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Coping and the Simulation of Events

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.1989.7.2.174

In this article we propose a cognitive theory of coping that centers on the mental simulation of past, future, and hypothetical events. We suggest that event simulation serves both problem-solving and emotional regulation functions for ongoing and past stressors through three main attributes: (1) simulation increases the perceived validity or truth of the imagined experience, (2) it provides a framework for organizing experience, and (3) it provides a mechanism for mustering particular emotions and arousal. These qualities, in turn, help translate thought into action by increasing the expectancy that the imagined event will occur, by providing plans and by increasing motivation. The article also attempts to integrate mundane planning, fantasy experience, goal seeking, and ruminative thought over past stressors into a single perspective on coping.