Leventhal and Scherer

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In 1987 Howard Leventhal and Klaus Scherer combined forces and produced a joint cognitive theory of emotion based on their previously separate ideas. Leventhal and Scherer argue that the operation of cognition and emotion is one of interdependence. They distinguish between emotion and other reflex-like responses, because although reflexes may play important roles as elements of emotional reactions: "Emotional processes decouple automatic, reflex responses from their eliciting stimuli and provide the opportunity for more adaptive reactions" (1987, p. 7).

Based on Leventhal's previous work (e.g., 1980), Leventhal and Scherer proposed that there are three main components that constitute the emotion system. These three components are organised hierarchically and are as follows:

1 The sensory-motor level. This level includes the basic innate mechanisms that are observable from birth onwards. They respond automatically to both internal and external stimuli; thus, the neonate displays a wide range of facial expressions in response to emotional expression in other individuals and in response to internal gastro-intestinal states.

2 The schematic level. This level is also activated automatically; it includes the learned associations that begin from birth onwards which relate to emotional experience. They are said to integrate sensory-motor processes with "image-like prototypes of emotional situations" (Leventhal & Scherer, 1987, p. 10). Presumably, these image-like prototypes are similar to Lang's emotion prototypes discussed earlier, but differ in the sense that Lang's prototypes are based on an associative network of propositions rather than on images per se. In fact, Leventhal and Scherer propose that it is the highest or conceptual level of processing that is proposition based, a proposal that would appear to run contrary to Lang's.

3 The conceptual level. The conceptual level of processing is a volitional level and includes memories about emotion, expectations, conscious goals and plans, and the self-concept. It places the current event or situation into a longer-term temporal context in contrast to the shorter-term context offered by the previous two levels. As noted already, Leventhal and Scherer suggest that conceptual processing is propositionally based. However, we would argue that this proposal would make the conceptual level too verbally based; although the content of consciousness could be a proposition (just as it could be an individual word or sound or letter), it is normally a schematic model that integrates intensional and extensional information from a number of potential verbal and non-verbal sources (e.g., Teasdale & Barnard, 1993).

The contribution that Scherer has made to this joint theory has primarily been in terms of the so-called "stimulus evaluation checks" (e.g., Scherer, 1984, 1999). These evaluation checks occur in the following sequence:

1 Novelty (is the stimulus sudden, intense, or unexpected?)

2 Pleasantness

3 Relevance to goals and plans

4 Coping potential (available energy, power, and ability to deal with event or situation)

5 Compatibility with self-concept and social norms.

One apparent inconsistency between the two parts of Leventhal and Scherer's (1987) joint theory of componential levels and evaluation checks is that whereas the three componential levels by and large are considered to run in parallel to each other, the evaluation checks are considered to run in sequence. Scherer's (e.g., 1984, 2001) insistence on the sequential nature of the evaluation checks is based on the false presupposition that because one process may sometimes depend on the outcome of another process, such processes must necessarily run sequentially. In fact, it is clear from developments in connectionism that parallel distributed processing can easily deal with such apparent outcome dependencies through the use of multi-layer networks (Rumelhart & McClelland, 1986); thus, at least some of the evaluation checks could occur in parallel to each other with their outputs being fed into a network layer (see Scherer, 1993, for some discussion of the possibility of parallel processing about which he remains unconvinced). The second issue is that Leventhal and Scherer have in Lazarus' (1991) terms incorporated both primary appraisal and secondary appraisal processes into their evaluation checks; thus, coping potential is clearly a secondary appraisal process for Lazarus and would therefore occur after most of the other checks. Finally, there is as yet little empirical evidence for or testing of the theory. Nevertheless, the theory provides another alternative view of what the important appraisals or evaluation checks might be in the occurrence of emotion, and we shall attempt to pull these alternative views together in the final section of this chapter. First, though, we will consider the work of Oatley and Johnson-Laird and their contribution to this cognition and emotion endeavour.

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