Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research

Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research

Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research

Appraisal Processes in Emotion: Theory, Methods, Research

Synopsis

Appraisal theory has become one of the most active aproaches in the domain of emotion psychology. The appraisal process consists of the subjective evaluation that occurs during the individual's encounter with significant events in the environment, thus determining the nature of the emotional reaction and experience. The organism's interpretation of events and situations elicits and differentiates its emotional responses, although the exact processes involved and the limits of the theory are still a matter of debate and are currently the object of active research. This volume is intended to become the primary source of information on appraisal for all those interested in emotion, from beginning graduate students to accomplished researchers in emotion psychology.

Excerpt

From early philosophical thinking up to recent psychological theorizing and research, scientific interest in emotion has mostly focused on the subjective experience and the physiological and expressive response patterns denoted by the natural language labels for different emotions. Little attention was paid to the exact nature of the processes that elicit emotion and determine its differentiation. Both philosophers and psychologists implicitly subscribed to the idea that certain types of events or situations would automatically elicit certain types of emotions, relying on the fact that the meaning of the emotion terms often incorporates, in a rudimentary fashion, the presumed eliciting conditions. For example, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure aroused by real or imagined injury and usually accompanied by the desire to retaliate” and joy as “the emotion or state of great happiness, pleasure, or delight (e.g., produced by success, good fortune, or possessing what one desires)”. The implicit assumption is that the person experiencing a certain emotion has, in fact, interpreted the situation in the sense of the dictionary definition and is reacting correspondingly.

The reliance on the implicit meaning of emotion terms in natural languages is obviously somewhat unsatisfactory for a rigorous definition of the factors that determine the elicitation and differentiation of emotion. Furthermore, the use of the implicit meaning of emotion words confounds the antecedent (eliciting condition) with the consequent (emotional response patterning, including subjective feeling).

This lacuna in psychological theorizing and research on emotion has been filled by what has become known as “appraisal theories of emotion. ” The approach, based on pioneering suggestions by Magda Arnold and Richard Lazarus, suggests that emotions are elicited and differentiated as a function of an individual's subjective interpretation or evaluation of important events or situations. The major thrust of appraisal theories is to identify the evaluative dimensions or criteria that predict the emotion that will be elicited in an individual as a function of his or her motivational state and perceived coping potential.

This book represents the first full-scale effort to bring together authoritative summaries of the current state of the major appraisal theories, critical assessments of the major assumptions made by appraisal theories, and reviews of research methods and . . .

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