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Oatley, K. Kerr, A. (1999). Memories Prompted by Emotions—Emotions Attached to Memories: Studies of Depression and of Reading Fiction. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 27(4):657-669.

(1999). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 27(4):657-669

Memories Prompted by Emotions—Emotions Attached to Memories: Studies of Depression and of Reading Fiction

Keith Oatley, Ph.D. and Alison Kerr, M.A., M.Ed.

Psychoanalysis and Cognitive Science

Psychoanalysis is about emotions and their vicissitudes. Yet, with the notable exception of Bowlby (1971), psychoanalysts have not developed influential theories of the functions of emotions. Cognitive science is about how knowledge is mentally represented and used. Yet until recently emotions were excluded, as if they were antithetical to understanding human mental life. We wish to propose that recent research on the origin and functions of emotions, as well as being essential both to psychoanalysis and cognitive science, allow integrations of the two areas of understanding.

According to modern theories (e.g., Frijda, 1986; Oatley, 1992), emotions relate events to goals, or as Frijda calls them “concerns,” by a process called appraisal: An event gives rise to an emotion by being appraised, or evaluated, as furthering or hindering some goal. For instance, if one person does not fulfill his or her part in a joint plan that this person and another had made to accomplish some mutually agreed purpose, then the other person typically becomes angry. In psychoanalysis, goals, concerns, purposes, and intentions tend to be called desires and wishes—but the issues are the same. We humans direct most of our actions toward accomplishing goals by means of planful behavior, and we experience emotions when events occur that affect these goals.

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