Appraisalbased generation of anger within SPAARS

Within SPAARS the core appraisal parameters that make the emotion one of anger reflect the research reviewed in the first part of the chapter and consist of the interruption or thwarting of an active goal, combined with an appraisal of agency. Within the SPAARS framework, the satisfaction of these two parameters is both necessary and sufficient for the generation of anger. However, as we have discussed in Chapter 5, the core appraisal parameters involved in a given basic emotion become refined through the processes of development and socialisation such that the appraisal parameters most usually implicated in the generation of that emotion—the paradigm case—might well be more elaborate. So, in the case of anger, although an appraisal of goal interruption/thwarting by a recognisable agent is sufficient for the generation of anger, the most usual or paradigm case also involves the further moral appraisal that the instigating event was deliberate, avoidable, or arose through negligence.

This conceptualisation of different levels of appraisal involved in the generation of emotions within SPAARS may provide a number of refinements over previous philosophical and psychological theorising with respect to anger. First, anger may be fully experienced following satisfaction of the core appraisal parameters alone when the cognitive system as a whole is placed under stress or load such that the resources necessary for the more elaborate, moral appraisal components involving deliberation and intent are unavailable. So, for example, someone who is very stressed or busy at work might be more likely to get angry regardless of whether or not the instigating event had been appraised as deliberate, avoidable, or due to negligence. Similarly, an empirical prediction would be that individuals who are placed under a task load (for example rehearsing a set of numbers) may be more likely to experience the generation of anger on the basis of the core appraisal parameters alone. In fact, the well-documented expression of "road rage" provides a naturalistic version of such an experiment; thus, driving provides a task of varying load and one of the reasons for increased expressions of anger and rage under high task demand (e.g., Hennessy & Wiesenthal, 1999) may be reduced resources for emotion control and regulation.

Second, there will be frequent occasions when individuals experience the onset of anger following the core appraisal of a goal being thwarted or interrupted by a recognisable agent, and then have to suppress or terminate the generation of anger when a more sophisticated appraisal indicates that anger is inappropriate. For example, one of us (TD) lent a car to a friend while travelling for several months. During my absence, the car was stolen from outside the friend's house. This theft was unavoidable and involved no deliberation or negligence on the part of my friend, but despite this I felt angry towards him, and had to struggle to suppress this anger due to the knowledge that no attribution of blame could be put on him for the theft of the car.

The appraisal system within SPAARS, then, as we have discussed in Chapter 5, works in cycles. So to take the above example: first, the event is appraised as incompatible with existing goals implicating a negative emotion; second, the event is appraised as interrupting/thwarting an existing goal with a recognisable agent, which initiates the generation of anger; third, the event is appraised as not deliberate, avoidable, or due to negligence, the generation of anger is blocked and there are perhaps feelings of sadness/disappointment instead (see Figure 8.4). Although we have presented the appraisal cycles as sequential, as we noted in Chapter 5 these cycles can occur in parallel with the outputs from parallel processing being combined and fed back into the appraisal system; such cycles of appraisal and re-appraisal are a key part of the sytem as Lazarus (e.g., 1999) and others have emphasised.

The third point concerns the existence of anger in human infants or even subhuman animals. We are not going to quibble too much with Seneca's suggestion that "While it [anger] is the foe of reason, it is nevertheless born only where reason dwells"; however, we would contend that perhaps human infants and subhuman animals possess enough "reason" for the rudimentary generation of anger (that is, as a function of the core appraisal parameters) but that what they do lack are the more sophisticated processes of cognition involved in the higher levels of appraisal which contribute to the paradigmatic expression of anger in the adult human. So, a child can become angry and that anger will be directed at a perceived wrongdoing; however, what will be lacking is any sophisticated appraisal that the wrongdoing could have been avoided, was deliberate, or was carried out through negligence. The child's anger is indiscriminate in these respects; indeed, when adults fail to take into account the





Instigation to anger CYCLE TWO -

Blocking of anger CYCLE THREE

Figure 8.4 Example of the sequence of appraisal cycles involved in anger.

fact that actions that prevent the realisation of their extant goals are sometimes unavoidable, we tend to describe their anger as childish or petulant.

The fourth point we wish to highlight is illustrated by non-paradigmatic cases in which adult anger is generated when the instigating event was clearly not deliberate or unjustified or due to negligence; the type of anger that we have suggested is sometimes labelled as childish or petulant. However, let us consider two examples of such a scenario in which the experienced anger is anything but childish, for example the anger that individuals can feel during periods of bereavement.

Following a death it is very common for individuals close to the deceased to experience anger towards him/her for having abandoned them or for having died (see Chapter 7). The phenomenal experience of anger is, understandably, often very hard to deal with for the bereaved person; it seems wrong to feel angry towards somebody who was loved and who did not die or abandon anybody intentionally. This experience of anger in the absence of an avoidable, deliberate, or negligent instigating event often leaves the angry individual feeling bewildered and/or guilty. In this case, it seems that the shared goals that have been thwarted are so major that the imperative for the generation of anger on the basis of core appraisal components alone is sufficiently powerful to override the suppressing effects of any more sophisticated appraisals that take place. All that the sophisticated levels of appraisal do in this case, we contest, is contribute towards the individual's experience of the anger as inappropriate, thereby enhancing feelings of guilt and bewilderment.

A final issue is the potential for anger to be caused by or directed towards inanimate objects. The notion that the paradigmatic instigation of anger requires an event that is avoidable, deliberate, or negligent implies the ability of the agent to form some kind of intent. However, if we refine our analysis of anger such that, in its most basic form, it does not require such intent, it becomes clear that one can potentially feel anger towards objects or "agents" which are unable to form intent. For example, most of us would have experienced feelings of anger towards the hammer that hit our thumb or the car that wouldn't start. In fact, it is likely that many of us will have exhibited quite vindictive or punishing behaviour towards these objects. Following such incidents, we tend to feel pretty foolish as we realise that our anger is directed towards an object that could not have intended to provoke us. Events such as these, as Berkowitz (e.g., Berkowitz & Harmon-Jones, 2004) has emphasised, may lead to the generation of anger via the direct associative route because of, for example, pain or other sensory discomfort automatically triggering anger and an action tendency towards aggression in order to remove the source of the pain or other discomfort.

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