Evolutionary memories, emotional processing, and the emotional disorders

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58 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews number of different aspects of contemporary research employing the paradigms and principles of experimental psychology to further understanding of the emotional disorders. Some of this work has been conducted within the framework of contemporary conditioning theory and some has been conducted within the framework on an information processing perspective on the emotion-cognition interaction. It suggests some possible links between some of these different lines of research. Some evidence is reviewed strongly suggesting that human and nonhuman primates have a phylogenetically based predisposition to acquire fears and phobias to certain fear-relevant stimuli that may once have posed a threat to early ancestors. Although the mechanisms through which these evolutionary memories are represented in the brain are not yet understood, it seems likely that these selective associations are involved in mediating the nonrandom distribution of fears and phobias that is seen clinically. If natural selection is involved in determining which objects and situations are likely to become the sources of fears and phobias as the work on selective associations suggests, others have also considered the possibility that it also have helped to shape the memory processes which appear to promote the maintenance and overgeneralization of fear with the passage of time. The chapter also reviews the highlights of research on the emotion-cognition interaction that has been conducted in people with anxiety and depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-206
Number of pages46
JournalPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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