Handbook of Cognition and Emotion

By Tim Dalgleish; Mick J. Power | Go to book overview
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Chapter 14
Prospective Cognitions

Andrew K. MacLeod
Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, UK

Plans, goals, expectancies, hopes, fears, dread and apprehension: these are just some of the many terms that exist for describing mental states that all have as their focus some future state of affairs. A quick glance at these terms reveals that many of them have a strong affective quality, and this chapter will be concerned with understanding these future-orientated, or prospective, cognitive-affective states and their relation to emotional disturbance. Prospective cognitions vary along many dimensions other than the affective dimension, such as the extent to which a goal is abstract rather than concrete, the degree to which a plan to achieve a goal is specific rather than general, and the extent to which expectancies about the future are represented at the level of conscious awareness, as opposed to unconscious assumptions (Austin & Vancouver, 1996; Emmons, 1992). Some of these dimensions, as will become apparent, are particularly important when considering the relationship between prospective cognitions and emotional disorders.

The study of prospective cognitions and their relation to emotion has been relatively neglected when compared with the study of other cognitive processes, such as memory or attention. Perhaps one reason for this relative neglect is psychology's preference for natural science-like, causal explanations of human behaviour and experience, rather than teleological accounts which explain behaviour by reference to mental representations about the future, such as goals, plans and expectations. However, there has been a lineage of teleologically minded theorists, such as McDougall and Tolman (Valentine, 1992) and some theorists have tried to integrate causal and teleological accounts in terms of selfregulating cybernetic systems (Miller, Galanter & Pribram, 1960; Carver & Scheier, 1990). The issue will not be addressed directly in this chapter, but it is an assumption of the chapter that prospective cognitions are important in influencing behaviour.

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