The role of propositional meaning in the associative generation of emotion in SPAARS

Earlier in this chapter we noted that the interpretation of an event—that is, the initial analysis of its meaning—can occur at either the propositional or schematic model level and is most usually a function of the two levels interacting. The concept of an interpretation is therefore a way of articulating the interaction of an event with representations of semantic information in memory. So, in the example we have used throughout the book of Susan and the bear, we proposed that essentially a propositional interpretation (e.g., "the bear is going to eat me") occurred and that this was appraised with respect to Susan's extant goals at the schematic model level. Within SPAARS the generation of such propositional interpretations can become instantiated within the associative system. In this case it is as if a concurrent interpretation is being made even though it is not. So, if we consider again the example of Julie and her bird phobia, it is as if Julie is making interpretations such as "the bird is going to attack me", even though the process of interpretation has in fact become short-circuited.

A second function of propositional representations in associative emotion generation within SPAARS is where an event leads to a propositional interpretation that itself associatively generates emotions. This means that any number of events, if interpreted in the same way, could lead to the associative generation of emotion. Consider the example of Andy who is a somewhat paranoid individual. For Andy, a whole series of external events give rise to an interpretation which can be expressed as "I am being cheated". This interpretation has come to generate the emotion of anger associatively through repetition. Finally, the event itself might be a proposition; for example, the thought "I am a failure" might associatively generate components of the emotions of sadness or disgust (see Chapters 7 and 9). That is to say, at one time in the individual's emotional history the event consisting of the propositional thought "I am a failure" was appraised at the schematic level and the emotions of sadness and/or disgust were generated. Through repetition this process becomes highly automatised, such that the thought "I am a failure" comes to associatively generate those emotions. Other examples of such strong automatisation include names and places that are significant for the individual and that can now associatively evoke emotions; also every language has "swear words", that is, words that come to evoke emotions of

OUTPUT SYSTEMS (physiological, motor etc.)

EXTERNAL (e.g., spider) OR INTERNAL (e.g., heart palpitations)

ANALOGUE

ASSOCIATIVE

LEVEL

LEVEL

EVENT somebody laughing

EVENT somebody shouting

EVENT two people whispering

EVENT somebody crossing road

COMPONENTS OF THE EMOTION OF ANGER

COMPONENTS OF EMOTION ASSOCIATED WITH

DISGUST AND/OR SADNESS

Figure 5.7 Three principal routes outlining the generation of emotions. (a) Fully automated emotion generation with no propositional information. (b) Schematised diagram showing how a number of different events can lead to the same propositional interpretation which then automatically generates anger. (c) Propositional-level meaning as an event that automatically leads to emotion generation.

Figure 5.7 Three principal routes outlining the generation of emotions. (a) Fully automated emotion generation with no propositional information. (b) Schematised diagram showing how a number of different events can lead to the same propositional interpretation which then automatically generates anger. (c) Propositional-level meaning as an event that automatically leads to emotion generation.

anger, fear, or disgust in a powerful and associative way but which also make inhibitory demands if they automatically come to mind (Lancker & Cummings, 1999; Rassin & Muris, 2005). Figure 5.7 illustrates the different ways the in which prop-ositional level of meaning can be involved in the associative generation of emotion.

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