Chapter Seven

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22 Apr 2012
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Chapter Seven - Page 1 of 8
Chapter Seven: Appraisal, Knowledge, and Experience
Two kinds of process:
Unconscious and automatic reflexive primary appraisal
Potentially conscious, and thought-like gives rise to specific emotions secondary
appraisal
Appraisal and Emotion
General consensus is that for events to prompt emotions, they must be evaluated, or
appraised, in relation to the individual’s goals
Historical background and definitions
Chrysippus distinguished between first movements of emotions (automatic) and second
movements (mental and involve judgment and decision)
o We can’t avoid the first movements, they are made simply by the body. But since
the second movements involve thought, they are more up to us
The second movements of bad emotions later became known as the seven deadly sins
The idea of first and second movements maps exactly onto the idea of primary and
secondary appraisals
Richard Lazarus
o Studied stress a condition in which personal challenges exceed the person’s
capacities/resources
o Produces vigilant attention and heightened activity in the sympathetic branch of the
ANS
o Adaptive in the short term
o Chronic stress is dangerous and can lead to mental and physical health problems
o Many different kinds of stress
o Each kind of stress promotes a particular kind of emotion, by means of a specific
appraisal processes
o He proposed that appraisals involve judgments of how good or bad an event is
o It concerns the person’s goals and aspirations, and how they’re interacting with the
environment
o Emotions refer both to events in the world and to the person’s concerns – outer
world and inner self
Stein et al. proposed that appraisals that give rise to emotions also involve beliefs,
inferences, and plans. These aspects unfold as follows:
o An event, usually unexpected, is perceived that changes the status of a valued goal
o Beliefs are often challenged; this can cause bodily changes and expressions to occur
o Plans are formed about what to do about the event to reinstate, or modify the goal,
and the likely results of the plans are considered
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Stein et al. propose that how a person sees an event the frame they use, which depends
on their goals/values will determine how the event is perceived, what emotions are
elicited, and even what is remembered
Automatic appraisals of good and bad
Zajonc proposed that we process stimuli through different appraisal systems
o One provides an immediate, unconscious evaluation of whether the stimulus is good
or bad gives rise to primary appraisals automatic emotional reactions first
movements of emotions
Probably involves the amygdala
Gives rise to our core feelings of positivity or negativity
o Other systems secondary ones second movements provide more deliberate,
conscious, complex assessments in terms of such matters as what caused the events
and what to do about it
When we’re consciously aware of emotionally charged stimuli, we’re less likely to sway our
judgments of other stimuli
The primary appraisal process is automatic, fast, and primitive in the sense that it gives rise
to an immediate feeling of good or bad
Is the bad stronger than the good?
Our negative evaluations appear to be more potent than our positive ones
Makes evolutionary sense for one to be more responsive to danger or pain
Our negative emotions might seem more intense or readily elicited and harder to regulate
Rozin’s ideas about contamination
Ito et al. brain activity showed a clear negativity bias in evaluation: the negative stimuli
generated greater brain activity than the positive or neutral ones
Appraisal theories and distinct emotions
Modern research on appraisal has tended to be in two families: that of discrete approaches
that emphasizes that unique appraisals give rise to different emotions; and dimensional
approaches, which focus on the many components of appraisals that relate to different
emotions
Discrete approaches to appraisal
Lazarus proposed that there two stages to the appraisal process
In his version of the primary appraisal stage, the person appraises the event in terms of its
relevance to goals
o First, they evaluate whether the event is relevant to goals
If it is, an emotion is elicited; if not, no emotion follows
o Then they evaluate ongoing events in terms of the extent to which the event is
congruent with their goals
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Goal congruent events elicit positive emotions, and goal incongruent events
elicit negative emotions
Finally, they appraise the event in terms of its relevant to more specific
goals or issues for the ego
In Lazarus’ secondary appraisal stage, the person considers a causal attribution for the
event, how to respond to it, and future consequences of different courses of action
o Result of these processes core relational theme of the emotion
o The essential meaning for each emotion
o They’re summaries of the different classes of events that elicit emotion
o In evolutionary terms, the core relational themes map onto the problems and
opportunities to which people respond with emotions, the slights (anger), dangers
(fear), moral transgressions (guilt), losses (sadness), and sufferings of others
(compassion), for example, that have been critical to human survival, reproduction,
and cooperative group living. You can also think about these core relational themes
as the language of our emotional experience: they capture the themes and issues
that organize our emotional experience.
Oatley and Laird postulate appraisals with two components
o First there is an unconscious and automatic appraisal of an event in relation to goals
The automatic process is in terms of basic emotions
Each of these basic emotions has the function of settling the brain into a
mode adapted to deal with a recurring situation
This primary appraisal isn’t just positive or negative
Each mode is a state of readiness with a distinct phenomenological tone,
but no necessary verbal meaning
Dimensional approaches to appraisal
Ellsworth highlighted two reasons why we need to think about emotion-related appraisal
from another perspective dimensional
o An appraisal theory needs to account for the similarities across emotions, as well as
differences
Approaches to emotions as discrete, such as those of Lazarus, highlight the differences
between emotions in terms of their eliciting appraisals. They also are unable to account for
transitions between emotions
Ellsworth and Smith have developed a theory of appraisal to account for similarities and
differences among emotions
o See page 176!
o People relived a past emotional experience and then reported on the appraisals that
produced the emotion
o Each emotion was found to be defined by a fairly distinct pattern of appraisal
Eg. Happiness = pleasant, associated with low effort, high certainty, and
high attention
Certain dimensions stood out in their ability to differentiate among related
emotions
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