Cognitive appraisal (also called simply 'appraisal') is the subjective interpretation made by an individual to stimuli in the environment. It is a component in a variety of theories relating to stress, mental health, coping, and emotion. It is most notably used in the transactional model of stress and coping, introduced in a 1981 publication by Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman. In this theory, cognitive appraisal is defined as the way in which an individual responds to and interprets stressors in life. A variety of mental disorders have been observed as having abnormal patterns of cognitive appraisal in those affected by the disorder. Other work has detailed how personality can influence the way in which individuals cognitively appraise a situation.
Conceptualizations and theories
Lazarus' transactional model of stress
This model uses cognitive appraisal as a way to explain responses to stressful events.
According to this theory, two distinct forms of cognitive appraisal must occur in order for an individual to feel stress in response to an event; Lazarus called these stages "primary appraisal" and "secondary appraisal". During primary appraisal, an event is interpreted as dangerous to the individual or threatening to their personal goals. During secondary appraisal, the individual determines that they have insufficient resources to overcome the event. When both of these conditions occur, the event causes stress as a response.
Scherer's component process model
The component process model proposed by Klaus Scherer utilizes cognitive appraisal to explain an individual’s psychological and physiological response to situations. Scherer’s model makes additions to the Lazarus’ transactional model regarding how many appraisals occur. Rather than just two levels of appraisal in response to an event (primary and secondary), Scherer’s model suggests four distinct appraisals occur: (a) the direct effects or relevance that an individual perceives an event being to them (b) the consequences an event has both immediately and long-term to an individual and their goals (c) the ability an individual perceives they can cope with the consequences of an event (d) the ways in which the events are perceived to result from an individual’s values and self-concept. This model and additional work by Scherer notably highlights not only psychological responses, but many physiological responses according to how events are appraised by an individual.
Roseman's appraisal theory of emotions
Ira Roseman utilized the concept of cognitive appraisal to build an explanatory theory that encompasses a wider range of emotions (when compared with Lazarus' transactional model). According to Roseman (1996), positive emotions result from events that an individual appraises as consistent with their motives, while negative emotions result from events that individuals appraise as inconsistent with their motives. More specific emotions are based on if the event is perceived to be as caused by others, the individual, or due to an uncontrollable circumstance.
The way in which stress is cognitively appraised has been found to influence mental health. Cognitive styles of perceiving the world and interpreting events have been suggested as factors that may make certain individuals more prone to depression, such as Aaron Beck's cognitive theory (1967). A variety of studies have linked panic disorder with attentional biases and catastrophic perceptions of events. 
- S., Lazarus, Richard (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Folkman, Susan. New York: Springer Pub. Co. ISBN 0826141900. OCLC 10754235.
- Scherer, Klaus R. (2009-11). "The dynamic architecture of emotion: Evidence for the component process model". Cognition & Emotion. 23 (7): 1307–1351. doi:10.1080/02699930902928969. ISSN 0269-9931. Check date values in:
- Roseman, Ira J. (1996-05). "Appraisal Determinants of Emotions: Constructing a More Accurate and Comprehensive Theory". Cognition & Emotion. 10 (3): 241–278. doi:10.1080/026999396380240. ISSN 0269-9931. Check date values in:
- Gomes, A. Rui; Faria, Susana; Lopes, Heitor (2016-07-09). "Stress and Psychological Health". Western Journal of Nursing Research. 38 (11): 1448–1468. doi:10.1177/0193945916654666. ISSN 0193-9459.
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