In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Richard Lazarus

  • Introduction
  • Subception: Evidence for Unconscious Cognitive Processing
  • Short-Circuiting of Threat by Means of Instructional Sets
  • The Primacy of Affect versus The Primacy of Cognition: A Debate Between Robert Zajonc and Lazarus
  • Patterns of Appraisal: The Generation of Specific Emotions
  • Coda: Lazarus, the Field of Emotion, and Impact on Behavioral Science

Psychology Richard Lazarus
Joseph Campos, Diana Heath
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0294


This article covers the evolution of thought about the nature of emotion and its causation as reflected in the work of Richard S. Lazarus, winner of the 1991 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award by the American Psychological Association. Lazarus’s work was exceptionally impactful in so far as it resuscitated the study of emotion which had largely disappeared from psychology. Lazarus’s thinking was powerfully affected by the Greek philosopher Aristotle, and his personal appreciation of the power of psychoanalytic theory for clarifying the nature of human emotion. His work began from studying unconscious cognitive recognition of nonsense syllables conditioned to shock and progressed to studying how instructional sets were powerful cognitive determinants of emotion elicited by films. Next, he focused on the elaboration on components of coping considered by Lazarus to be critical for the regulation of emotion. Lazarus’s thinking was sharpened in a debate with the social scientist Robert Zajonc—a debate that led to the expansion of Lazarus’s explanation of the origins of emotion and cognition with a link to motivation and their implications for interactions between the emoting person and the social and physical world. The entry presents a climax of Lazarus’s thinking in what he called patterns of appraisal in the generation of emotions such as anger and pride. It ends with the citation of books reflecting elaborations of Lazarus’s theorizing in the work of other emotion researchers.

General Overviews

According to Haggbloom, et al. 2002, Lazarus is considered one of the most significant behavioral scientists of the 20th century. He was among the key scientists responsible for the resurrection of the field of emotion after its disappearance in psychology.

  • Haggbloom S. J., R. Warnick, J. E. Warnick, et al. 2002. The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology 6.2: 139–152.

    DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.6.2.139

    A compilation of the names and ranking of behavioral scientists of the 20th century.

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