Affect and Cognitive Appraisal Processes

Authored by: Craig A. Smith , Leslie D. Kirby

Handbook of Affect and Social Cognition

Print publication date:  November  2000
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780805832174
eBook ISBN: 9781410606181
Adobe ISBN: 9781135670061


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What does affect, or emotion, have to do with social cognition? If cognition is concerned with how people think, and social cognition concerns how people think about themselves and other people, what role is there for an analysis of how people feel? In the mid-1930s, the answer would have been, “Not much.” In the wake of conflict theories of emotion (e.g., Angier, 1927; Claparede, 1928; Darrow, 1935; Young, 1936), which held emotion to be a disorganized and disorganizing response to difficult circumstances, the impact of emotion on cognition was seen primarily as a disruption of an otherwise logical (and preferred) mode of functioning. More recently, however, the dominant scientific view of emotion has shifted radically to one of emotions as highly organized and systematic responses to environmental demands that have evolved to serve adaptive functions (e.g., Arnold, 1960; Ekman, 1984; Izard, 1977; Plutchik, 1980; Scherer, 1984; Tomkins, 1962). Accompanying this philosophical shift, and after a long period of neglect, since the 1980s there has been a virtual explosion of research on affective phenomena, and especially on the interrelations between emotion and cognition. Through this work (much of which is summarized in this volume), we have learned that emotion is of critical importance to how we perceive (e.g., Derryberry & Tucker, 1994; Niedenthal, Setterlund, & Jones, 1994), evaluate (e.g., Keltner, Ellsworth, & Edwards, 1993), reason (e.g., Fiedler, Asbeck, & Nickel, 1991), remember (e.g., Bower, 1981; Forgas & Bower, 1987), and make decisions (e.g., Petty, Cacioppo, & Kasmer, 1988; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). In fact, there is no area of social cognition, or even “pure” cognition more broadly defined, where emotions have been shown not to have a significant impact.

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