Chapter 4: Cognitive Appraisal Theory

Summary of Cognitive Appraisal Theory

The CPM states that the appraisals that result from each check are highly subjective and based on an individual’s perceptions of the eliciting event.  This suggests that personality traits, motivational states, cultural norms, gender, and group pressures all influence our evaluations of the eliciting event.

 

The CPM is a continuous process in which our first appraisal starts with the relevance check and moves sequentially to the next check.  Once the appraisal process starts, though, our conclusions at each step could influence other checks.  In addition, as people go through each appraisal check, the intensity of their emotion increases.  An emotion is least intense during the first relevance check and most intense at the normative event significance check.  This is because as we go through each check, we gain more information about the emotion.

 

Below is Table 2 reproduced from Scherer (2001, p. 326).   This table displays example emotions in the top row and the SECs in the left column.  This table shows the appraisal patterns that might occur for different emotions.  Remember, Scherer (2001) is interested in how certain appraisal profiles can be used to distinguish emotional experiences. (Note: The prior chapter did not cover discrepancy from expectation, but this SEC is listed in the table).

 

Table 2

Appraisal profiles for certain discrete emotions

A table showing different appraisal profiles for certain discrete emotions. ENJ/HAP, enjoyment/happiness; ELA/JOY, elation/joy; DISP/DISG, displeasure/disgust; CON/SCO, contempt/scorn; SAD/DEJ, sadness/dejection.
Criterion ENJ/HAP ELA/JOY DISP/DISG CON/SCO SAD/DEJ DESPAIR ANX/WOR
Novelty – Suddenness Low High/med Open Open Low High Low
Novelty – Familiarity Open Open Low Open Low Very Low Open
Novelty – Predictability Medium Low Low Open Open Low Open
Intrinsic Pleasantness High Open Very Low Open Open Open Open
Goal / Need relevance Medium High Low Low High High Medium
Implication – Cause: Agent Open Open Open Open Open Oth/Nat Oth/Nat
Implication – Cause: Motive Intent Cha/int Open Intent Cha/Neg Cha/Neg Open
Implication – Outcome Probability Very High Very High Very High High Very High Very High Medium
Implication – Discrepancy from Expectation Consonant Open Open Open Open Dissonant Open
Implication – Conduciveness Conducive Vcon Open Open Obstruct Obstruct Obstruct
Implication – Urgency Very Low Low Medium Low Low High Medium
Coping Potential – Control Open Open Open High Very Low Open Open
Coping Potential – Power Open Open Open Low Very Low Very Low Low
Coping Potential – Adjustments High Medium Open High Medium Very Low Medium
Normative Significance – Internal Standards Open Open Open Very Low Open Open Open
Normative Significance – External Standards Open Open Open Very Low Open Open Open

 

A table showing different appraisal profiles for certain discrete emotions. IRR/COA, irritation/cold anger; RAG/HOA, rage/hot anger; BOR/IND, boredom/indifference
Criterion FEAR IRR/COA RAG/HOA BOR/IND SHAME GUILT PRIDE
Novelty – Suddenness High Low High Very Low Low Open Open
Novelty – Familiarity Low Open Low High Open Open Open
Novelty – Predictability Low Medium Low Very High Open Open Open
Intrinsic Pleasantness Low Open Open Open Open Open Open
Implications – Cause: Agent Oth/Nat Open Other Open Self Self Self
Implications – Cause: Motive Open Int/Neg Intent Open Int/Neg Intent Intent
Implications – Outcome Probability High Very High Very High Very High Very High Very High Very High
Implications – Discrepancy from Expectation Dissonant Open Dissonant Consonant Open Open Open
Implications – Conduciveness Obstruct Obstruct Obstruct Open Open High High
Implications – Urgency Very High Medium High Low High Medium Low
Coping Potential – Control Open High High Medium Open Open Open
Coping Potential – Power Very Low Medium High Medium Open Open Open
Coping Potential – Adjustments Low High High High Medium Medium High
Normative Significance – Internal Standards Open Open Open Open Very Low Very Low Very High
Normative Significance – External Standards Open Low Low Open Open Very Low High

Reproduced from “A Systems Approach to Appraisal Mechanisms in Emotion,” by D. Sander, D. Grandjean, and K.R. Scherer, 2005, Neural Networks, 18(4), p. 326, (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neunet.2005.03.001). Copyright 2005 Elsevier.

 

Finally, Figure 8 below demonstrates the how the emotional experience unfolds from the perspective of CPM.  After each broad appraisal check, people experience changes in physiology (called “autonomic physiology”), changes in behavior (called “action tendencies” and “motor expression”), and conscious subjective feelings.  It is important to note that these three changes – physiology, behavior, and subjective feelings – in turn, influence each of the later appraisal checks.

 

 

Figure 8

Visual of How Emotion Components Unfold Over Time and Continuously Influence Each Other

a graphic showing a flow of an event. the parts of the graphic are sectioned into; Event, Relevance, implication, coping, normative significance.
[Figure 8 taken from Sander, D., Grandjean, D., & Scherer, K.R. (2005). A systems approach to appraisal mechanisms in emotion. Neural Networks, 18, 317-352.] Reproduced from “A Systems Approach to Appraisal Mechanisms in Emotion,” by D. Sander, D. Grandjean, and K.R. Scherer, 2005, Neural Networks, 18(4), p. 321, (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neunet.2005.03.001). Copyright 2005 Elsevier.

 

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