Essay on Cognitive Theories And Theories Of Emotion

Essay on Cognitive Theories And Theories Of Emotion

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Those who consider themselves cognitivists in relation to theories of emotion agree that cognitive processes are necessary for emotions to occur. However, what constitutes a cognition is somewhat of a grey area. Few philosophers actually state a definition for cognitions, and those who do are puzzlingly ambiguous.
R.B. Zajonc offers a broad definition of cognition that allows for the slightest amount of “mental work,” that is not necessarily “deliberate, rational, or conscious,” (Zajonc, 118). With vague definitions or no definition at all, the notion of cognitions relative to emotions is all but useless. How can one claim that cognitions may occur unconsciously without testing and confirming that they actually occur?
Cognitive theories with inadequate definitions of cognitions are naturally liable to be criticized as invalid, baseless and erroneous. Common sense may allow audiences of the cognitivists’ work to understand how deliberate and conscious cognition lends itself to emotion, but irrational and unconscious cognition is difficult to define and ascribe to emotion.
Researchers Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer wrote of the two-factor theory, which, similarly to the James-Lange theory of emotion, views physical arousal as a central component of emotion. Unlike James and Lange, however, Schacter and Singer further assert that physiological reactions alone are not enough to determine emotion, on the grounds that there are no “clear-cut physiological discriminators of the various emotion,” (Schachter and Singer, 379). They add that a cognitive label must also be attached to the physical arousal in order to experience the emotion.
To test their theory, Schachter and Singer conducted an experiment aiming to manipulate the...


... middle of paper ...


...oliage.
Let us imagine I were hiking a trail in the foothills of Colorado, and I hear a rustling in the bushes on the slope above me. Being an experienced hiker, I know that rustling noises are commonplace in this setting, and can come from a variety of sources, most of which are harmless. If I were to continue to hear this noise, my first thought would be that the cause were a bird, or a rabbit, or maybe a rock being rolled down the hill by other hikers. Upon further inspection, were I to catch a glimpse of yellow that I recognize to be the big cat’s eye, I would begin to feel afraid. I now feel afraid after reappraising a stimulus (the rustling in the bushes) that I initially thought to be harmless. Seeing the cat’s eye and recognizing it to belong to a predator allowed me to cognitively reassess the situation, and react with the appropriate emotion, being fear.

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