Going Native. Emotion Science in the Twenty-First Century

  • de Gelder B
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Abstract

Win $100,000 to host your own conference. Submit your Research Topic SHARE ON 1 4 0 0 6 SPECIALTY GRAND CHALLENGE ARTICLE Front. Psychol., 27 July 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01212 Going Native. Emotion Science in the Twenty-First Century Beatrice de Gelder1,2,3* 1Brain and Emotion Lab, Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands 2Department of Computer Science, University College London, London, United Kingdom 3Italian Academy Institute of Advanced Studies, Columbia University, New York, NY, United States Emotion Science stuns the casual observer by the breadth of the issues that have been addressed in its long history; one need only look at the variety of chapters in the recent Handbook of Emotion Science (Barrett et al., 2016) to be impressed. Emotion research, or affective neuroscience as the recent name goes, ranges from animal and human to machine emotions and was recently extended to include robots and avatars. Its methods encompass neurobiological investigations, mainstream psychophysics experiments, studies on emotion regulation and clinical studies as well as extensive use of autobiographical and qualitative methods. Yet, since its beginnings the same persistent dichotomies concerning the nature of emotions continue to prevail. Theoretical positions have been defined again and again around conceptual contrasts that pitch emotional vs. rational or cognitive processes, basic vs. complex or constructed emotions, feelings vs. affect or emotions; implicit vs. explicit affective processes; automatic perception vs. to conscious experience or independent of it; emotion processes or emotional experience; emotions related or not to appraisal and cognition; personal vs. sub-personal processes; body vs. brain vs. mental processes; and arousal processes vs. appraisal processes. There is no doubt that emotion science will gain in importance as scientific progress shifts the interest of researchers beyond understanding the sensory and cognitive endowment of organisms for passive perception to why and how the organism is motivated to act. In order to launch emotion science in the twenty-first century we need go beyond the classical debates that have shown surprising vitality to this day. Indeed, looking at the current dichotomies, including new proposals for transcending them, one wonders whether they may simply be novel ways of sidestepping the same old issues. That brings us to the question addressed here, of whether the time has come for a more radical turn. Certainly this is not the first call for a radical move! Limiting ourselves to current debates, we see that researchers today are acutely aware of the many conceptual complexities and confusions and the need for an innovative stance to transcend the current dichotomies. Damasio (1999) has gone the furthest in conceptualizing emotions as patterns of bodily changes that combine somatic, visceral and musculoskeletal activities. Through ascending loops from the proto-self to awareness and through different levels of re-description and integration of organismic processes, the subjective emotional experience ultimately emerges and is rooted in everything before it. In contrast, Adolphs (2016) is in favor of maintaining a clear distinction between three different strata that together define what emotions are: the emotion states of the organism, our emotion concepts rooted in our language and culture and subjective emotional experiences. The notion of function is put in charge of bridging these strata and thereby building the inter-level connections or at least guaranteeing that these bridges will one day exist, even if few details are currently understood. The concept of functions plays many roles and to address this matter is well beyond our goal (see Fodor, 1968; Griffits, 1997). We only draw attention to two specific roles that the concept of function is expected to play here. One is emotions as performing a linguistic function defined by its semantic role, its role in the discourse on emotions in subjective experience and common sense guided introspection, which is what qualitative research methods most often build upon. The other meaning of function is that of a bridging principle or a set of translation rules. The assumption, or better, the hypothesis is that emotion scientists search for the functional correlates of the central concepts used to describe the affective information and explain emotion induced behavior related to it.

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de Gelder, B. (2017). Going Native. Emotion Science in the Twenty-First Century. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01212

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