Some Theoretical Remarks Concerning A Theory Of Mind

As we have seen above, in our review of psychological theories of emotional order and disorder in Chapters 3 and 4 we introduced a number of important topics from cognitive psychology, such as modularity, multiple representations, and so forth. These ideas were presented very much on a "need to know" basis, addressing only those details necessary to understand the theory under discussion. This has left us

Table 5.2 Principal points derived from Chapters 2-4, which any comprehensive model of emotions would need to account for


The cognitive philosophy of Theories of normal Theories of emotional emotion emotion disorder

The mind is a functional system

All emotional states comprise: an event; an appraisal; an interpretation; a physiological change and conscious awareness Emotional states can only meaningfully be distinguished one from the other on the basis of the appraisal component Broad distinctions can be drawn between emotional states, moods, and dispositions

The notion of conscious and unconscious emotional systems

Multiple levels and formats of representation Modular architecture One set of basic appraisal scenarios

Idea of levels or cycles of appraisal leading to increasingly sophisticated emotional responses

The importance of life events The concept of vulnerability The processes of inhibition The concept of emotional interlock and/or coupling with a somewhat heterogeneous collection of cognitive processes and principles (see Table 5.2) which we have argued are important to an understanding of emotion. In the present section we will endeavour to tie all of these various strands together into a more comprehensive theory of mind that we can then use as a framework for the discussion of emotions which forms the main part of the chapter.

Presenting a theory of mind, however briefly, is an ambitious undertaking and it is important to emphasise that our reasons for doing so arise from the need for such a theoretical outline when approaching the subject of the emotions. We shall side-step many important philosophical and psychological issues along the way, because they are beyond the scope of our rather focused ambitions and we have no wish to squander the reader's hard-won attention on them. We shall also draw distinctions between different types of knowledge or between different cognitive systems, because we believe they are useful in understanding emotional phenomena. Some of these distinctions will cut across the more familiar divisions that are established in philosophy and psychology. However, there is little convincing evidence that the cake should be sliced in one way as opposed to another, and we make no apologies for the size, shape, or taste of our particular slices.

It is useful at this point to preview briefly how this section of the chapter is organised. The first area that we tackle concerns what we shall bravely call the contents of the mind; that is, how the subject matter of the representations that people hold might be organised. We then move on to discuss how those representations are instantiated in the mind; that is, the format of the representations that people hold and their relationship to each other. Finally, we discuss the processes that seem to act on these representations.

These distinctions between the content of representations, the type and format of representations, and the processes that act on representations are inevitably somewhat artificial. Cognitive science, with its appetite for connectionist approaches, has often dispensed with any meaningful content-process distinction (e.g., Posner, 1989). However, as will become clear, although we envisage an important role for connectionist or associative representations in a model of emotions, we also emphasise the importance of other types of representational architecture. For this reason, a distinction between format, content, and process remains heuristically useful and is implemented throughout the rest of the book.

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Letting Go, Moving On

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