Debate: A Bit of History
Richard S. Lazarus
University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
The purpose of this essay is not to renew the cognition-emotion debate, but to interpret it in the context of history and my emotion theory. I shall be cool yet partisan in my analysis.
The role of cognition in emotion has long been the subject of intense psychological interest and controversy. Somewhat less attention has been given to the role of cognition in motivation, an issue that covers much the same ground. This was the topic of a much earlier volume edited by Bernard Weiner (1974), based on a conference at which a number of cognitivists presented papers, including me (Lazarus, 1974). Tetlock & Levi (1982) later noted the similarity of the two issues and expressed doubts about the conclusiveness of what has been and, indeed, can be said about these functional relationships.
We need to recognize that to speak of a relationship implies the independent identities of three concepts of mind—namely, cognition, emotion and motivation, which are more or less fictions of scientific analysis, whose independence doesn't truly exist in nature. Thus, in my monograph on emotion and adaptation (Lazarus, 1991a), I referred to the theory I presented as cognitive, motivational and relational to emphasize that emotion does not occur in the absence of meaning, which an individual constructs out of an ongoing person-environment relationship, and a goal that creates a stake in that relationship. To do justice to the broader issues inherent in the nature of adaptation, the debate must be broadened considerably and contribute to a theory of mind.