Berkowitzs reformulation of his reformulation the neoassociationist model of anger

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In more recent work, Berkowitz (1990, 1999) has taken the themes that run through his theoretical writings on anger in the 1960s and provided a new framework for understanding anger episodes. This neo-associationist model of anger is represented schematically in Figure 8.2.

As can be seen from the figure, Berkowitz's reformulation begins with what he describes as "an aversive event". This term is all-encompassing; it includes people who feel bad because they have a toothache, are very hot, are exposed to foul smells or unpleasant noises, or who are just very sad or depressed. Berkowitz argues that a process of preliminary cognitive appraisal labels these events as "aversive" and that this leads to the generation of "negative affect". This negative affect generated by the aversive event's occurrence automatically gives rise to at least two sets of reactions at the same time: bodily changes, feelings, ideas, and memories associated with escape from the unpleasant stimulation and also to bodily reactions, feelings, thoughts, and memories associated with aggression. A variety of factors - genetic, learned and situational - supposedly determine the relative strengths of these two "response classes". (Berkowitz, 1990, p. 496)

In Berkowitz's model these two sets of reactions (aggressive, escape) are mediated by associative networks in memory and give rise to rudimentary fear and anger experiences. Following the onset of these rudimentary emotional states, "the affected person makes appraisals and causal attributions and considers what feelings and actions are appropriate under the particular circumstances. This additional thought leads to the differentiation, intensification, suppression, or elaboration of the early rudimentary experiences" (p. 497).

Berkowitz cites numerous research findings in support of his model and many of these seek to show that the presence of "aversive events" of various kinds—loud noises, heat, toothache, having your arm in an uncomfortable position, and so on— increase the thoughts, feelings, and motor reactions usually associated with anger (Berkowitz & Harmon-Jones, 2004). Berkowitz's model can account for much of these research data as well as other findings. For example, the studies that we have reviewed above suggesting that the presence of extraneous aggressive stimuli or extraneous physiological arousal can enhance the individual's experience of anger would be accounted for in Berkowitz's model by reference to an associative network that is the mediator of the transition from negative affect to the development of rudimentary anger (see Figure 8.2). A strength of Berkowitz's neo-associationist approach, in our view, is its emphasis on an initial rudimentary anger-related appraisal which is then supplemented by a more sophisticated level of appraisal. However, it is in regard to the nature of these two appraisal components that we disagree somewhat with the



Activation of "Full development"

expressive-motor "Rudimentary" of anger through Potential to reactions, thoughts, -► anger -► appraisals and -► aggression feelings, etc. to causal attributions attack, linked together in a network

Activation of expressive-motor reactions, thoughts _"Rudimentary"

feelings, etc. to fear escape, linked together in a network


Figure 8*2 Berkowitz's cognitive neo-associationist model of anger.

neo-associationist approach. In Berkowitz's model the initial appraisal is one of an "aversive event" which Berkowitz talks about as something that "makes someone feel bad for one reason or another" (p. 496). As we have said, this event may include toothache, foul smells, loud noises, uncomfortable physical positions, and so on. However, we have argued in Chapter 2 that there is no such thing, in our view, as inherent "badness" in the world. We have suggested that something is bad because it is appraised with respect to models of the self, world, and others, and more importantly as a function of goal structures. It seems that Berkowitz's ideas may be in danger of lapsing into circularity: an event is aversive if it makes somebody feel bad for one reason or another, and people feel bad for one reason or another following aversive events.

According to Berkowitz, the first pass of the cognitive appraisal system, on detecting an aversive event, leads to the generation of what he has called "negative affect" (cf. Watson & Clark, 1992). This negative affect is essentially affect related to anger and affect related to fear. The question is begged as to why, if the affect is generally negative, there is no place for sadness or disgust or a whole host of other more complex "negative" emotions. Also, it seems unparsimonious for "aversive events" to lead to the generation of both fear and anger. We would propose again that it is more useful to think of events as being appraised as aversive with respect to the individuals' extant goal structures and thus to their models of world, self, and others. Given this proposal, the event in question will have a particular meaning with respect to those goal structures. Then, if the event involves the interruption or thwarting of goals with an attribution of agency, the emotion that will be generated will be one of anger; whereas if the event suggests the future disruption or removal of a valued goal, then the emotion will be one of fear, and so on. More sophisticated levels of appraisal will then embroider on these initial processes.

In sum, Berkowitz's most recent analysis of anger (see also Berkowitz & Harmon-Jones, 2004) has several strong features and his approach has generated an enormous amount of interesting and highly useful research investigating the role of physiological arousal, extraneous stimuli, and expressive-motor reactions in the onset and development of anger, and our current understanding of the area owes much to his efforts. However, we and others (e.g., Smith & Kirby, 2004) have suggested that there are potential problems with the emphasis on an initial generalised appraisal of "aversion" and the subsequent generation of generalised negative affect.

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