Role of Appraisals in Generating and Differentiating Emotions

Appraisal theories of emotion (Scherer, 2001) propose that (1) appraisals play a causal role in emotion generation, (2) appraisals lead to differentiated emotional responses, and (3) there are as many different emotions as there are distinct combinations of appraisals. To systematically addressed each of these proposals, we have been investigating the following questions:

Do different evaluations of the same event elicit different emotions? To test this, we study the emotional effects of experimentally manipulated appraisal processes under standardized conditions. One line of ongoing research investigates appraisal processes in the context of evaluative performance situations. Using this paradigm, we showed that appraising an event, in this case performance feedback, as irrelevant did not elicit physiological changes, but appraising the same event as relevant and conducive elicited pride and sympathetic–parasympathetic co-activation. Appraising it as relevant and obstructive elicited disappointment and sympathetic–parasympathetic deactivation (Kreibig, Gendolla, & Scherer, 2012).

Do physiological responses differ among emotions? To address this question, we examine the differentiability and specificity of physiological responses associated with different experimentally elicited emotions using, for example, film clips. One approach focuses on studying mean differences between physiological emotion responses using uni- and multivariate analysis methods. Another approach focuses on studying the predictability of emotional state based on physiological responses using affective computing methods. Using these methods, we have studied physiological responses of fear and sadness, for which we observed marked physiological differences (Kreibig, Wilhelm, Roth, & Gross, 2007; Kreibig, Wilhelm, Roth, & Gross, 2011). We further demonstrated that physiological response patterns of individual participants can be used to reliably predict emotional state (Kolodyazhniy, Kreibig, Roth, Gross, & Wilhelm, 2011; Kreibig, Wilhelm, Roth, & Gross, 2007).

Does each distinct combination of appraisals constitute a unique emotional state? This suggests that emotions that share some but not all appraisals, such as mixed and pure emotions, should elicit differing emotional responses. In one line of ongoing research, we use film clips that elicit amusement, disgust, or mixed emotions and measure subjective, behavioral, and experiential correlates of emotion to test whether the physiological response of mixed and pure emotions differ. In a recent study, we found that the physiological response of the mixed emotional state differed from that of pure amusement and pure disgust (Kreibig, Samson, & Gross, 2013). This finding suggests that the mixed emotional state constitutes a unique state with distinct characteristics and supports the proposition that each distinct combination of appraisals constitutes a unique emotional state.

Last modified Friday, 11-Oct-2013 21:59:58 PDT