How do emotions motivate cognitive activity and behavior?

Emotions can occur without and before cognition.  The amygdala receives information and makes a quick judgement of a stimulus in the best interest of an individuals well-being.  The info is then sent on to the cortex where the stimuli is fully processed as a hazard or something fine.  When a person reacts in an unnecessary manner, it is because the amygdala has shown something negative which evoked a fast emotional response for the unexpected behavior.  The brain feels that it is better to react in a negative manner than to wait on the slower processing of the cortex so the individual can be guarded and read for potential danger.  Emotions are the internal motivators we have to behave in a certain manner in response to a situation (state of readiness).  The emotion-action behaviors we portray may be innate or learned.  Additionally, every emotion has a goal which is too portray a behavior.  For instance, the emotion fear has a goal of avoidance or escape (behaviors).  Other emotions, such as pride allow for social motivations for person to person interaction.  The goal of pride is achieve socially valued behaviors in turn causing altruistic behaviors and treating others in a good manner.  Emotions motivate cognitive activity to achieve a goal such as avoidance in the fear emotion.  Emotions give information on how stimuli was appraised (fear=danger) and can cause future cognitive appraisal of a stimuli.  Through testing, researchers developed the Appraisal Tendency Theory which says the general mood of an individual actually influences appraisal and judgment of immediate stimuli as well as unrelated events.


Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon


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