Chapter 8: Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

Fear: Cognitive Appraisals

Scherer’s (1997) study found universal and cultural differences in cognitive appraisals. For a review of Scherer’s (1997) study, go to the modern theories section on cognitive appraisals. Means (see Table 6) collapsed across all world regions, showed that participants reported the following appraisals when recalling a fear experience: unexpected, unpleasant, neither goal obstruction/conduciveness, slight unfairness, external causation, inability to cope, morality, and no change in self-esteem. [Note that this study suggests that inability to cope occurs during fear, whereas others believe ability to cope is a cognitive appraisal dimension of fear].

Table 6
Mean Changes in Cognitive Appraisal Dimensions for Fear (Scherer, 1997)

A table showing Mean Changes in Cognitive Appraisal Dimensions for Fear. A question and response scale are also shown for the cognitive appraisal dimension.
Cognitive Appraisal Dimension Mean Question Response Scale
Expectedness 1.48 Did you expect this situation to occur? 1 = not at all; 2 = a little; 3 = very much
Unpleasantness 2.88 Did you find the event itself pleasant or unpleasant? 1 = pleasant; 2 = neutral; 3 = unpleasantness
Goal Obstruction 2.32 Did the event help or hinder you to follow your plans or achieve your aims? 1 = it helped; 2 = it didn’t matter; 3 = it hindered
Unfairness 1.92 Was the situation unjust or unfair? 1 = not at all; 2 = a little; 3 = very much
External causation 2.45 Who do you think was responsible for the event? 1 = self/internal; 2 = close persons / external; 3 = other persons / external; 4 = impersonal agency / external
Coping Ability 2.63 How did you evaluate your ability to act on or to cope with the event and its consequences? 1 = powerless; 2 = escape possible; 3 = pretending nothing happened; 4 = no action necessary; 5 = could positively influence event and change consequences
Immorality 1.83 Would this behavior itself be judged as improper or immoral by your acquaintances? 1 = not at all; 2 = a little; 3 = very much
Self-esteem 1.77 How id this event affect your self-esteem? 1 = negatively; 2 = not at all; 3 = positively

Adapted from “The Role of Culture in Emotion-Antecedent Appraisal,” by K.R. Scherer, 1997, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(5), p. 905, 911 (https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.73.5.902). Copyright 1997 by the American Psychological Association.

 

Figure 3 displays the cross-cultural differences in cognitive appraisals for fear.  In Figure 3, the presence of a circle around a data point indicates that the country with the circle showed means significantly different from the mean of the remainder of the sample. Unfairness, immorality and external causation showed cultural differences. African countries viewed fear as higher in unfairness, external causation, and immorality. Latin American countries viewed fear as lower in immorality compared to the average of all other countries.

Figure 3

Eight Cognitive Appraisal Ratings for Fear across Six World Regions

6 world regions graphed as lines for eight cognitive appraisal ratings for fear. There are eight emotions listed on the x axis: Expect, Unpica, Goal Abs, Unfair, Ext cause, coping, Immor, self-consciousness. Z scores are represented on the y axis, starting at -0.75, and increasing in intervals of .25, to the maximum of 0.75.

Note. Presence of a circle around a datapoint indicates that the country with the circle showed means significantly different from the mean of the remainder of the sample.  Adapted from “The Role of Culture in Emotion-Antecedent Appraisal,” by K.R. Scherer, 1997, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(5), p. 912, (https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.73.5.902). Copyright 1997 by the American Psychological Association.

 

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Psychology of Human Emotion. by Michelle Yarwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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