Curious Emotions

Roots of consciousness and personality in motivated action

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Emotion drives all cognitive processes, largely determining their qualitative feel, their structure, and in part even their content. Action-initiating centers deep in the emotional brain ground our understanding of the world by enabling us to imagine how we could act relative to it, based on endogenous motivations to engage certain levels of energy and complexity. Thus understanding personality, cognition, consciousness and action requires examining the workings of dynamical systems applied to emotional processes in living organisms. If an object's meaning depends on its action affordances, then understanding intentionality in emotion or cognition requires exploring why emotion is the bridge between action and representational processes such as thought or imagery; and this requires integrating phenomenology with neurophysiology. The resulting viewpoint, "enactivism," entails specific new predictions, and suggests that emotions are about the self-initiated actions of dynamical systems, not reactive "responses" to external events; consciousness is more about motivated anticipation than reaction to inputs. (Series A)

Subjects: Cognitive psychology; Philosophy; Consciousness research

  • Affiliations: 1: Clark Atlanta University

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