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Re: [Cognitive Neuroscience Forum] Emotions

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  • Glen Sizemore
    GS: Emotions are establishing operations. They alter the reinforcing efficacy of certain stimuli (to use a stimulus-based definition of reinforcement) and
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 1, 2006
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      GS:
      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
      food-restriction.

      RKS:
      '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
      conditions.

      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.

      RKS:
      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.

      RKS:
      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 Skinner’s references. BTW, Stonjek, why do we call
      sharp pains “sharp”?

      RKS:
      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 child’s alleged “inferences”?

      RKS:
      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
      one’s 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.

      RKS:
      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
      Skinner gives.

      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."

      RKS:
      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
      etc'.

      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
      observable behavior.


      RKS:
      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: I’m not sure I am following what you are saying,
      but I think I am. And I have given my comments on this
      issue above.

      RKS:
      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,
      Glen

      --- Robert Karl Stonjek <stonjek@...>
      wrote:

      > GS:
      > Emotions are establishing operations. They alter the
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