Figure 184

Three theoretical approaches to the effects of personality traits and mood states on emotional processing. Adapted from Rusting (1998).

The greatest strength of the Williams et al. approach is that it is based on an analysis of the functional differences between anxiety and depression. This leads Williams et al. to predict that the pattern of cognitive biases will differ between anxious and depressed individuals. This contrasts with the approaches of Beck and of Bower, both of whom predict the existence of global cognitive biases applying to all emotional states. As we will see, the evidence is more supportive of the Williams et al. view. However, the differences in cognitive biases between anxious and depressed individuals are less clear-cut than predicted theoretically. Thus, even the revised theory of Williams et al. is oversimplified.

Rusting's approach

Rusting (1998) distinguished between mood-state and trait approaches, with Bower's network theory exemplifying a mood-state theory and Beck's schema theory being a prominent trait theory. She argued that there are three main ways in which emotional processing may be affected by traits and mood states (see Figure 18.4):

1. The traditional approach: personality traits and mood states have separate or independent effects on emotional processing.

2. The mediator approach: apparent effects of personality on emotional processing are indirect: personality affects mood state, and mood state influences emotional processing.

3. The moderator approach: the effects of mood states on emotional processing are moderated or influenced by personality traits. There should be significant interactions between traits and states in

Mood state at learning Happy Happy Sad Sad

Mood state at recall Happy

Sad Happy Sad

Predicted level of recall High


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