Special Triple Issue: Emotion Experience


Giovanna  Colombetti and Evan Thompson  full text
Editorial Preface

Emotion Experience Within Consciousness

Jesse Prinz  abstract
Are Emotions Feelings?
James Russell  abstract
Emotion in Human Consciousness Is Based on Core Affect
Matthew Ratcliffe  abstract
The Feeling of Being

The Valence of Emotion

Francisco Varela & Natalie Depraz  abstract
At the Source of Time: Valence and the Constitutional Dynamics of Affect
Louis Charland  abstract
The Heat of Emotion: Valence and the Demarcation Problem
Giovanna Colombetti  abstract
Appraising Valence

Imagined Emotion Experience

Peter Goldie  abstract
Imagination and the Distorting Power of Emotion
Ralph Ellis  abstract
The Roles of Imagery and Meta-Emotion in Deliberate Choice and Moral Psychology

Emotion Experience and the Brain

Jaak Panksepp  abstract
On the Embodied Neural Nature of Core Emotional Affects
Douglas Watt  abstract
Social Bonds and the Nature of Empathy
Marc Lewis & Rebecca Todd  abstract
Getting Emotional: A Neural Perspective on Intention and Consciousness
David Rudrauf & Antonio Damasio  abstract
A Conjecture Regarding the Biological Mechanism of Subjectivity and Feeling


Louis C. Charland

The Heat of Emotion: Valence and the Demarcation Problem

Philosophical discussions regarding the status of emotion as a scientific domain usually get framed in terms of the question whether emotion is a natural kind. That approach to the issues is wrongheaded for two reasons. First, it has led to an intractable philosophical impasse that ultimately misconstrues the character of the relevant debate in emotion science. Second, and most important, it entirely ignores valence, a central feature of emotion experience, and probably the most promising criterion for demarcating emotion from cognition and other related domains. An alternate philosophical hypothesis for addressing the issues is proposed. It is that emotion is a naturally occurring valenced phenomenon that is variously modifiable by psychological and cultural circumstances. This proposal should improve the chances for collaboration between philosophical and scientific researchers interested in emotion, something that has been notoriously absent from the present ‘debate’, which has mostly been a philosopher’s game.

Correspondence: Louis C. Charland, Departments of Philosophy and Psychiatry & Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London Ontario Canada N6A3K7. Email: charland@uwo.ca

Giovanna Colombetti

Appraising Valence

‘Valence’ is used in many different ways in emotion theory. It generally refers to the ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ character of an emotion, as well as to the ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ character of some aspect of emotion. After reviewing these different uses, I point to the conceptual problems that come with them. In particular, I distinguish: problems that arise from conflating the valence of an emotion with the valence of its aspects, and problems that arise from the very idea that an emotion (and/or its aspects) can be divided into mutually exclusive opposites. The first group of problems does not question the classic dichotomous notion of valence, but the second does. In order to do justice to the richness of daily emotions, emotion science needs more complex conceptual tools.

Correspondence: Giovanna Colombetti, Laboratorio di Scienze Cognitive, Università degli Studi di Trento, via Tartarotti, 7, 38068 Rovereto, Italy. Email: colombetti@form.unitn.it

Ralph D. Ellis

The Roles of Imagery and Meta- emotion in Deliberate Choice and Moral Psychology

Understanding the role of emotion in reasoned, deliberate choice — particularly moral experience — requires three components: (a) Meta-emotion, allowing self-generated voluntary imagery and/or narratives that in turn trigger first-order emotions we may not already have, but would like to have for moral or other reasons. (b) Hardwired mammalian altruistic sentiments, necessary but not sufficient for moral motivation. (c) Neuropsychological grounding for what Hume called ‘love of truth,’ with two important effects in humans: (i) generalization of altruistic feelings beyond natural sympathy for conspecifics; and (ii) motivation to inquire into moral/political/psychological truth without automatic, a priori commitment to specific action tendencies — to avoid trivializing ethical and social choices. After deliberation, the desired behaviour is then triggered by using meta-emotion and voluntary imagery to ‘pull up’ and habituate the needed first-order emotions. The neuropsychological basis for Hume’s ‘love of truth’ is traced to Panksepp’s ‘seeking system’ in combination with some prefrontal executive capacities.

Correspondence: Ralph D. Ellis, Campus P.O. Box 1832, Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA 30314, USA.  Email: ralphellis@mindspring.com

Peter Goldie

Imagination and the Distorting Power of Emotion

In real life, emotions can distort practical reasoning, typically in ways that it is difficult to realise at the time, or to envisage and plan for in advance. This feature of real life emotional experience raises difficulties for imagining such experiences through centrally imagining, or imagining ‘from the inside’. I argue instead for the important psychological role played by another kind of imagining: imagining from an external perspective. This external perspective can draw on the dramatic irony involved in imagining these typical cases, where one knows outside the scope of the imagining what one does not know as part of the content of what one imagines: namely, that the imagined emotion is distorting one’s reasoning. Moreover, imagining from an external perspective allows one to evaluate the imagined events in a way that imagining from the inside does not.

Correspondence: Email: Peter.Goldie@Manchester.ac.uk

Marc D. Lewis & Rebecca M. Todd

Getting Emotional: A Neural Perspective on Emotion, Intention, and Consciousness

Intentions and emotions arise together, and emotions compel us to pursue goals. However, it is not clear when emotions become objects of awareness, how emotional awareness changes with goal pursuit, or how psychological and neural processes mediate such change. We first review a psychological model of emotional episodes and propose that goal obstruction extends the duration of these episodes while increasing cognitive complexity and emotional intensity. We suggest that attention is initially focused on action plans and their obstruction, and only when this obstruction persists does focal attention come to include emotional states themselves. We then model the self-organization of neural activities that hypothetically underlie the evolution of an emotional episode. Phases of emotional awareness are argued to parallel phases of synchronization across neural systems. We suggest that prefrontal activities greatly extend intentional states while focal attention integrates emotional awareness and goal pursuit in a comprehensive sense of the self in the world.

Correspondence: Marc D. Lewis, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6, Canada. Email: mlewis@oise.utoronto.ca

Jaak Panksepp

On the Embodied Neural Nature of Core Emotional Affects

Basic affects reflect the diversity of satisfactions (potential rewards/reinforcements) and discomforts (punishments) that are inherited tools for living from our ancestral past. Affects are neurobiologically-ingrained potentials of the nervous system, which are triggered, moulded and refined by life experiences. Cognitive, information-processing approaches and computational metaphors cannot penetrate foundational affective processes. Animal models allow us to empirically analyse the large-scale neural ensembles that generate emotional-action dynamics that are critically important for creating emotional feelings. Such approaches offer robust neuro-epistemological strategies to decode the fundamental nature of affects in all mammals, including humans, but they remain to be widely implemented. Here I summarize how we can develop a cross-species affective neuroscience that probes the neural nature of emotional affective states by studying the instinctual emotional apparatus of the mammalian body and brain. Affective feelings and emotional actions may reflect the dynamics of the primal viscero-somatic homunculus of SELF-representation.

Correspondence: Jaak Panksepp, Dept. of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA; Center for the Study of Animal Well-Being, Dept. of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA  99164-6520, USA. Email: jpankse@bgnet.bgsu.ed

Jesse Prinz

Are Emotions Feelings?

The majority of emotion researchers reject the feeling theory of emotions; they deny that emotions are feelings. Some of these researchers admit that emotions have feelings as components, but they insist that emotions contain other components as well, such as cognitions. I argue for a qualified version of the feeling theory. I present evidence in support William James’s conjecture that emotions are perceptions of patterned changes in the body. When such perceptions are conscious, they qualify as feelings. But the bodily perceptions constituting emotions can occur unconsciously. When that occurs, emotions are unfelt. Thus, emotions are feelings when conscious, and they are not feelings when unconscious. In the end of the paper, I briefly sketch a theory of how emotions and other perceptual states become conscious.

Correspondence: Jesse Prinz, Dept of Philosophy, Caldwell Hall, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. Email: jesse@subcortex.com

Matthew Ratcliffe

The Feeling of Being

There has been much recent philosophical discussion concerning the relationship between emotion and feeling. However, everyday talk of ‘feeling’ is not restricted to emotional feeling and the current emphasis on emotions has led to a neglect of other kinds of feeling. These include feelings of homeliness, belonging, separation, unfamiliarity, power, control, being part of something, being at one with nature and ‘being there’. Such feelings are perhaps not ‘emotional’. However, I suggest here that they do form a distinctive group; all of them are ways of ‘finding ourselves in the world’. Indeed, our sense that there is a world and that we are ‘in it’ is, I suggest, constituted by feeling. I offer an analysis of what such ‘existential feelings’ consist of, showing how they can be both ‘bodily feelings’ and, at the same time, part of the structure of intentionality.

Correspondence: Email: m.j.ratcliffe@durham.ac.uk

David Rudrauf and Antonio Damasio

A Conjecture Regarding the Biological Mechanism of Subjectivity and Feeling

In this article we present a conjecture regarding the biology of subjectivity and feeling, based on biophysical and phenomenological considerations. We propose that feeling, as a subjective phenomenon, would come to life as a process of resistance to variance hypothesized to occur during the unfolding of cognition and behaviours in the wakeful and emoting individual. After showing how the notion of affect, when considered from a biological standpoint, suggests an underlying process of resistance to variance, we discuss how vigilance, emotional arousal and attentional behaviours reflect a dynamics of controlled over-excitation related to cognitive integration and control. This can be described as a form of resistance to variance. We discuss how such a dynamics objectively creates an internal state of tension and affectedness in the system that could be associated with subjective states. Such a dynamics is shaped by the system’s need to cope with its own inertia, to engage in intentional behaviours, attend, preserve coherence, grapple with divergent cognitive, emotional and motivational tendencies, and delayed auto-perturbations of the brain-body system. More generally, it is related to the need to respect the hierarchy of the various influences which affect its internal dynamics and organization.

Correspondence: Email: david_rudrauf@hotmail.com

James A. Russell

Emotion in Human Consciousness Is Built on Core Affect

This article explores the idea that Core Affect provides the emotional quality to any conscious state. Core Affect is the neurophysiological state always accessible as simply feeling good or bad, energized or enervated, even if it is not always the focus of attention. Core Affect, alone or more typically combined with other psychological processes, is found in the experiences of feeling, mood and emotion, including the subjective experiences of fear, anger and other so-called basic emotions which are commonly (but on this account, not) thought to be raw, primitive, and universal emotional qualia.

Correspondence: James A. Russell, Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA. Email: james.russell.1@bc.edu

Francisco J. Varela and Natalie Depraz

At the Source of Time: Valence and the constitutional dynamics of affect

This paper represents a step in the analysis of the key, but much-neglected role of affect and emotions as the originary source of the living present, as a foundational dimension of the moment-to-moment emergence of consciousness. In a more general sense, we may express the question in the following terms: there seems to be a growing consensus from various sources — philosophical, empirical and clinical — that emotions cannot be seen as a mere ‘coloration’ of the cognitive agent, understood as a formal or un-affected self, but are immanent and inextricable from every mental act. How can this be borne out, beyond just announcing it? Specifically, what is the role of affect-emotion in the self-movement of the flow, of the temporal stream of consciousness?

Correspondence: Natalie Depraz, Departement de Philosophie, Université de Paris IV (Sorbonne) and Collège International de Philosophie, Paris, France. Email: frj@ccr.jussieu.fr

Douglas F. Watt

Social Bonds and the Nature of Empathy

Considerations stemming from a basic taxonomy of emotion suggest that the creation of social bonds is a critical domain for affective neuroscience. A critical phenomenon within this group of processes promoting attachment is empathy, a process essential to mitigation of human suffering, and for both the creation and long term stability of social bonds. Models of empathy emerging from cognitive and affective neuroscience show widespread confusion about cognitive versus affective dimensions to empathy. Human empathy probably reflects admixtures of more primitive ‘affective resonance’ or contagion mechanisms, melded with developmentally later-arriving emotion identification, and theory of mind/perspective taking. From these considerations, a basic model of affective empathy is generated as a gated resonance induction of the internal distress of another creature, with an intrinsic motivation to relieve the distress. It is ‘gated,’ in that at least four classes of hypothesized variables determine intensity of an empathic response to the suffering of another. Differential predictions of this model vs. current ones, and future tests are proposed.

Correspondence: Douglas F. Watt, Ph.D., Clinic for Cognitive Disorders, Quincy Medical Center, Boston University, School of Medicine, Quincy, MA 02169, USA. Email: dfwatt@brahmacom.com

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