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[DPRG] Will's emotions

Subject: [DPRG] Will's emotions
From: R. Steven Rainwater srainwater at ncc.com
Date: Wed Feb 28 15:24:32 CST 2007

On Wed, 2007-02-28 at 13:54, David P. Anderson wrote:
> So anyway, at last night's RBNO Will suggested the use of the
> term "emotion" to describe a level of behavior above the
> reactive layer of subsumption.  

And, because emotion is an emotionally charged word (no pun intended) to
many people, it should be pointed out that the word has very specific
meanings within the field of cognitive science that differ from the
defintion commonly used in psychology (which, in turn, is different than
the usual meaning folk psychology). 

1. In cognitive science, emotion refers to a mental or neural state that
is usually accompanied or initiated by some physiological change. For
example, hunger, pain, fear, anger. In robot terms, it may help to think
of this as a sort of input. 

2. In psychology, emotion usually refers to the outward expression of
some internal mental state, for example, crying or smiling. In robot
terms, it might help to think of this as an output.

3. In folk psychology or non-technical usage, emotion can refer to a lot
of unrelated things but most often refers a phenomenon in humans that
cognitive scientists call "feelings": conscious mental states created by
awareness of emotions (#1), sensory data, or other internal mental

Obviously, all three of these concepts are related (1 leads to 2 in most
organisms, and 1+2 leads to 3 in some organisms). In humans the three
concepts are almost inseparable.

At the RBNO discussion last night, Will was referring to definition  1
as used by cognitive scientists, not the ideas involved in defintions 2
or 3. In particular Will was talking about the ideas of neurobiologist
Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa. 

Damasio describes emotions as representations of body states. The idea
is that emotion is a way to collapse a complex assortment of
physiological state information, some of which is spread out over time,
into a much simpler value that can quickly drive behavior, giving the
organism a significant survival advantage over organisms that lack
emotion. He also disagrees with the folk-psychology notion that emotion
is antithetical to rationality. Instead, he believes emotion provides an
essential input value that makes rationality possible. (I'm paraphrasing
a lot of this so any errors in this description are my own, not Will's
or Damasio's).

Incidentally, one of Damasio's frequent points is that Descarte (or more
generally, dualism) was wrong - the mind and body cannot be separated.
The body and the brain must be considered together to understand
intelligence. This fits in well with a point David  frequently makes
that a robot's chassis, drive train, and sensors can't be easily
separated from the controller/software; both have to considered together
to successfully solve most robot problems.


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