On 9/28/07, Kenneth Stanley <kstanley@...
> John, how instrumental in your view of emotion is the idea that it is
> a "wave" as opposed to some other conduit of information? What is
> about waves and wave functions that makes you feel they are the right
> level of abstraction for emotion?
This is somewhat of a mechanistic model. The 'wave' in question is
the 'flowing neurochemical signal' that travels through a biological
Knowing that the 'wave' is implemented via neurochemicals which take
time to be taken back into the cells once they fire, it is easy to see
how these 'waves' would exhibit some of the same behaviors of our
classic 'waves', such as additivity. When two classic waves enter
into the same space, they bend their medium in such a way as to either
augment or cancel out. In the brain, when two signals arrive at the
same location in near time, the signal from the first has not yet
finished being taken up, so the second signal adds to what is left of
the first, potentially triggering that neuron to fire when the first
signal alone could not. Thus, they are additive.
Music is something we do because we like it. Every human emotion can
be triggered through music. Music theory tells us that we will find
two notes 'pleasant' if their frequencies are a fraction of two
relatively small integers apart from one another (I may not have
worded that exactly correct, but try to extract the intent. :) This
is best understood by graphing sine waves. The sound wave goes from
high density to low density in a cyclic pattern, a frequency, like a
sine wave. If you add another sine wave, much like mixing multiple
sounds together, then the one either adds to or cancels out the other
at any given moment. The characteristics of the resultant wave
determines whether or not it will be deemed 'consonant' or
'dissonant,' 'pleasant' or 'unpleasant.' Which it will be is well
In the brain, any regularly occurring sensation will set up a
'frequency following response' (you can google it) which is in essence
a 'standing wave' in the brain whose characteristic frequency matches
the frequency of the original sensation. This means that if you hear
one frequency in one ear (e.g. 440 hz), and another similar frequency
(e.g. 450 hz) in the other ear, then you will have two standing waves
in your brain. The one will interact with the other in a 10 hz cycle,
going from 'reinforcing' to 'canceling out' at a rate of 10 times a
second. The individual will perceive this as a 'beat frequency'
(google: "binaural beat" and "brainwave entrainment"). The signals
interact in the brain EXACTLY like they interact in your mathematical
model of adding sine waves together. There are significant
implications to this fact.
Add to this an interesting concept: Synesthesia. Normally, one part
of the brain is dedicated to processing one type of signal, and
different regions don't typically interact except in well defined
ways. However, sometimes, when the amount of real-estate that has
been coopted into participating in the processing of the signals
brings the one processing region into close proximity to another
region, then signals may bleed from the one to the other. This would
be experienced as a 'mixing up' of senses, such that you can hear a
color, or see a shape when you hear a sound. People who take certain
substances into their bloodstream experience this as a side-effect
(trippy!) while others naturally experience it as part of their
every-day experience. But everyone is capable of experiencing it if
they allow themselves to 'fully experience' their senses.
The point is that the signals from one part of the brain are not
incompatible with other parts of the brain. The 'language of
computation' of the brain is the same for the whole brain, not just
the audio-processing center. Thus, the rules for music are the same
as the rules for 'shape' or 'color' or 'scent' or 'texture.' The
principles that determine our emotional response to music are the same
rules that could be used to predict our emotional response to ANY
stimuli, if we can understand how the stimuli gets translated into
internal 'waves' of information within the brain.
I propose that the translation mechanism is designed or evolved so as
to maximize 'compatibility' between the various senses, so that one
can use the signals from one and mix them with the others in order to
find correlation and learn from them. Likewise, I propose that memory
is the re-creation of old wave patterns, and that our experience of
emotions (vs. pleasure/pain) is founded on the same exact principle,
just applied to the 'memory' wave as it interacts with the
'perception' waves (at whatever level of abstraction is appropriate).
As a test, take a long hard look at the things that make you happy vs.
the things that make you sad. You will find that the things which
make you unhappy are things where your belief about how they SHOULD be
does not line up with how you perceive things to be. But like music,
there is a degree of 'difference' beyond which the two don't seem to
interact. If they are too different, reality doesn't 'effect' you.
There is another region wherein they become 'dissonant' or
'discordant' and therefore unpleasant, and yet another 'consonant' or
'resonant' region which is generally experienced as joyous. The more
of your beliefs that are 'confirmed' by or resonant to your
perception, the larger the magnitude of the experience of joy. The
closer to resonant it is while still being off, the more dissonant it
This theory completely explains why Saturday-morning cartoons are just
as 'believable' as live-action films, but a C.G. that is too close to
real but is off triggers a rejection, a negative response. It is in
that 'dissonant' area, where the 'waves' in the brain triggered by the
sensation are setting up too many expectations which the signals are
not meeting. It explains the difference between a good actor and a
bad one, because the good one more fully meets our expectations. It
explains our appreciation of beauty, because the mathematical
characteristics of the wave form that forms in our minds from our
sensations has some kind of positive (predictable) relationship with
our expectation, which is itself based on past experiences as a kind
of Bayesian 'average'.
Which is why I believe that it is possible to build a neural network
that could learn to recognize the characteristics of 'good' images.
Because ultimately, it's all math.
Does that make sense?
> Also, I wasn't sure, by "wave function" are you referring to quantum
> mechanics? Or I could be misunderstanding.
No, I'm referring to waves and how they function. Key elements are
the fact that a wave is technically a 'construct' or 'configuration'
of a medium, which 'travels' through the medium. I'm talking about
the 'functionality' of 'waves' and the way that mathematical
'functions' can describe them.
John (at) Hanlons Razor (dot) com
John (at) Arrowwood Photography (dot) com