Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion

By Nancy L. Stein; Bennett Leventhal et al. | Go to book overview

toward an assessment of the conditions that would result in a reinstatement of the goal. This desire often leads people to assess the conditions that actually caused goal failure so that any obstacle can be removed. Thus, thinking about angry situations tends to promote backward thinking.

Fear, on the other hand, is oriented toward maintaining valued goal states ( Stein & Jewett, 1986). Specifically, self-preservation, either psychological or physical, is at stake. Thus attention is focused primarily on methods to ensure self-preservation. Often, this desire leads to a plan of removing the self from the threatening situation. Therefore, the conditions that led to the threatening situation are not assessed. Rather, plans for preventing harm are central. Given that the focus of attention is different for fear and anger, we are curious as to how each of these emotions would affect subsequent thinking on tasks unrelated to the experience of the emotion. Moreover, we would ask how the immediacy of formulating a plan of action in each emotion state would affect subsequent thinking and reasoning.

And finally, the intensity of the emotional reaction should be an important predictor of thinking and reasoning. Intensity, as it is currently defined ( Mandler, 1975, 1984), is most often associated with the importance of the goal at stake. However, the amount of effort that needs to be expended in carrying out goal activities, as well as the necessity to act quickly, may also be pertinent in assessments of intensity. The important point, however, is that the intensity of an emotional reaction restricts the amount of attention that can be given to subsequent thinking activities. As Rachman ( 1978) has noted, the intensity of a fear response precludes processing any extraneous information to a great extent. Rather, attention becomes narrowed to specific dimensions of the situation related to expected impending harm.


REFERENCES

Averill J. R. ( 1979). "Anger". In H. E. Howe & R. A. Dienstbier (Eds.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: Human Emotions (Vol. 26, pp. 1-80). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Berkowitz L., & Heimer K. ( 1989). "Aversive events and negative priming in the formation of feelings". In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.

Bower G., & Cohen P. R. ( 1982). "Emotional influences in memory and thinking: Data and theory". In M. S. Clark & S. T. Fiske (Eds.), Affect and Cognition: 17th Annual Carnegie Symposium on Cognition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Burns G. ( 1988). Gracie: A love story. New York: Putnam.

Ekman P. ( 1977). "Biological and cultural contribution to body and facial movements". In J. Blocking (Ed.), Anthropology of the body. London: Academic Press.

Emde R. ( 1980). "Levels of meaning in infant development". In W. A. Collins (Ed.), Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology (Vol. 13). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fernald A. ( 1984). "The perceptual and affective salience of mothers' speech to infants". In L. Feagans, C. Garvey, & R. Golinkoff (Eds.), with M. T. Greenberg, C. Harding, & J. Bohannon , The origins and growth of communication. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

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