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Unread February 2nd, 2005, 10:47 PM
James Pretzer James Pretzer is offline
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Default Is affect primary because it develops first?

Doug wrote, "All that aside for a moment (not to mention all the other questions you've raised!!!), is it not important to consider that developmentally 'affect' came first. That has to hold some weight, doesn't it?? Our biological equipment introduces "affect" way before conscious language emerges. Unless one believes that conscious cognition develops apart from affect, we have to slow down here, don't we? And again, and I'm not espousing any particular theory here, how you can tease apart affect and cognition . I don't think you can. Of course, 'defining affect' is maybe the first important task."

If you define "cognition" as conscious language, then obviously affect comes first. However, if you define cognition in this way then infants and children don't have any cognition until they develop language. However, research in developmental psychology makes it abundantly clear that cognition occurs in infants and children long before they develop language. Remember that conscious language is just one small part of cognition, at least as far as CT defines the term.

For a good discussion of the relationship between cognition and emotion from a developmental perspective, see Children's Emotions and Moods: Developmental Theory and Measurement by Michael Lewis and Linda Michalson (1983, pp. 49-93). Lewis and Michalson summarize the different approaches to understanding emotion (physiological, cognition causes emotion, emotion comes first, etc.) and how they hold up both philosophically and empirically. They conclude "In short, the data indicate that simple linnear models of the relationship between cognition and emotion [i.e. thoughts cause feelings or feelings preceed cognition] are inadequate. The relationship between these domains is quite complex, is continuous, and is more finely tuned than is usually depicted by traditional models. In conceptualizing the relationship between emotion and cognition, neither process should be described as causing the other. Rather, the best model is of two processes continually and progressively chasing each other, weaving their separate strands of behavior into a single composition not unlike that of a musical fugue" This is roughly what I've been trying to express, though I haven't been that fluent. I haven't discussed this with Dr. Beck yet, however I think he'd agree strongly.

Yes, it is not easy to study affect and cognition in infants. One experiment was done with 5 24-week-old infants (three boys and two girls). Infants sat in an apparatus that delivered a reinforcing stimulus (a color slide of a smiling infant accompanied by the "Sesame Street" theme song) triggered by an armpull on the part of the infant. Cognition was assessed by computing learning curves while emotion was assessed by coding facial expressions, vocalizations, and expressive behaviors such as gaze aversion. The results showed a more complex relationship between cognition and emotion than predicted by either the "thoughts cause feelings" model or the "emotions preceed cognition" model.
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