A “hyper-emotion” theory of psychological illnesses is presented. The theory postulates the processes that construct bodily feelings and basic emotions are computationally crude and outside voluntary control. Psychological illnesses have an onset in which a cognitive evaluation initiates a sequence of unconscious transitions yielding a basic emotion.
This emotion is appropriate for the situation but inappropriate in its intensity. Whenever it recurs, it leads individuals to focus on the precipitating situation, and to characteristic patterns of inference that can bolster the illness. Individuals with a propensity to psychological illness accordingly reason better than more robust individuals, but only on topics relevant to their illness. The theory is assessed in light of previous studies, a small epidemiological study of patients, and three empirical studies