Network Theories and
Joseph P. Forgas
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
The relationship between feeling and thinking, cognition and affect has been the source of enduring fascination to philosophers, writers and artists since time immemorial. Indeed, cognition and affect have long been assumed to represent basic yet interrelated faculties of the human mind (Hilgard, 1980). During the last two decades or so, interest in the role of affect in cognition and behavior has increased dramatically. Contemporary theories guiding this work are predominantly based on cognitive principles and often rely on models of information storage and retrieval—that is, memory mechanisms—for their explanatory frameworks (Bower, 1981,1991; Clore, Schwarz & Conway, 1994; Fiedler, 1990, 1991; Forgas, 1992a, 1995a; Singer & Salovey, 1988). Perhaps the most parsimonious and influential theory for explaining affective influences on cognition and judgments has been the network theory of affect. According to this view, the arousal of an affective state spreads activation throughout a network of cognitive associations linked to that emotion (Bower, 1981; Bower & Cohen, 1982; Clark & Isen, 1982; Isen, 1984). As a result, material that is associatively linked to the current mood is more likely to be activated, recalled and used in various constructive cognitive tasks, leading to a marked mood congruency in constructive associations, evaluations and judgments.
The main objective of this chapter is to provide a timely review and update of the associative network theory of affect and cognition. The first half of the chapter will review the basic conceptual foundations of this model, and some of the empirical evidence supporting the theory will be considered. The