Bower’s Network Theory of Psychology

Gordon H. Bower was born in the year 1932 and his main focus was on the study of cognitive psychology. Memory behaviors and their modifications emotion and language comprehension are also the subjects on which he researched with his specialization in cognitive psychology. In the year 2005, National Medal of Science was awarded to him because of his extensive work and researches. He is accredited for his famous Network theory. 

Gordon H Bower

Network Theory

Gilligan and Bower developed a theory in 1984 called the semantic network theory. The theory came up with six basic assumptions. These have been highlighted below:

  • Emotions play the role of nodes or units they have significant connections with the ideas and to the physiological systems and finally to the events and the expressions of muscular patterns.
  • The material of emotions is stored in the semantic network which serve as a theory and statement.
  • The thought processes occur in the semantic network with the activation of nodes present in semantic areas.
  • Internal as well as external stimuli cause the activation of nodes in the semantic network.
  • When a particular node is activated this spreads to the linked nodes to the emotions which are associated with this also are expressed.
  • When a network of nodes are activated with a particularly above average threshold level it constitutes consciousness.

These theories lead to the formulation of different testable hypothesis. These are as follows:

  • Mood-state-dependent memory, when the mood and the learning at the time of retrieval matches then the memory is best
  • It is concerned with the linkages and associations which are formed during the learning processes between the nodes which are activated and the emotions and mood state of the participant at the particular time
  • When the participant recalls the stored information the mood state at this time constitutes the evocation of the proper emotion
  • When this activation occurs , it then spreads to the nodes which are associated with it
  • The recall is best when the mood at the time of learning is synchronized and matches with the time of recall
  • The associative linkages between the material which is to be remembered and the emotion associated with it are relatively weak
  • The retrieval cues are best provided by the memory tests and the list of words etc. linked with emotion are not able to boost performance
  • Mood congruity, when the current mode and the effective value of the person learning the information are corresponding the information linked to the emotion is learnt the best.
  • When the participant is in a good mood he is likely to remember the and learn the material which is emotionally positive.
  • Similarly when a person is in a bad mood he is likely to learn and then remember those materials which evoke negative emotionality.

  • This also depends on the fact that the information which is high in any emotion is linked with its congruent emotion and its particular node rather than the other nodes.
  • An example of this is that if someone has a material like a robbery of himself then this evokes the emotions of fear and sadness. The events and the experiences are associated with the emotion node of fear.
  • Extensive and elaborative encoding occurs of the material which has to be remembered which in turn leads to the stronger memory and the recall of the long term memory is also superior. 
  • During the retrieval process the information which is compatible and identical to the mood of the person is likely to be more activated than the information which is incompatible with the mood state of the person.
  • The retrieval is more effective and can be easily done when mood and information are congruent with each other.
  • Thought congruity, the interpretations thoughts free associations and judgments are compatible with the current mood of the person.
  • It corresponds to two things; the mood of the person at the particular stage activates the emotion linked to it and secondly this activation of the emotion spreads from one node to the other and the nodes associated with it which then has the information which is compatible with the information of the activated node and the emotion linked with it
  • Mood intensity, when the intensity of the mood increases the direct increase of the nodes associated with the networks associated also takes place

Mood State Dependent Memory

– Dissociative Identity Disorder

In the year 1994, Bower proposed that the research conducted on the patients with dissociative identity disorder which was previously known as the multiple personality disorder is somewhat linked with the network theory proposed by him. The people diagnosed with this disorder have two or more different personalities with each of them having their own moods, emotions and personality features. Bower was of the point of view that the personality which is being expressed at the particular moment and the information learnt at this is not accessible to the other personality when the latter one is in control. It is also sometimes referred to as the inter-identity amnesia. Mood state dependent memory affects the dissociative identity disorder. There are few evidences available for these effects of mood state dependent memory on the test of the memory which is implicit and does not require the conscious recollection of the memory. The stimuli in the implicit memory are not under control and are unconscious so it is not subjected to mood state dependent memory.

In the year 1988, Nissen studied the two forms of memory; explicit and implicit. The study was conducted on a woman with age 45 years. She had 22 different personalities which were ranging from the ages of 5 till 45 years. The personality which was 45 years old was Charles, an aggressive old and drinker lady.  The other personality was Bonnie. The age of this personality was 36 years with increased interest in social life and was very much involved in theatre. There was no improvement in the recall of the personalities with the mood state dependent forgetting and the inter identity amnesia in the explicit memory. A test of the implicit and the explicit memory was conducted on word completion task and recall test. The memory was not good for the personality which was different from that which actually learnt the information.

But there are two limitations for this study. Firstly, a few studies were performed on more than one participants and it did not include a variety of different people with different personalities. Secondly, a person with multiple personality disorder is not able to recall the information learnt by another personality. He fails to remember this information which was learned by the other personality. It is not assess-able and is not present for a longer duration.

Bower put forth the point that the patients with dissociative identity disorder do not have mood state dependent effects with the implicit memory. This puts forward the point that patients show an apparent and clear evidence when they are tested on the implicit memory in different personalities.

– Mood Congruity

In the process of testing the mood congruity various points are noted. Firstly, a mood is produced when it is followed by the information or the learning of the material or story reading which has the particular emotion toned with it. A memory test is conducted afterwards in which the participant is asked to recall the particular information when his mood has returned to the normal state. Mood congruity is evident when the affect at the time of learning is synchronized with that at the time of the recall. When the mood is neutral, at that time the material which is toned emotionally has a better learning than that which is not linked with intense emotions.      

Bower and colleagues studied the mood congruent effects. Participants in this study were hypnotized to make them feel either happy or sad and then a story of two college students was read before them, Jack and Andre. The former one is a depressed and disappointed person. He is having issues with his girlfriend as well as his academics. He is also not performing in tennis. The other guy, Andre is an outgoing and happy person and the things and his routine life is going good enough for him. The participants were to identify that which of the two persons resembled with themselves. These mood states produced changes in the physical and physiological arousal of the participants with their cognitive activity. The changes in the cognitions were responsible for the production of mood congruity. 

Another study was conducted by Rusting and DE Hart in the year 2000. The participants in this study were presented with a list of 60 words in a total. Of these, 20 were negative, 20 were neutral and the other 20 were positive. They were then asked to write sentences on each of the 60 words. A negative mood was seen in the participants in whom they had experienced depressing and distressing events. After this was done some were asked to engage in positive re-appraisal. They were to list those good and positive things which can be due to any negative event. The other group was asked to just focus on the negative items and thoughts while the control group was free in the choice of their thoughts. At the end, they were given an unexpected list of 60 words for free recall. The participants who used the continued focus condition had mood congruent effect while mood incongruence was shown by those who had positive re-appraisal condition. Failures are also seen in the findings of mood congruent effect and this is because the individuals in the negative mood are motivated towards the improvement of their mood.

– Thought Congruity

Various studies have been performed to study thought congruity. In one method, the participants are first put in either a positive or negative mood and then they are to make judgments. Thought congruity is seen if the judgments made are positive and moderate in those participants who are in a positive mood state, but a negative and severe effect is seen in those who have a negative mood state.

In the year 2005, Forgas and Locke studied the evidences for thought congruity. In this the experienced teachers were given mood induction which put them in either a happy or sad state. They were then given four sketches and stories which were somewhat related to the conditions and situations in a workplace. For each of the four pictures, the teacher had to make judgments which were to be based on them experiencing that situation themselves. They imagined themselves in each of the four situations and their mood state influenced them. A happy and contented mood state produced positive, optimistic and outgoing attributions. While the negative one produced critical and depressing results.

Those judgments which required extended processing are influenced by the mood of the person but those have no effect which are easily done and are not likely to be a mood state.

– Mood Intensity

In 1992, Rinck and his colleagues conducted researches in the study of mood intensity. The focus was on the intensity of the emotion and the material of the stimulus. The participants, in the study were put in a happy or sad mood which rated the pleasant and unpleasant words. Those words which were high in emotions and had intense feelings had mood congruency when they were asked to recall those words unexpectedly.

Eich, in the year 1995 also studied a hypothesis in this regard. The effects of mood state on the memory were obtained often on a recall test on memory instead of recognition test. Mood state dependent memory was more logical when the mood and emotions were more strong and intense in fact of being weak and moderate.

Network Evaluation

The network theory given by Bower is very strong and effective and gave out significant results. The researches performed in this are also very persuasive. Empirical and experimental evidences are available for the phenomenon in this and the theories formulated. Mood state dependent memory and recall thought congruity and mood congruity have extensive theories which are reasonable in application of these theories.

But there are also some negative points in this respect. The predicted effects are often not obtained and the motivation of the individuals to improve their negative mood state has also eliminated this effect. There are limitations in this approach as well. Mood influences the processes of the cognitions more than the actual issue. On the other hand, the theory is very simplified. Moods, cognitions and emotions are represented by the nodes in the semantic network. In the reality, the mood of the person does not change in intensity slowly but the cognitions act as all-or-none changes and responses.

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