning of the environment‖ which entails
interpretation, and analysis both of the stimulus and of one’s capacity to respond effectively to it.
What is emotion? It is an event that happens in your world that takes you out of motion.
The minute there is an interruption, you go into troubleshooting mode.
So activity in the sympathetic nervous system initiates the search for causes. This reorienting of consciousness calls
attention to important events in the environment.
Emotion is bound up with the troubleshooting function of the mind because it stimulates the individual to reorient
attention, plans, and activities in a conscious manner.
Further, ―interruption may lead to expression of fear, anger, surprise, humor, or euphoria depending on factors other than
the interruption itself”.
In the end, this theory is about mental life and consciousness in general, and not just about emotion.
Emotions can be secondary consequences of frustration. When we have interruptions, we begin to look around our
environment, take the arousal, and use it.
Magda Arnold (1960)
Assess the object in terms of how it affects us personally in relation to harm or benefit... desirable or undesirable,
valuable or harmful, so we are drawn toward or repelled by it.
Sequence: perception , appraisal , emotion.
Past experience and goals are an important part of appraisal.
Appraisals are ―sense judgments‖. This phrase emphasizes their ―direct, immediate, non-reflective, non-
intellectual and automatic nature.‖
They are judgments about the meaning of situations but are not in-depth cognitive judgments.
Emotions have a survival purpose and are impulses to action or a readiness to respond to the environment in a particular
way (e.g. anger and urge to strike; fear and urge to flee).
Drive Reduction Model
Situation appraisal sets in motion physiological responses experienced as unpleasant tension. When action is
complete, physiological response abates and tension is reduced.
So...emotion is the ―felt tendency towards anything appraised as good or beneficial or away from anything
appraised as bad or harmful.‖ 1) Feelings are essential ingredients of emotion.
2) Physiological changes that accompany emotion provide a basis for felt experience and survival related
Recognize emotion by appraising the situation. Appraisal sets it all in motion!
Nico Frijda (1984)
Situational meaning contains three kinds of awareness:
o 1) Situational meaning structure
Practical analysis of the situation you are in, given your needs and goals, breaking down the
sequence into parts.
Relevance of event, seriousness of event, urgency of event, and inescapability
o 2) Arousal
Autonomic arousal – Schachter and Mandler
o 3) Action tendencies
―States of readiness to respond‖ associated with emotions, including facial expression.
These tendencies ―establish, maintain, or disrupt a relationship with the environment.‖
Emotions arise to solve problems that humans face in encounters with the environment.
Like Magda Arnold, Frijda agrees that emotions are an ―awareness of action tendencies – of desires to strike or to
flee, to investigate or be with.‖
―Different action tendencies are what characterize different emotions.‖
Linear model: Event coding Appraisal Significance evaluation Action readiness Action
Appraisal – compare coded event with concerns
Evaluation – diagnose what can be done about it
Richard Lazarus (1964)
Traumatic film – control, intellectualization, denial, trauma
o Appraisal is affected by expectations and effects reactions.
o Emotions are responses to perceived environments that ―prepare and mobilize‖ us to cope adaptively
Relational meaning... how the event affects us...
How situations will affect us in terms of good or bad.
What a person brings to the situation in terms of expectations, goals, and intentions
Emotions arise out of personal meaning that people bring to the situation that are relevant to their goals
Primary appraisal – assess event’s relevance for person’s well-being (goals) – whether it is good or bad
Secondary appraisal – deal with an evaluate coping response
Eponymy (Boring, 1963)
Definition – naming a school, movement, or paradigm after a person.
Three factors from Boring:
o 1) Narrow attention by readers that focuses on prominent figures or features associated with a school,
movement, or paradigm.
o 2) People want heroes and so they focus on successful researchers in that way.
o 3) Ambitious researchers need goals to activate them. This motive can be related to the Action Model.
And one extra factor from Cupchik in view of Schachter‘s success with Maranon‘s original idea...
Theatrical eponymy – The association of a scholar with an experimental paradigm because of its dramatic
qualities. Relate this to the paradigm from Schachter and Singer in which the subject received an injection, with
or without an explanation, and was exposed either to a euphoric or angry stooge in a dramatic scene. Also related to this is the distinction between personalistic and naturalistic explanations for advances in science.
Personalistic explanations focus on the individual (Darwin, Newton, Freud, Einstein) as the great genius. The
personality of the figure was behind his or her great discoveries.
Naturalistic explanations focus on the intellectual context in which certain ideas or problems were salient.
The German concept of Zeitgeist refers to the intellectual spirit of the times which might have influenced the
scholar to develop what seemed like a new idea.
COGNITIVE APPROACHES TO EMOTION...
Karl Pribram (1967, 68)
1) He offers a memory based theory of emotion rather than a viscerally or arousal based theory.
2) He takes into account past experience and the present, emotion-evoking situation
3) Emotion is related to the plans or projects rather than the level of activation.
4) Organized stability is the baseline from which disturbances or perturbations occur. Input that is incongruent
with the baseline produces a disturbance.
5) Important part of baseline is continuing activity of viscera regulated through the autonomic nervous system.
6) A mismatch between expectations and actual bodily changes in heart rate, sweating, butterflies, and so on, is
sensed as a discrepancy.
7) Emotion is related to ongoing organization of plans, programs or dispositions.
o ―Emotion is a perturbation, an interruption, disruption of normal ongoing activity.‖
o Pribram extends the homeostatic model from intraorganic events to total organism-environment relation.
8) Emotion is an e-motion, a process that takes the organism temporarily out of motion and effects control
through the regulation of sensory inputs.
9) Central control through the regulation of peripheral inputs takes two forms:
o (A) Inhibition of peripheral inputs while organism decides what to do.
o (B) Facilitation of attention to critical inputs from the environment.
Oatley and Johnson-Laird
They follow in the tradition of Mandler and Pribram by focusing on the interruption of goals.
Emotions signal important events in the environment and prepare one cognitively and physiologically for
activities that may involve changing one‘s plans or goals and altering ongoing behaviour.
Emotions function in the management of action!
o Emotions emerge at significant junctures in plans.
o Emotion signals ‗do this quickly and without the aid of consciousness‘
o Emotions involve a readiness to respond in particular ways to particular stimuli.
o Emotions are triggered by stimuli that are relevant to goals:
(A) Anxiety when self preservation is threatened.
(B) Anger when plan being carried out is frustrated.
(C) Happiness when goal is achieved.
o Complex emotions are not combinations of simpler, basic emotions. They have added propositional
evaluation which is social and includes reference to models of the self.
o Emotion involves intrasystemic communication between modules in the system.
o Emotion involves intersystemic communication in the sense that many of our more complex emotions
communicate information about mutual plans and goals of interdependent social actors.
So, emotions are mental states with coherent psychological functions. They have:
o An action readiness component (like Frijda) based on evaluation of something happening that affects the
person‘s concerns. The evaluation need not be conscious.
o A phenomenological tone or felt quality. o Emotions are accompanied by:
(A) A conscious preoccupation (like anger and thoughts of revenge)
(B) Bodily disturbance
(C) Expressive gestures in the face
Oatley imagines a hierarchy of modules in the brain that execute functions and help us to realize our goals. This
is a computational model. So, emotions help us arrange goal priorities.
We are consciously aware of only the top level of cognitive system that contains a model of the system‘s goals.
The Semantic Field of Emotion
0: Generic emotions—emotions and feelings
1: Basic emotions—happiness and elation (they have intensity and duration)
2: Emotional relations—love and hate
3: Caused emotions—gladness and horror
4: Causatives—irritate and reassure
5: Emotional goals—desire and avarice
6: Complex emotions—embarrassment and pity
Roseman’s Cognitive Structural Theory
For 14 emotions, 5 dimensions or way of appraising events (like the VALUE x EXPECTANCY model)
(1) Situational state: are events encountered in a particular situation consistent or inconsistent with one‘s
motives? Consistency leads to positive emotions, inconsistency to negative emotions.
(2) Probability: How certain are you about a certain outcome occurring? (Uncertainty fear or hope.
Certainty joy, sadness, or disgust.)
(3) Agency: Who is responsible for events in a situation? (When caused by self GUILT. Caused by other
ANGER. Circumstances beyond one‘s control SADNESS)
(4) Motivational state: do events one encounters involve obtaining a reward or avoiding punishment?
(Appetitive vs Aversive Motivation). Obtain reward JOY. Avoid punishment RELIEF.
(5) Power: Perceive oneself as weak or strong in a situation? Weak FEAR. Strong ANGER
The Social Constructionist Perspective
Jim Averill – Emotions are ―products‖ of cultures. The ways that emotions are embodied in a culture‘s social
practices, including its language, participates in and partially constitutes the moral order of the culture and serves
to maintain it. Averill sees emotions as a special kind of ―social role‖. Emotions are a ―socially constructed
syndrome‖ that includes an individual‘s appraisal of the situation, interpreted as a passion, instead of an action.
Averill says that emotion is experienced as an action because we play an active role in creating situations that are
then experienced emotionally. He also says that emotion is experienced as a passion because when we experience
emotions we often ignore our active role in having created them and feel overwhelmed and taken over by them.
Syndrome – a set of events that