Emotions in close relationships : a prototype and cognitive appraisal analysis.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Psychologists currently know very little about the nature and course of specific emotions in close relationship settings. Thus, the major purpose of this research programme was to explore emotion knowledge structures in marriage by making a detailed prototypical and cognitive appraisal analysis of four emotions: love, hate, anger and jealousy. In Study 1, 160 subjects recalled a specific incident of love, hate, anger or jealousy (40 subjects per emotion), and wrote detailed accounts of their memories of the event (including their physiological symptoms, urges, behaviours and cognitive appraisals). Four distinct prototypes and cognitive appraisal patterns were obtained for the four emotions. The purpose of Study 2 was to compare hypothetical emotion accounts with the recalled accounts from Study 1. Eighty subjects gave their opinions about typical love, hate, anger and jealousy eliciting events in marriage, and described probable urges, symptoms and behaviours. The results were in general accord with Study 1, suggesting that both recalled and hypothetical emotion accounts are derived from the same prototypical knowledge structures. However, there were discrepancies in hate-related urges and behaviours between the recall and hypothetical accounts. Specifically, recall accounts cited withdrawal urges and behaviours, whereas hypothetical accounts cited physically violent urges and behaviours. In Study 3, the influence of causal locus on emotions and cognitive appraisal patterns was investigated. Subjects imagined experiencing either self, partner or externally-caused love, hate, anger or jealousy for their partners, and rated their cognitive appraisals along the same dimensions as used in Study 1. Although the appraisal pattern for externally-caused hate differed from self or partner-caused hate, no differences were obtained for the other three emotions, according to causal locus. With the causal conditions combined, the cognitive appraisal results were in general accord with those obtained in Study 1 for all four emotions. Study 4 was concerned with further testing the validity of the results from study 1. Subjects selected the most appropriate emotion from a list of 8 emotions, based on varying amounts of information (event description only, event plus prototype, event plus appraisals, or event plus all information) derived from Study 1. Supporting the results of Study 1, adding prototypical and/or appraisal information significantly increased the accuracy of emotion identification over the event description condition, with jealousy being the most accurately identified, and hate the least. A partial replication in which the prototypical features for hate from Study 1 (withdrawal) were replaced by the features from Study 2 (verbal and physical abuse) decreased hate identification accuracy even further, suggesting that the recall accounts comprised reasonably accurate depictions of hate in marriage. The overall results are discussed, first, in relation to the role of context in emotion prototype analysis. The advantages of taking a combined cognitive appraisal and prototype approach to the study of emotions are noted, and the implications of such analyses for close relationship research are outlined. Directions for further research are identified, including laboratory-based interactive studies, and ecologically valid investigations of emotions in marital settings. The discussion concludes with a brief commentary on the theoretical debate about basic emotions.