Janoff Bulmans cognitive appraisal theory

The cognitive appraisal model of Janoff-Bulman (1992; Janoff-Bulman & Frantz, 1997) focuses almost exclusively on the nature of the pre-existing beliefs about the world that the individual carries into a traumatic situation. Janoff-Bulman argues that PTSD is the result of certain basic assumptions about the world being "shattered", as reflected in the title of her book which outlines the approach in detail: Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma. The assumptions that Janoff-Bulman highlights are: the assumption of personal invulnerability; the perception of the world as meaningful or comprehensible; and the view of the self in a positive light. The suggestion, then, is that these assumptions provide structure and meaning

Theory Cognitive Appraisal Lazarus
Figure 6.8 Schematic summary of Horowitz's theory of PTSD.

in the individual's life but that they cannot be maintained in the face of a traumatic experience and, therefore, "shatter". Once shattered, the individual is plunged into a confusion of intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal.

Janoff-Bulman's work is important in that it describes the ways in which trauma-related information is incongruent with the usual assumptions about the world that people possess. However, there is little attempt to explain how such assumptions are represented or what processes are involved when they are shattered. An additional problem is the ubiquitous finding (e.g., Kilpatrick et al., 1985) that individuals with a pre-morbid psychiatric history are more likely to develop PTSD following a trauma. Such individuals would presumably be characterised by assumptions of personal vulnerability and views of the self in a negative light (Dalgleish, 2004a). Such pre-morbid negative assumptions are unlikely to be shattered by a traumatic experience (in fact, they are more likely to be confirmed) and the high incidence of PTSD in this population has yet to be addressed by the cognitive appraisal model developed by Janoff-Bulman.

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