Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition

By Gordon B. Moskowitz | Go to book overview

19
The Crossroads of Affect and Cognition: Counterfactuals
as Compensatory Cognition
Neal J. Roese
Simon Fraser University

The opposition of emotion and rational thought is perhaps one of the oldest dichotomies invoked to explain the vagaries of human behavior. Capricious acts become scrutable when observers can attribute divergent extremes of action to momentary victories by opposing psychological forces. Probably for this reason, the placement of passion and rational thought in a state of tension served many thinkers well in their quest to understand human nature. Hume (1740/1985) wrote that “reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (p. 462). On the other hand, observers from Plato to Freud believed it imperative for reason to command the passions in order to avoid wreck and ruin.

This depiction of tension served academic psychologists well through the early decades of the 20th century. 1 The view was appended from the 1960s onward by the notion that cognition is a necessary component for the subjective experience of emotion. Appearing in the 1980s was the more complex view that emotion may be a crucial linchpin in the generation of those cognitions that are essential for successful social functioning. Thus, the activation of cognitions relating to assessment, explanation, and planning may be directly instigated by negative affect; deficits in emotional functioning may impair social problem solving. The goal of this chapter is to consider these views not as contradictory theses but, as sequential developments toward a more complex yet satisfactory understanding of the interface between affect, cognition, and social functioning. Considered are two pathways through which affect can mobilize or demobilize cognition. Throughout the discussion, counterfactual thinking assumes a central position as a particularly clear example of compensatory cognition.


Affect and Cognition in Tension

A tug of war between emotion and reason was an essential component of Freud's theorizing (e.g., 1920, 1923/1960). To him, emotion was the more basic, primary control mechanism, although a simple one. A crude homeostatic rule (termed the pleasure principle) governed behavior to the extent that pleasure was sought and pain was avoided. This control mechanism was capable of steering simple organisms to success under many circumstances, but situated within the complexity of human civilization, it could often be “inefficient and even highly dangerous” (Freud, 1920, p. 278). Reason, therefore, exerted a controlling force over emotion, such that it “demands and carries into effect the postponement of satisfaction…” (p. 278). For example, drives toward instant gustatory and sexual gratification may lead to theft or rape. Such low-level passions, with potentially dangerous consequences for the individual and society as a whole, are restrained by the opposing forces of reason. This view echoes through much of Western literature: Impulsivity, lack of self-control, and submission to passion have been depicted, in works such as Hamlet and Macbeth, for example, as roads to ruin. Without appropriate rational restraint, unbridled passion could lead to self-destruction (Ellis, 1994). By contrast, Rousseau's Social Contract, the Romantic movement in 19th century art and literature, and 1960s North American hippie culture exalted the primacy of affect as the pathway to enlightenment, creativity, and healthy living. Regardless of which pole was deemed superior, these various perspectives were erected on a foundation that separated affect and cognition as polar opposites.

Such a view continues to play a role in psychology, particularly in light of advances in neuroanatomy. Basic emotions have been linked in part to the limbic system—a structure functionally and anatomically distinct from the frontal neocortex, the seat of considering, deciding, and planning. To some, the distinction between emotion and reason is further reified by functional analyses of brain anatomy (see LeDoux, 1995).

-307-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 503

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.