The Role of the Self in
Cognition and Emotion
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
This chapter has as its central theme the idea that emotional life requires cognitions. While some have argued for a one-to-one correspondence between stimulus elicitors and emotional responses (e.g. Zajonc, 1980), such an analysis is difficult to understand, especially in regard to the class of emotions called self-conscious emotions. Darwin (1965/1872), for one, argued that these selfconscious emotions were produced by people's ideas that they were the focus of the attention of others. The cognitions underlining these emotions mean that there are no elicitors of these emotions which do not involve ideas, especially ideas or cognitions about the self.
In the model of emotional development that is schematized in Figure 7.1, I have suggested (Lewis, 1992a; Lewis & Michalson, 1983a) that cognitions and emotions follow a fugue-like pattern, where emotions lead to cognitions, which in turn lead to new emotions. In this model of emotional development, the earliest emotions, called at times “primary” or “basic” emotions, those that can be seen in the facial expressions, emerge at birth and may require little cognition. Even here it is difficult to think of the elicitors-expression connection without invoking some cognition—if nothing more than the cognition necessary for perception. At around 15–18 months, a critical cognition, that involving the idea of “me” (Lewis, 1995a), or what I have called self-awareness or consciousness, emerges (Lewis, 1992b; Lewis & Brooks-Gunn, 1979; Lewis & Michalson, 1983a). The emergence of this cognition gives rise to a set of self-conscious emotions which at this time do not have evaluation of self as their basis (Lewis, 1992a). Rather, they are based on the use of the self; embarrassment as the result of the self being observed (Lewis, 1995b) and empathy or the ability to place the self in the place of the other in order to gather information about how the other thinks or feels. These self