College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Cognitive and Physiological Antecedents of Threat and Challenge Appraisal

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-1997

Keywords

Blood Pressure, Cognition, Heart Rate, Life Change Events, Stress

Publication Title

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

ISSN

0022-3514

Volume

73

Issue/No.

1

Abstract

Cognitive appraisal theories of stress and emotion propose that cognitive appraisals precede physiological responses, whereas peripheralist theories propose that physiological arousal precedes cognitive processes. Three studies examined this issue regarding threat and challenge responses to potential stress. Study 1 supported cognitive appraisal theory by demonstrating that threat and challenge cognitive appraisals and physiological responses could be elicited experimentally by manipulating instructional set. Studies 2 and 3, in contrast, found that manipulations of physiological response patterns consistent with challenge and threat did not result in corresponding changes in cognitive appraisal. Appraisals in Study 3, however, were related to subjective pain independent of the physiological manipulation. These studies suggest a central role for cognitive appraisal processes in elicitation of threat and challenge responses to potentially stressful situations.

DOI

10.1037/0022-3514.73.1.63