To emotions

In Chapter 2 on the cognitive philosophy of emotion we stressed that an important component of emotions is appraisal and that it is only by virtue of this component that one emotion can reliably be distinguished from another. Any appraisal that an individual makes has to be with respect to something. So, if we take a simple example, we have suggested that the emotion of fear is characterised by appraisals of unwanted psychological or physical threat. This begs the question of what we mean when we use the term threat here. There are a number of ways in which this question can be answered but the reply that is most representative of the cognitive functionalist position is that threat is defined in terms of the individual's active goal structure. So, in a simple case, threat would be appraised in any situation in which the completion of an important goal—such as, in the most extreme case, personal survival—was challenged. However, this analysis does not tell the whole story. A further question is raised as to how a given situation comes to be viewed as likely to challenge the continuation or completion of an important goal such as personal survival. Why, for example, would the ubiquitous bear running out of the woods (see Chapter 2) be seen as something that might endanger personal survival? The somewhat obvious but nonetheless important reply is that situations are appraised in terms of the content of the individual's mind; that is, the individual's knowledge of the world, of themselves, of previously similar occasions, and so forth. Susan, our heroine from Chapter 2, faced with the charging bear undoubtedly knows that bears can, and do, kill people, that she is unlikely to be able to outrun the bear or fight it off, and that she has heard that three people were killed in these very woods only last year by vicious woman-eating bears. This knowledge leads Susan to interpret the charging bear as a situation likely to endanger her personal survival; that is, as a threatening situation. Consequently, Susan's cognitive system makes a threat-related appraisal and Susan feels afraid. The first important question to consider in our brief theory of mind is that, if appraisals are made with respect to mind content as we have suggested, what types of "mind content" might be important?

Traditional research (for detailed reviews see Baddeley, 1999; Eysenck & Keane, 2005; Prinz, 2004) has conceptualised the content of the mind in ways that are primarily heuristically useful; for example representations in short-term and in long-term memory. Some of these theoretical divisions have received considerable empirical support; for example, the distinction between procedural and declarative memory (e.g., Ryle, 1949). However, generally speaking, our present level of psychological understanding does not permit too many statements about how the content of mental representations is organised in reality. For this reason we will propose a way of organising mind content that we have found useful in understanding emotions, while acknowledging that this is largely a heuristic exercise rather than necessarily a reflection of the actual subject matter.

In Figure 5.3. we illustrate schematically the main domains of mind content that we feel are important for understanding the emotions. These domains consist of the following:

1 Knowledge and models of the world. This domain comprises: semantic knowledge about the world, such as the fact that Paris is the capital of France or that English people tend to be reserved; knowledge of the physical world and its objects and their inter-relations, what Schank and Abelson (1977) have called a "naive physics"; and abstracted "models" of the individual's views of the world, which can be partially captured in statements such as "the world is a reasonably safe place" (Janoff-Bulman, 1985) or "the world is just".

2 Knowledge and models of the self. This domain includes semantic knowledge of ourselves and our capabilities; for example, my name, the fact that I am a passable pasta cook, and so on. This domain also incorporates episodic memory information about the self: for example, the memory of last year's holiday in Timbuktu. Finally, the domain includes abstracted models of the self, which

Figure 5.3 Domains of mind content.

might be partially captured by statements such as "I am a successful person" or "I am an angry person" (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000).

3 Knowledge and models of others. This content domain incorporates knowledge of other individuals in our world. This includes straightforward semantic knowledge such as the fact that Harry is my grandfather, and also episodic memories about others such as the memory of how pleased Harry was with his Christmas present last year. In addition, as with the other domains, more abstracted "models" of others are represented. These might be partially captured by natural language statements such as "Harry is a complicated man". Finally, this domain includes prototype and stereotype information about other types of individual in our world, much of which occurs at an automatic level as Bargh (e.g., 1999, 2001) has elegantly summarised. These allow us to construct models of new people we meet. This information is a combination of data about people we already know, with information reflecting social representations (e.g., Chaiken & Trope, 1999) about what different types of people are like, derived from the media and social discourse. So, for example, in England where the class system remains an important social factor, the belief that James is middle class engenders a set of assumptions about what James would be like, his tastes, his clothes, his type of job, and so forth. These representations of "middle-classness" will be an amalgam of information about middle-class people whom we know, combined with social and cultural information about what it is to be middle class.


We propose that, subsumed within the domains of knowledge and models of the self and of others, is information concerning what we shall call "goals". This term is intended as a linguistic heuristic to convey the principle of functionality. Goals are a way of talking about the temporal dimension of representations and plans with which the individual operates (Miller et al., 1960). This kind of idea, as we have stressed earlier, is central to any functional theory of mind and of emotions. Further, we have suggested that the appraisal process, a component of all emotional experience, is carried out with respect to the individual's extant goals. It is envisaged that in the present framework information about goals is hierarchically arranged, with major goals such as self-preservation having some overarching status with respect to more transient goals such as wishing to watch a certain film at the cinema on Friday evening. Although goal compatibility is an ideal functional state of affairs, it is clear that goals often contradict each other both at similar levels of a hierarchy (e.g., also wanting to go to a party on that same Friday night) and at different levels of the hierarchy (e.g., having the goal of fighting for one's country, which clearly increases the chances of not maintaining the goal of self-preservation). Those who have thought about and written on the subject of internal goal structure have emphasised these facilitatory and inhibitory relationships between goals (Ortony et al., 1988). In addition, they have utilised the concept of necessary and sufficient links between goals to capture the fact that the completion of, for example, goal p is sometimes a necessary requirement for the completion of goal q or that completion of goals a, b, or c would be sufficient for the completion of goal d, but that neither a, b, nor c is necessary.

It is beyond the scope of this book to elaborate on the nature of internal goal structures. A more detailed review can be found in Ortony et al. (1988) and Martin and Tesser (1996). The point we would like to emphasise is that the conflicts between goals and/or the various types of other problems involved in attaining them are central to a functional understanding of the role of emotions.

In addition to information about the individual's own goals in the self domain, the "other" domain includes information about the goals of others. These representations of the goals of others are essential in the construction of the "models" of others used during social interaction. For example, I might avoid talking to somebody because I have a model of her which says that she does not want to speak to me and that she has the goal of avoiding contact with me. I might then utilise this model in my social interactions by keeping out of her way.

Finally, the domains of self and other include information about goals that are shared by the self and by others. This information represents what might be thought of as social standards and incorporates many of the things that are traditionally associated with the Freudian idea of a super-ego. For example, most of us, though clearly not all, share the goal of not stealing each other's possessions.

In concluding this section on the content of the mind, there are two points that we would like to emphasise. First, as we have stated above, these divisions between various domains of mind content are not intended as statements about distinctions within the actual subject matter; rather, they are heuristic divisions that we feel are of use when one comes to formulate a model of emotion. The reader might well question why we need divisions at all. The answer to this, we hope, will become clearer in the chapters that follow when we try to show that the overinvestment of resources in one domain (e.g., the self) or in one set of goals at the expense of others is one of the pathways from emotional order to emotional disorder. Furthermore, we shall suggest (in Chapter 10) that the emotion of happiness is a function of goal status across multiple knowledge domains. The second point that we wish to highlight is that in all three domains of mind content we have not only referred to information of a factual kind, such as one's name or the capital of France, but also to more abstract models about the self, others, or the world. As we pointed out earlier, the distinction between different types of representation is important to an understanding of emotions and is discussed in some detail in the next section on the format of mental representations.

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