11-01a+Zajonc+1984 - On the Primacy of Affect R B Zajonc...

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On the Primacy of Affect R. B. Zajonc University of Michigan ABSTRACT: Lazarus has challenged the view that there are circumstances under which affect precedes cognition and that affective arousal that does not entail prior cognitive appraisal exists. His argument, how- ever, is based entirely on an arbitrary definition of emotion that requires cognitive appraisal as a nec- essary precondition. To satisfy this concept of emotion, Lazarus has broadened the definition of cognitive ap- praisal to include even the most primitive forms of sensory excitation, thus obliterating all distinction be- tween cognition, sensation, and perception. No em- pirical evidence is offered to document the principle of cognitive appraisal as a necessary precondition for emotional arousal. The contrasting view of an affective primacy and independence, however, is derived from a series of findings and phenomena, including the existence of neuroanatomical structures allowing for independent affective process. Only a few years ago I published a rather speculative article entitled "Feeling and Thinking" (Zajonc, 1980). The title also included the provocative subtitle "Preferences Need No Inferences," deliberately sug- gesting an occasional independence of emotion from cognition. In this article I tried to appeal for a more concentrated study of affective phenomena that have been ignored for decades, and at the same time to ease the heavy reliance on cognitive functions for the explanation of affect. The argument began with the general hypothesis that affect and cognition are separate and partially independent systems and that although they ordinarily function conjointly, affect could be generated without a prior cognitive process. It could, therefore, at times precede cognition in a behavioral chain, I based this proposition on a number of diverse findings and phe- nomena, none of which alone could clinch the ar- gument, but all of which taken together pointed to a clear possibility of an affective independence and primacy. This idea was first advanced by Wundt (1907) and later reiterated by others (e.g., Izard, 1984). Lazarus (1982) takes a very strong issue with all of this and almost categorically rejects the likelihood of the independence of affect of cognition, let alone the possibility of an affective primacy. In this article I will review Lazarus's position and contrast it with mine. Lazarus employs two definitions, one for emo- tion and one for cognition. All of his inferences are based on these two definitions. Lazarus's definition of emotion (which requires cognition as a necessary precondition) is central to his position. On the basis of this definition alone, therefore, the argument is unassailable. If Lazarus insists on his definition, as he has the right to do, we must agree that affect cannot be independent of cognition because by definition cognition is a necessary precondition for affective arousal. For Lazarus, cognition is an ever-present prior
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This note was uploaded on 12/03/2010 for the course PSYCH Psy BEh 17 taught by Professor Susancharles during the Fall '10 term at UC Irvine.

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11-01a+Zajonc+1984 - On the Primacy of Affect R B Zajonc...

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