Chapter 4: Cognitive Appraisal Theory

Coping Potential Check

The third appraisal check is a coping potential check, during which people determine whether they can cope or not cope with the eliciting event (Figure 5).   During the coping check, people appraise the possible behavior changes that they could exhibit in response to the eliciting event.  In addition, during the coping check, people consider the consequences that will result from the repertoire of possible behavior changes they are considering.  The first SEC within the coping check is controllability.  Controllability is whether we perceive that we or someone else can control the event or outcome of the event.  Specifically, controllability is the probability that we can or cannot control the event. For instance, if we perceive that we can control the grade we receive on an upcoming exam, we might experience hope, and be motivated to study (an approach behavior!).  But, if we perceive we have little control over our exam grade, then we might experience sadness and avoid studying.  It is important to note that we can also perceive whether other people can help us cope.  Power or Resources, the second SEC dimension, describes whether the organism has the power or resources to cope with the event.  Specifically, power is the probability that we or someone we know has the resources to influence an event that is controllable. For instance, if we perceive we have control over our exam grade and we have the money to pay for a tutor, then we have high levels of coping potential.  But, if we perceive we can cope but do not have appropriate resources to achieve the desired outcome, our coping potential would be a bit lower.  Resources might include physical strength, money, knowledge, social attractiveness, education, IQ, and even status. After we evaluate our power and resources, we next assess the adjustment SEC, in which we determine whether we can adjust or not adjust to the eliciting event.  If we determine we do not have the power/resources to change our outcomes, then we must determine whether we can adjust or not to the outcome of the event.  Whether or not we view we can adjust to the outcome might cause different emotional experiences.


Figure 5

Coping Potential Check SECs

3 text boxes. The first text box reads: Controllability. the second box reads: Power / Resources. The third text box reads: Adjustment.
Graphic displaying the coping potential check process


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