Cognitive processes influence the regulation of emotions in two ways: the mind working as a system that is goal-oriented and the identification, interpretation, and appraisal of an event (Power & Dalgleish, 2008). The goal-directed system of the mind conceptualizes from Aristotelian functionalism which acknowledges emotions as functional elements that play specific roles (Power & Dalgleish, 2008). For example, the role of anger is seen as having the purpose of motivating retaliatory behavior (Power & Dalgleish, 2008). Secondly, cognitive processes serve the function of identifying, interpreting, and appraising an event which, in turn, influences the emotional response (Power & Dalgleish, 2008).
Appraisal, specifically, has a strong influence on a person’s emotional response. How a person appraises a situation, rather than the exact situation itself, is going to become a fulcrum as to how they react emotionally to an event (Siemer et al., 2007). How an individual appraises an event is determined through different characteristics including the event’s importance, expectedness, and ability to control as well as the responsible agent (Siemer et al., 2007). Research has determined that differing appraisals of an event are both necessary and sufficient to influence the emotional response to that event, in both the intensity of the emotion experienced, as well as the emotional experience itself (Siemer et al., 2007).
A conscious cognitive process that may influence emotion is overt and conscious awareness of emotional regulation strategies (Barrett et al., 2005). The amount of attention one gives an event will, as well, determine how this event affects a person’s emotional reaction (Barrett et al., 2005). Without any attempt at emotional regulation during an event, there may be a stronger emotional reaction, allowing for greater awareness of the event while it occur – this can then result in an emotionally significant encoding of the event (Barrett et al., 2005). If the amygdala determines an event to be of emotional significance, this can result in greater awareness and a strong unconscious emotional reaction when a future, similar event occurs (Barrett et al., 2005).
Barrett, L. F., Niedenthal, P. M., & Winkielman, P. (2005). Emotion and consciousness. [electronic resource]. Guilford Press.
Power, M., & Dalgleish, T. (2008). Towards an integrated cognitive theory of emotion: The SPAARS approach. In, Cognition and emotion: From order to disorder (2nd ed., pp. 129–167). London, England: Psychology Press.
Siemer, M., Mauss, I., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Same situation—Different emotions: How appraisals shape our emotions. Emotion, 7(3), 592–600.