, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 367-377

Cognitive correlates of anger, anxiety, and sadness

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Abstract

In a test of Beck's (1976) cognitive theory of emotion, 72 undergraduate subjects were presented with a cognitive rationale of emotion, then recorded their thoughts and emotions whenever they felt angry, anxious, or sad over a 3-day period. After each day, structured interview data were collected and subjects were asked to rate their thoughts and feelings. The interview data were then scored for thought content. Analyses of subjects' and judges' assessments strongly supported Beck's hypothesis that anger is associated with thoughts of transgression, anxiety with thoughts of threat, and sadness with thoughts of loss. Analyses of subjects' assessments of their own thoughts and feelings indicated that each type of thought (transgression, threat, and loss) tended to occur in combination with the others and that anger was associated with simultaneous reports of anxiety and sadness. Multiple regression analyses revealed that although anxiety was uniquely predicted only by thoughts of threat, anger was associated with thoughts of loss as well as thoughts of transgression, and sadness was associated with thoughts of threat as well as thoughts of loss.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of S. Catanzaro, D. Henry, M. Krugman, C. Mobayed, L. Nowinski, C. Parker, S. Sewitch, and B. Viadella in the data collecting and scoring.