Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 61
Appraisal theory/Reisenzein/Weber: One strength of the appraisal theory of emotion is that it can readily explain how inter-individual differences in emotional reactions to the same event arise at the psychological level (Roseman and Smith 2001)(1). (…) these differences in appraisal, in turn, are due to inter-individual differences in the cognitive and motivational structures (e.g., memory schemas) that underlie appraisal processes. At least some of these structures are sufficiently stable to be regarded as components of personality. These are, in particular, relatively stable and general desires, and relatively stable and general beliefs about the world and the self (Lazarus 1991(2); Pekrun 1988(3); Smith and Kirby 2001(4)). Viewed from an information-processing perspective, these personality determinants of appraisal concern the content of the cognitive and motivational structures that underlie the appraisal of concrete events (Reisenzein 2001)(5).
The information-processing perspective suggests that the personality determinants of appraisal may comprise, in addition, inter-individual differences in the chronic accessibility of appraisal-relevant cognitive and motivational structures (e.g., memory schemas; for support see e.g., Higgins, Bond, Klein and Strauman 1986)(6) as well as differences in the procedures habitually used for processing appraisal-relevant information (e.g., Cacioppo, Petty and Feinstein 1996)(7).
Although clarifying the personality determinants of appraisals, and thereby those of emotions, was already declared a main task of emotion psychology by Lazarus, Averill and Opton (1970)(8), so far only limited systematic research has been devoted to this issue. Nearly all of this research has been concerned with the effects of stable, general desires and beliefs on emotional states.
Corr I 62
Appraisal theory postulates that emotions arise if an event is appraised as motive-congruent or motive-incongruent, and that the intensity of the resulting emotions depends on the strength of the motive, or the subjective importance of the goal (i.e., the content of the desire) at stake.
VsAppraisal theory: Motive and goal theorists commonly assume that the goals that a person has in a specific situation are derived from more fundamental goals for which the specific goals are viewed as means to ends (e.g., Brunstein, Schultheiss and Grässmann 1998(9); Reiss 2000)(10). At the top of the motive hierarchy are presumably a set of basic desires which constitute the ultimate sources of human motivation (e.g., Reiss 2000)(10).


1. Roseman, I. J. and Smith, C. A. 2001. Appraisal theory: overview, assumptions, varieties, controversies, in K. R. Scherer, A. Schorr, and T. Johnstone (eds.), Appraisal processes in emotion: theory, methods, research, pp. 3–19. Oxford University Press
2. Lazarus, R. S. 1991. Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press
3. Pekrun, R. 1988. Emotion, Motivation und Persönlichkeit [Emotion, motivation and personality]. Munich: Psychologie Verlags Union
4. Smith, C. A. and Kirby, L. D. 2001. Toward delivering on the promise of appraisal theory, in K. R. Scherer A. Schorr, and T. Johnstone (eds.), Appraisal processes in emotion: theory, methods, research, pp. 121–38. New York: Oxford University Press
5. Reisenzein, R. 2001. Appraisal processes conceptualized from a schema-theoretic perspective: contributions to a process analysis of emotions, in K. R. Scherer, A. Schorr and T. Johnstone (eds.), Appraisal processes in emotion: theory, methods, research, pp. 187–201. Oxford University Press
6. Higgins, E. T. Bond, R. N., Klein, R. and Strauman, T. 1986. Self-discrepancies and emotional vulnerability: how magnitude, accessibility, and type of discrepancy influence affect, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51: 5–15
7. Cacioppo, J. T., Petty, R. E. and Feinstein, J. 1996. Dispositional differences in cognitive motivation: the life and times of individuals varying in need for cognition, Psychological Bulletin 119: 197–253
8. Lazarus, R. S., Averill, J. R. and Opton, E. M. Jr. 1970. Toward a cognitive theory of emotion, in M. B. Arnold (ed.), Feelings and emotions, pp. 207–32. New York: Academic Press
9. Brunstein, J. C., Schultheiss, O. C. and Grässmann, R. 1998. Personal goals and emotional well-being: the moderating role of motive dispositions, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75: 494–508
10. Reiss, S. 2000. Who am I: the 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personality. New York: Tarcher Putnam


Rainer Reisenzein & Hannelore Weber, “Personality and emotion”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Reisenzein, Rainer
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-07-23
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