Bower’s Network Theory and its Link in Depression and Anxiety

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2022
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Bower's (1981, 1991) influential network theory assumed that mood states automatically activate all associated representations in memory. Bower (1981) suggested that the approach to the development of this theory is considering humans as biological machines endowed with a cognitive system (for acquiring and using knowledge), and to ask what role motives and emotions should play in such a system. Bower (1981) suggested that mood can be represented as a node, or unit, within an associative network model of memory.

Within such a network, a particular mood may become linked or associated with events that occur during one's life when the mood was experienced. Given these relations, when someone is in a happy mood they may be more likely to retrieve and become consciously aware of events that occurred at a previous time when the happy mood was experienced. Bower (1981) referred to this as mood-state dependent memory. However, a reversal of this effect should also be plausible: taking a particular event associated with a mood.

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Schwarz (1998) informed that Bower’s model made two key predictions: First, memory is enhanced when the affective state at the time of encoding matches the affective state at the time of retrieval (state-dependent learning). Thus, we are more likely to recall material acquired in a particular mood when we are in the same, rather than a different, mood at the time of recall. Second, any given material is more likely to be retrieved when its affective tone matches the individual's mood at the time of recall (mood-congruent memory).

Thus, information of a positive inclination is more likely to come to mind when we are in a happy rather than sad mood. In relating mood-memory and its effect to cognitive processes in emotion, studies have helped in understanding individual differences in emotionality, and particularly differences in vulnerability to pathological emotional states. Two general types of study are therefore of special interest: those comparing groups differing on trait measures of negative emotionality and those that contrast individuals with or without emotional disorders such as depression or anxiety states.

In most of this research the implicit or explicit hypothesis is that differences in how individuals process emotional information may be a causal factor in the development or maintenance of emotional disorders (Mathews & Macleod, 1994). Several researchers have reported that depressed mood states elicit more pronounced cognitive biases in those individuals who report a past history of depressive episodes, suggesting a high level of trait vulnerability to this emotion (Miranda et al 1990). Similar findings have been reported concerning the patterns of selective attention associated with elevated anxiety.

Using the dot probe detection paradigm to assess distribution of visual attention, MacLeod & Mathews (1988) tested separate groups of high trait and low trait anxious students on two occasions, again when state anxiety was low (early in the semester) and once when state anxiety was high (in the week before an important examination). When state anxiety was low, neither the high trait nor the low trait anxious groups showed any selective attentional response to emotionally negative stimuli words.

High trait anxious students responded to elevated state anxiety by displaying increased allocation of visual attention toward emotionally threatening examination-related stimulus words. In contrast, low trait anxious subjects responded to the state anxiety elevation by showing a marginally significant effect in the opposite direction. Depending on how one thinks emotional information is represented in memory, emotional states could activate all congruent representations; that is, those consistent in valence and meaning with that emotion.

Alternatively, only some kinds of congruent information might be activated, such as that involved in causing the emotion or relating to the individual's current concerns. Finally, emotions could be associated with effects that are relatively specific not only to particular cognitive content but also to certain types of cognitive operations on that information (Mathews & Macleod, 1994). The problems with Bower’s (1981) network theory include: 1. ) failure to replicate mood state-dependent memory effects, 2.

) presence of instructional effects on judgmental bias and mood-incongruent recall, 3. ) failure to find (single) lexical decision effects of mood state, 4. ) restriction of mood-congruent recall to self-encoded stimuli, 5. ) specificity of attentional bias to domain of current concern, and 6. ) facilitation of different types of cognitive operation in different emotions. Bibliography Bower G. H. 1991. Mood congruity of social judgments. In Emotion and Social Judgments, ed. JP Forgas, pp. 31-53. Oxford: Pergamon. Bower, G. H. 1981. Mood and memory.

American Psychologist, 36, 129–148. MacLeod C. & Mathews A. M. 1988. Anxiety and the allocation of attention to threat. Q. J. Exp. Psychol: Hum. Exp. Psychol. 38:659-70. Mathews, A. , & Macleod, C. 1994. Cognitive Approaches to Emotion and Emotional Disorders. Annual Review of Psychology, 45: 26-45. Miranda J. , Persons J. B. & Byers C. N. 1990. Endorsement of dysfunctional beliefs depends on mood state. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 99:237-41. Schwarz, N. 1998. Warmer and More Social: Recent Developments in Cognitive Social Psychology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1): 239.

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