Mapping Emotions


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Emotions seem to play a role in most aspects of human interaction and life, yet scientists and philosophers still know relatively little about them.  New information on emotions is continuously evolving and Science Codex has reported on one of the newest theories on the science of Emotions.

This new theory, “the integrated embodiment theory of emotions”, is outlined in the journal of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.  It posits that emotions are formulated by the integration of different bodily perceptions that have representations of external objects, events, or states of affairs.  That is, emotions are not just representations of perception or thought but are separate mental states, which are a reflection of the integration of feelings of bodily processes and cognitive events.

Prof. Dr. Albert Newen and Dr. Luca Barlassina of the Institute of Philosophy II at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, are the creators of this new emotion theory and purport that their theory gives a unified and principled account of the relation between emotions and bodily perceptions, the intentionality of emotions, and emotion phenomenology.

This theory labeled an impure somatic theory of emotions and is contrasted with current pure somatic theories that posit emotions are entirely constituted by bodily perceptions.  Emotions are nothing but the perception of a bodily state.  That is we do not tremble because we are scared, but rather we are scared because we tremble. This theory does not, however, consider the cognitive content of many emotions, says  Newen.

The “cognitive theory of emotions” says that emotions are essentially an assessment of the situation based on reason: this dog is dangerous because he is baring his teeth. This theory is also unsatisfactory,says Newen,because it forgets the feelings as a central component of the emotion. For example, a person can judge that a dog is dangerous and at the same time have no fear because he is an expert in handling dangerous dogs. So the cognitive assessment does not necessarily determine the emotion.

According to Newen and Barlassina, the new theory is superior to Jesse Prinz’s most sophisticated theory of emotions so far, because this does not take into account that an emotion can also be directed at an object that is not present or does not even exist.

A related article from Science World Report purports that scientists may be able to tell exactly how a person feels by mapping their brain. For the first time, researchers have identified exactly which emotion a person is experiencing based solely on brain activity.

This study, published in PLOS One journal, claims to be different from others in that it does not rely on people to delineate their emotional state(s) (i.e. self-report).  It uses a computational model that identifies individuals’ thoughts of concrete objects.

Amanda Markey , one of the researchers, points out, Despite manifest differences between people’s psychology, different people tend to neutrally encode emotions in remarkably similar ways.

The researchers also found that emotion signatures aren’t necessarily limited to specific brain regions. Instead, they produce characteristics patterns throughout a number of brain regions.  In the future, the researchers plan to use this new identification method in order to overcome a number of challenging problems in emotion research, including identifying emotions that individuals are actively trying to suppress.

 Is this new theory of emotions being separate mental states superior to the old?

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