Re: [Cognitive Neuroscience Forum] Emotions
Emotions are establishing operations. They alter the
reinforcing efficacy of certain stimuli (to use a
stimulus-based definition of reinforcement) and alter
the probability of behavior that has been reinforced
by these stimuli. When we are made angry by someone,
for example, the reinforcing efficacy of damage to
them increases, and any behavior reinforced in similar
situations in the past becomes more probable. This is
the same sort of thing as when we increase the
reinforcing efficacy of food (alter the food "drive")
and make responses reinforced by food more probable by
'Emotion' is a word that has been with us (in the
English Language) since the early 16th century and
predominantly refers to the subjective feeling
associated with the response to certain environmental
GS: Actually, this is largely incorrect. The
etymologies of virtually all mental terms appear to
once have been frank references to behavior. The word
"suffer," for example, once meant "to go through,"
just as "experience" once referred to the actual,
largely publicly-observable, things that happened. I
will return to the issue of what is felt.
Just saying it doesn't make it true. Where are your
references that establish what you are claiming? I
have given mine (OED).
GS: The Origins of Cognitive Thought. BF Skinner. Just
Google the title, the paper is available online.
You claim that it is academic philosophy that has
altered the meaning of the word. Even if this were
true, the meaning of the word emotion has been with us
for many centuries longer than the specific
definitions of Ethology and Behaviourism.
GS: So? Check out the paper I referenced and follow up
on Skinners references. BTW, Stonjek, why do we call
sharp pains sharp?
You example of maturation shows only the limited
nature of early communication between child and adult
and not the internal states present.
GS: Are you talking about the internal states of the
person being, for example, labeled angry? Or are you
talking about the childs alleged inferences?
Words are not defined by or for children but by adults
for adult useage.
GS: Oh! Did we get together and define words? Did
I not get the memo? Or does usage evolve and then
dictionaries write it down? And do dictionary writers
ever infuse the definitions with the epistemology of
the day? Perhaps internal state is pushing it, but
ones physiology IS inside. But we do not observe the
insides when we name behavior as anger or
embarrassment, etc. any more than we observe
hydrogen and oxygen when we identify water.
You say that dictionaries are not of much help - that
is a giveaway, you obviously don't consult a
dictionary to get your word definition and etymology.
GS: I use a dictionary for both. I temper what I read,
however, with what I know or guess about verbal
behavior. Do check out the paper and the references
RKS: "Terms that allegedly refer to mental "things"
were, as I have already pointed out, frank references
to behaviour or its controlling environment, and they
are still trained as such to this day."
You give no evidence for this. Emotion references are
commonly taught to children in the context of
feelings, which are first related to states such as
'feeling hungry', 'feeling tired', 'feeling angry, sad
GS: References? Especially references that do not, as
is so often the case, confuse method and results with
assumptions? When what is named is publicly
observable children first learn to name the thing,
then to name their perceptual behavior. That is, they
learn to say, cup before they lean to say I see a
cup. Even if children are taught to name their own
emotions first (which is what I take you to be saying)
it is not clear that they are necessarily responding
to private aspects of the behavior being observed.
They might be responding to the same publicly
available behavior that we respond to when we label
emotions in the third person. Eventually the response
may come under stimulus control of strictly private
events. Either way, my claim is that when we identify
emotions in the third-person (as well as the
first-person) we are doing nothing more than what we
do when we call a chair a chair. Later, we acquire
verbal responses that are layered over these
responses, and we use logic to argue that others feel
similar to us when they display similar
publicly-observable behavior, but none of that changes
the response classes that we establish when we
reinforce mental terms in the presence of publicly
The distinction between "I feel sad" (subjectively
felt emotional state) and "he is angry" (observed
emotional _expression) is learnt quite early on with
the inference being that the _expression of emotion as
observed is accompanied by the subjective feeling of
that emotion by the person observed.
GS: Im not sure I am following what you are saying,
but I think I am. And I have given my comments on this
But if we were to follow your lead, what word should
we use to describe the inner turmoil formally referred
to as 'emotion'??
GS: Colloquial language takes care of itself. We
already have the word feelings. As to the science of
subjectivity, I have already described the useful
terms. Verbal responses are usually under some sort of
stimulus control of features of the world, and
sometimes those verbal responses are largely freed
from control by specific conditions of deprivation and
aversive stimulation. Such responses have been
referred to as tacts (and the word is sometimes used
as a verb). The fact is that we come to tact our own
behavior, some of which is inaccessible to others. How
this is done was made explicit by Skinner, but has
been occasionally hinted at by others.
The very epitome of kind regards and warm feelings,
--- Robert Karl Stonjek <stonjek@...>
> Emotions are establishing operations. They alter the