Emotion Research: Cognitive and Experimental Psychology

Integration of Physiological and Information Processing Perspectives

Emotion results from computation in distinct neuroanatomical structures which constitute a separate information processing system acting in parallel with cognition.

LeDoux's theory (1989) represents a synthesis of different perspectives (physiological and cognitive appraisal) by expanding the theory of Cannon and Papez that the hypothalamus computes the significance of a stimulus and signals this to both the body, thus causing a particular state of arousal, and the cortex, thus invoking higher-level cognitive processing. The question whether cognition or affect are primary and which precedes the other becomes less meaningful when we consider the tightly-coupled, interacting, distinct systems that appear to mediate information processing. The arguments supporting the two extremes, that is the primacy of cognition over affect vs. primacy of affect over cognition, become less meaningful when we consider the larger picture and the fact that some processing of information must take place before an affective reaction can result. In fact, such a convergence seems apparent upon careful reading of the arguments by the most prominent proponents of each view, Lazarus and Zajonc, arguing for the primacy and precedence of cognition over affect (Lazarus, 1984), and vice versa (Zajonc, 1982; 1984).

Editor: Eva Hudlicka [psychometrixassociates.com]

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