What Is Primary Appraisal in Psychology?

Ian Nolan/Cultura/Getty Images

According to the University of Twente, primary appraisal occurs when a person recognizes an impending threatening or stressful event and evaluates the significance of the event. Primary appraisal is the first stage in the transactional model of stress and coping.

The University of Twente explains that a person may judge that an impending event is going to be positive, negative or irrelevant, among other possibilities. Primary appraisal is followed by a secondary appraisal, in which a person determines if the event is controllable, and what options exist to cope with the strategy. People begin using coping mechanisms after secondary assessment, which determine the outcome of the event.

California State University, Northridge explains that an individual’s primary appraisal affects the cognitive component of coping. After recognizing that a potentially stressful situation is at hand, the secondary assessment leads the person to determine how to cope with the situation, given the resources on hand. These resources include the health of the person, his psychological status and his self-esteem.

California State University, Northridge states that the process by which humans cope with stress is complicated and scientists are continually refining their ideas about the process. Some suggest that humans have an optimal level of coping that maximizes the costs and benefits of dealing with stressful situations.