A systems theory approach to the study of personality
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The literature on information processing approaches to emotion is surveyed. It is concluded than an approach that looks at the way in which the emotion system employs the cognitive system has merit. In Chapter two Miller's (1978) criticism of abstract system theory is applied to personality theory. It is argued in the light of this criticism that psychologists should identify the cognitive microprocesses associated with emotion as the first step in a concrete theory of personality. Chapters three, four, and five, detail a series of experiments towards identifying the microprocesses of emotion. Chapter three details how perceptual defence was found to decrease with increased levels of arousal. Chapter four details an investigation of the effects of emotion upon the semantic network. Some indication of subject differences in the processing of threat related material was obtained. In chapter five, experimental evidence of attention biasing towards affect congruent material is outlined. Momentary affect states seem to have a strong influence on attention. A theory of emotions as problem solving heuristics is put forward in Chapter six. The theory is formulated in the terminology of Anderson's (1983) ACT model of cognitive skills. It is used to account for experimental and phenomenological data. Lastly, the promise and limitations of the ACT model of emotion are noted in Chapter seven. It is concluded that research into the influence of emotion on information processing might be an essential component of a 'concrete' theory of personality.