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This paper is concerned with some limitations of the vignette methodology used in contemporary appraisal research and their implications for appraisal theory. We focus on two recent studies in which emotional manipulations were achieved using textual materials, and criticise the investigators’ apparent implicit assumption that participation in everyday social reality is somehow comparable to reading a story. We take issue with three related aspects of this cognitive analogy between life and its narrative representation, by arguing that emotional reactions in real life are not necessarily mediated by symbolic processes, that people are involved participants of real life rather than neutral observers, and that in real life people's evaluations and emotions are typically part of an ongoing dialogue rather than the expression of a soliloquy. Results from these studies of emotional vignettes therefore tend to overestimate the importance of constructive, abstract, and individualistic processes in the everyday causation of social emotions. In real life, people do not necessarily have to calculate, transform, or internally represent the meaning of the dynamic situation in order to make emotional sense of what is happening to them in the social world. © 1993, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognition and Emotion

Publication Date





295 - 323