Emotion, Meaning, and Appraisal Theory

Theory and Psychology 19 (1):33-53 (2009)
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According to psychological emotion theories referred to as appraisal theory, emotions are caused by appraisals (evaluative judgments). Borrowing a term from Jan Smedslund, it is the contention of this article that psychological appraisal theory is “pseudoempirical” (i.e., misleadingly or incorrectly empirical). In the article I outline what makes some scientific psychology “pseudoempirical,” distinguish my view on this from Jan Smedslund’s, and then go on to show why paying heed to the ordinary meanings of emotion terms is relevant to psychology, and how appraisal theory is methodologically off the mark by employing experiments, questionnaires, and the like, to investigate what follows from the ordinary meanings of words. The overarching argument of the article is that the scientific research program of appraisal theory is fundamentally misguided and that a more philosophical approach is needed to address the kinds of questions it seeks to answer.
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