Emotion in Psychology - Cognitive

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Of the four perspectives of emotion presented by Cornelius, the Cognitive is the one that has been the most researched. Magda Arnold is credited with starting the modern cognitive approach. Arnold’s cognitive perspective focused on the idea of appraisal. According to this perspective, how we as individuals appraise or judge the meaning of a situation is what determines our emotional experience.

Accordingly, to understand a person’s emotions, one needs to understand how that person makes judgments (or assesses) the events in his/her life. It is important to note that a person’s past experiences and goals can affect how someone may appraise a situation.

Appraisals are not (intellectual) rational or objective judgments. It is common thought that appraisals are immediate and automatic, that is non reflective. In other words, that there is not time for the cognitive processing required for reflection.

Arnold claimed the sequence that leads to emotional experience is:PERCEPTION – APPRISAL –EMOTION

She hypothesized that after a PERCEPTION – APPRISAL –EMOTION cycle:

  • The body experiences specific BODILY CHANGES that lead to an uncomfortable tension which remains until the appropriate emotion-specific ACTION occurs
  • e.g. running away when afraid
  • Once the action is completed the physiological response ceases and the associated tension is released.
  • e.g. feeling better after you cry

Furthermore, research has shown that by changing a subject’s expectation before they experienced a stressful event one could influence their emotional reactions during the event. Put simply, changing the way you think about something (perception) changes the way you feel about it, which in turn changes the way you respond. This is an extremely important point when it comes to emotional release work with clients. When we can use techniques that help our clients define how they choose to view their worlds, we in essence help them CHANGE their worlds. That is powerful stuff!