Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

In this article, we will talk about the Appraisal theory, but mainly about the primary appraisal and the secondary appraisal that happened during a cognitive evaluation. 

Primary Appraisal

At the primary appraisal stage, the individual tends to ask questions such as: “What does this stressor and/or this situation mean?” and “How can it influence me?”. According to psychologists, the three typical answers to these questions are:

  • “This is not important”.
  • “This is good”.
  • “This is stressful.”

To better understand the primary appraisal, suppose that a torrential rain suddenly falls in your city and it does not stop. You might think that the pouring rain is not important, since at the moment it has no plans to go anywhere. Or you might think that the rain is good since now you don’t have to get up early and go to school because classes are suspended. Or you can see the pouring rain as stressful since you had scheduled an outing with your friends.

After answering these two questions, the second part of the primary appraisal is to classify whether the stressor or situation constitutes a threat, a challenge, or harm/loss. 

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

When you see the stressor as a threat, you see it as something that will cause future harm, such as failure on exams or being fired from work. When you see it as a challenge, you develop a positive stress response because you hope that the stress factor will lead to a better grade in a class or a better job.

On the other hand, viewing the stress factor as “damage/loss” means that the damage has already been experienced, such as when a person recently had a leg amputation or had a car accident.

Secondary Appraisal

Unlike other theories where stages generally come one after the other, secondary appraisal takes place simultaneously with a primary appraisal. Sometimes the secondary appraisal becomes the cause of a primary appraisal.

Secondary appraisals have to do with feelings related to managing stress factors or the stress they produce. Firm statements such as “I can do it if I try my best“, “I will try it even if my chances of success are high or not“, and “if it doesn’t work I can always try another method” indicate a positive secondary appraisal. 

Conversely, statements such as “I can’t do it, I know I’ll fail,” “I‘m not going to do it because no one believes I can,” and “I’m not going to try because my chances are low” indicate a negative secondary appraisal.

Although primary and secondary appraisals are generally the result of an encounter with a stressor, stress does not always occur with cognitive evaluation. An example is when a person suffers a sudden disaster, for example, an earthquake, and does not have much time to think about it. However, he continues to feel stressed by the situation.

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

The Appraisal Theory 

J. Dewey within his work offers a way to overcome the analytical distinction between fact and value, the distinction that made it impossible to accept a science of values. 

To develop his theory, the author builds a work that can be divided into two parts. In the first, the author proposes to clarify “the confusion that afflicts the current debate on the problem of valuation.” 

In this review, we can find positions that go from the values are nothing but “emotional epithets or mere interjections, to the belief that certain a priori rational values, necessary and normalized, are the principles on which the validity of art depends, the science and morals “. 

The elimination of science’s conceptions of value from non-human phenomena is relatively recent, Dewey argues since the ideals of perfection as well as the belief in the presence of ends in nature were a fairly common view until the 17th century.

Once the analysis of the problems presented by the different approaches to the treatment of valuations and value judgments has been carried out, the author goes on to the second part of his work, pointing out that his theory must be understood only as a project, as a methodology, not as something finished. 

The reason for the above is that for Dewey an effective theory of valuation can only be completed when the things that support the relationship of ends-means have been systematically investigated and, together with this, the results have been applied to the formation of desires and specific purposes in real contexts of action. 

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

The author invites to relate the theory of valuation with the social sciences, insofar as they would also be able to refer to the observable behaviour of the man in a community (psychology and sociology). In this way, Dewey opens the discussion about the problems of valuation to other human sciences.

Dewey explains to us at first that the human being tries to assign a value to things, so based on this he tries to analyze 2 different positions:

Emotivism: This posture describes values ​​as something impulsive and conditioned, which goes towards responses from the individual’s life experience. He also explains that it is not possible to state whether an evaluative judgment is false or true because there are no empirical references in this regard, but more than anything the individual’s own emotions.

Objectivism: This position interprets values ​​as something independent both of the individual’s life and of his responses to them, which implies that although a value is expressed incorrectly it will not alter its context.

Then Dewey explains that the above has a very close relationship with means-ends, which means that people have to modify their behaviour and therefore assign an assessment, both positive and negative, to their actions.

In Chapter VII, of “The theory of valuation as a delineation of a program”, the author points out that his theory must be understood only as a project, as a methodology, not as something finished. 

The reason for the above is that for Dewey an effective theory of valuation can only be completed when the things that support the relationship of ends-means have been systematically investigated and, together with this, the results have been applied to the formation of desires and specific purposes in real contexts of action. 

In this way, Dewey opens the discussion about the problems of valuation to other human sciences.

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

Conclusions

In this article, we talked about the Appraisal theory, but mainly about the primary appraisal and the secondary appraisal that happened during a cognitive evaluation. 

Interest in the problem of valuation, that is, the problem of the possibility of genuine and well-founded propositions about the purposes, plans, measures, and policies that influence human activity, makes Dewey’s work a central work. 

And just to remind you: When you see the stressor as a threat, you see it as something that will cause future harm, such as failure on exams or being fired from work. When you see it as a challenge, you develop a positive stress response because you hope that the stress factor will lead to a better grade in a class or a better job.

If you have any questions or comments on the question, please let us know.

FAQ about primary appraisal and secondary appraisal

What is primary and secondary appraisal?

Primary and secondary appraisals are assessments of the importance of an event for oneself. The person perceives the event either as a disaster, an opportunity or as a neutral impact. 

What is an example of primary appraisal?

An example of primary appraisal is a torrential rain that suddenly falls in your city and it does not stop. You might think that the pouring rain is not important, since at the moment it has no plans to go anywhere. Or you might think that the rain is good since now you don’t have to get up early and go to school because classes are suspended. Or you can see the pouring rain as stressful since you had scheduled an outing with your friends.

What is involved in the stage of primary appraisal?

At the primary appraisal stage, the individual tends to ask questions such as: “What does this stressor and/or this situation mean?” and “How can it influence me?”. 

What does a secondary appraisal involve?

Secondary appraisals have to do with feelings related to managing stress factors or the stress they produce. Firm statements such as “I can do it if I try my best”, “I will try it even if my chances of success are high or not”, and “if it doesn’t work I can always try another method” indicate a positive secondary appraisal. 

What triggers the secondary appraisal?

Unlike other theories where stages generally come one after the other, secondary appraisal takes place simultaneously with a primary appraisal. Sometimes the secondary appraisal becomes the cause of a primary appraisal.

What makes an event stressful?

What makes an event stressful is our perception towards it. Thus, our primary appraisal makes the event stressful,  neutral or positive. 

References

Dewe, P. (1991), Primary appraisal, secondary appraisal and coping: Their role in stressful work encounters. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 64: 331-351

Dewe, P.Journal of Social Behavior and Personality; Corte Madera, CA Vol. 8, Iss. 4,  (Jan 1, 1993): 673.

Cf. Putnam, H (2002), The Collapse of the Fact / Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Folkman, Susan, Lazarus, Richard S., Gruen, Rand J., DeLongis, Anita

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 50(3), Mar 1986, 571-579

Sagi, A., Van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Koren-Karie, N. (1991). Primary appraisal of the Strange Situation: A cross-cultural analysis of pre-separation episodes. Developmental Psychology, 27(4), 587–596

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2006), “Lecture on Ethics”, in A. Kenny, ed., The Wittgenstein reader. Maiden MA: Blackwell Pub; p. 253.

Primary appraisal (the Appraisal Theory)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.