Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 62
Desires/appraisal theory/psychological theories/Reisenzein/Weber: 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)(1). These assumptions entail that the emotional reaction to a concrete event should be influenced by the degree to which superordinate desires are affected by this event, as well as the strength of these desires. A number of tests of this assumption have been made. For example, Sheldon, Elliot, Kim and Kasser (2001)(2) asked participants to recall the single most satisfying event experienced during the last month and to rate the extent to which this event satisfied each of ten candidate basic desires (e.g., the desire for competence, security, relatedness, popularity and personal autonomy).
Other research has focused on an intermediate level of the motive hierarchy, where the top-level desires (e.g., the achievement motive) are concretized to more specific desires that represent what the person wants to attain in her current life situation (e.g., getting good grades; see Brunstein, Schultheiss and Grässmann 1998)(3). For example, Emmons (1986)(4) related these intermediate-level desires, called personal strivings, to emotions using an experiencing-sampling method… (for additional information, see Emmons 1996(5); Brunstein, Schultheiss and Maier 1999(6).
Corr I 63
Beyond relating positive and negative emotions to desire fulfilment and desire frustration, respectively, appraisal theorists have linked particular emotions to particular kinds of desires (e.g., Lazarus 1991(7); Ortony, Clore and Collins 1988(8); Roseman 1979)(9). An important distinction in this context is that between wanting versus diswanting a state of affairs (Roseman 1979(9)), or between having an approach goal versus an avoidance goal.
Several theorists (e.g., Gray 1994(10); see Carver 2006(11) for a review) proposed (a) that the pursuit of approach versus avoidance goals activates one of two different, basic motivational systems, a behavioural approach system (BAS) or a behavioural inhibition (BIS) system; and (b) that people differ in central parameters of these systems, specifically in the relative strength of their general approach and avoidance motivation. Carver (2004)(12) found that a measure of inter-individual differences in general approach motivation (BAS sensitivity) predicted the intensity of sadness and anger in response to frustration (the non-occurrence of an expected positive event).


1. Reiss, S. 2000. Who am I: the 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personality. New York: Tarcher Putnam
2. Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Kim, Y. and Kasser, T. 2001. What is satisfying about satisfying events? Testing 10 candidate psychological needs, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80: 325–39
3. 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
4. Emmons, R. A. 1986. Personal strivings: an approach to personality and subjective well-being, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51: 1058–68
5. Emmons, R. A. 1996. Striving and feeling: personal goals and subjective well-being, in P. M. Gollwitzer and J. A. Bargh (eds.), The psychology of action: linking cognition and motivation to behaviour, pp. 313–37. New York: Guilford Press
6. Brunstein, J. C., Schultheiss, O. C. and Maier, G. W. 1999. The pursuit of personal goals: a motivational approach to well-being and life adjustment, in J. Brandtstädter and R. M. Lerner (eds.), Action and self-development: theory and research through the life span, pp. 169–96. New York: Sage
7. Lazarus, R. S. 1991. Emotion and adaptation. New York: Oxford University Press
8. Ortony, A., Clore, G. L. and Collins, A. 1988. The cognitive structure of emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press
9. Roseman, I. J. 1979. Cognitive aspects of emotions and emotional behaviour. Paper presented at the 87th Annual Convention of the APA, New York City, September 1979
10. Gray, J. A. 1994. Three fundamental emotion systems, in P. Ekman and R. J. Davidson (eds.), The nature of emotion, pp. 243–8. Oxford University Press
11. Carver, C. S. 2006. Approach, avoidance, and the self-regulation of affect and action, Motivation and Emotion 30: 105–10
12. Carver, C. S. 2004. Negative affects deriving from the behavioural approach system, Emotion 4: 3–22

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.
Appraisal Theory
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 2019-06-17
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