About the nature of emotions
It is impossible to understand how the human brain works if you do not give a clear answer to the question: what are emotions. I propose a concept that is different from all classical concepts, but allows you to build a comprehensive explanatory model. Within the framework of this model, it is possible to give an explanation of harmony, beauty and humor.
At one time, I wrote articles “Emotions in humans and light bulbs in a robot” and “Emotional computer” . There I tried to describe the adaptive control ideas that are inherent in the real brain. I will repeat the main idea.
It seems quite obvious that the sensations, emotions and the “good - bad” state should be associated with human behavior. What is this connection? Probably anyone related to technology will immediately see control signals in sensations and emotions. It is quite obvious to associate part of these signals with the impulse to certain actions. It is also obvious to link the other part with informing about the achievement of the result. Naturally, there is a place for negative emotions - this is information that something is wrong and it is necessary to correct the situation, and for positive - this is information that the result has been successfully achieved. The place of memory is immediately obvious - it stores knowledge of past experience and allows you to choose the most appropriate path. If there is no past experience, then you can introduce a planning mechanism that will simulate the future and determine the behavior.
Figure 1. “Classical” scheme of action formation
In the “classic” design (Figure 1), everything is quite obvious. Key principles:
• Emotions, existing or predicted, create motivation for action.
• Motivation dictates the desired result.
• Actions are planned in order to achieve the result prescribed by motivation.
• The result is compared with the plan, negative emotions indicate a mismatch, and positive ones indicate success. Both that and another leads to adjustment of motivation.
• The results achieved, whether successful or not, are stored in memory in order to use this experience in the future.
This scheme can vary in detail and can be found in different interpretations. One thing remains unchanged - the “guiding and guiding" role of emotions that create motivation. Indeed, in our life we are constantly convinced that emotions and sensations often precede our actions. The great thing about the “classical” scheme is that it naturally falls on the everyday idea of the reasons that prompt us to act. This scheme is a balm for the soul of those who always intuitively felt how it was happening and wanted to formalize it. This scheme is so obvious that its appearance and development was absolutely inevitable. In any situation, there is a simple, understandable wrong decision. In reality, this is not happening at all. Moreover, as often happens with statements that are obvious at first glance,
“After this, therefore, as a result of this” (Latin post hoc ergo propter hoc) is a logical ploy, in which a causal relationship is identified with a chronological, temporal one.
“After means due” - it was this logical trap that sent the proponents of the “classical” model along the wrong path. The observation that emotions often precede actions led to the assumption that it is emotions that are their immediate cause. So this statement is just wrong. Namely, the whole “obvious model" is built on it. Then how is it really? Let's figure it out.
The assumption that “emotions push towards actions” forces us to inevitably build a “classical” model. In it, each element is far from accidental, but dictated by the need to achieve compliance with what is observed in reality. However, we will take a bold step and abandon the thesis “emotions push”, we will proceed from the fact that emotions and sensations only evaluate what is happening, that is, a change in the state of “good - bad” does not directly affect behavior. So, it turns out that in this case a completely logical model arises.
Figure 2. Proposed pattern of action formation
This model works as follows:
• Initially, all actions are the result of unconditioned reflexes.
• Everything that happens to us is appreciated by sensations. This assessment is reflex in nature and is determined by the state of the sensors.
• The general meaning of what is happening is evaluated by emotions.
• Feelings and emotions form a “good - bad” state.
• Each action that leads to a change in the state of “good - bad” is recorded by memory. Memorized:
o "Picture" of what was happening.
o The act performed in these circumstances.
o What a change in the state of “good - bad” this led.
• As experience accumulates, memory begins to “take control”. When a situation that has already been encountered is recognized, the memory forces you to take an action that previously led to a positive change in the “good - bad” state and blocks actions that are remembered as worsening this condition.
• The strength with which a single memory affects the commission or non-commission of an act depends on the stored degree of change in the state of “good - bad”.
• Control influences from various memories related to similar situations add up to each other.
• At every moment, an action is automatically performed, which, based on our experience, promises the maximum possible improvement in the state of "good - bad."
• New experience, once acquired, begins to participate in shaping behavior.
The fundamental difference from the "classical" scheme is that only unconditioned reflexes and memory determine the current act. This act is "inevitable" in the circumstances and does not directly depend on our assessment of what is happening. Evaluation is only important for gaining new experience. If in the “classical” scheme, emotions induce actions, then in our model, as, in fact, in life, the current action does not depend on them. At first glance, this may not seem obvious. The reason is clear. If millions of our actions are committed against a background of emotions, then an idea of a causal relationship is involuntarily formed. Once again I repeat: "after that does not mean because of that." If you watch TV for a long time, you may get the impression that weather forecasters control it.
The described idea is reinforcement training, where emotions and assessments of feelings act as the reinforcement apparatus. The only thing that emotions and assessment of feelings do is affect our state of “good - bad”.
Now we’ll try to formulate the “obvious” postulates that publicly or behind the scenes underlie the “classical” understanding of emotions:
• Human emotions are diverse and quite complex. The complexity of emotions is the result of evolution. Each of the emotions was formed in the process of natural selection, carrying with it a certain expediency.
• A child is born with a genetically predetermined set of basic emotions that are more or less the same for all people.
• The emotions of the child require formation. After passing certain stages of development, the child learns to use the emotions inherent in him.
To one degree or another, these statements form the basis of all psychological theories. These statements seem to be a logical consequence of evolutionary theory. Indeed, behind each emotion one can discern what kind of expediency it brings to behavior. But we are used to the fact that everything that is expedient is the result of natural selection. But we, modern people, are only a few million years away from apes, and from our rather wild ancestors who could not speak, and even less, only some tens of thousands. Both of these, by the standards of nature, are an instant. How could such a complex system of human emotions arise in such an insignificant time? So, what we have to give up is from the idea that emotions are the result of evolution and are inherited by us through the genome. But what about then? To answer this question, you need to answer another, perhaps the main question. So what are emotions all the same?
Our memory captures everything that happens to us, taking into account which “good - bad” state corresponds to this. When subsequently we encounter familiar symptoms, they not only affect actions, but also cause a state of “good” if they are associated with “good” memories, and a state of “bad” if they are associated with “bad” ones. In essence, this is what we call anticipation and fear. At the same time, we remember not only “good” or “bad” caused by sensations, but also “good” and “bad” caused by anticipation and fear, as well as fear of fear and anticipation of anticipation, and so on. So, all positive emotions are either anticipations of pleasant sensations, or anticipations of anticipations, and all negative ones are either fears of unpleasant sensations, or fears of other fears. That is, all emotions are not assessments inherent in nature, but solely the result of our experience. That is, a child is born only with reflexes, sensations and the ability to evaluate sensations, everything else is the result of the formation of memory, in which a complex set of anticipations and fears is created.
The building of emotions is based on the assessment of sensations, which at the first stage generate primary emotions, which, in turn, generate subsequent, secondary ones. Primary emotions are fears and anticipations of evaluating sensations, secondary emotions are fears and anticipations of primary emotions.
We must part with the thought that emotions are inherited. All the variety of emotions that we observe is an inevitable consequence of the development of a child, adolescent, person in his natural and social environment. Every child anew, from scratch, creates for himself all existing emotions. There are no emotions arising from natural selection. There are no particular emotional structures. There is only memory and its ability to influence the state of “good - bad”. Any emotion is a fear or anticipation of something that has happened to us really or in our fantasies. Each memory carries information about any fear or anticipation.
That is, if something pleased us, then all the signs that were present at the same time will subsequently cause us to be in a “good” state. And vice versa, what made us “bad” will make us afraid of its signs.
The diversity of all memories creates the totality of all fears and anticipations. In this aggregate, statistically stable reactions to situations united by a common meaning are manifested. These stable and similar reactions for all people usually mean when they talk about specific emotions.
John Watson, together with Rosalia Reiner, made remarkable observations back in 1920, which went down in history as "the case of little Albert." Experimenters tracked the formation of an emotion of fear in an 11-month-old baby. Prior to the experiments, the child was completely indifferent to white mice. During the experiments, Alberta was shown white mice and at the same time loudly banging an iron strip behind his back with a hammer, which caused a child to cry. Soon, scientists achieved that Albert began to cry only when he saw white mice. Moreover, it turned out that the baby's fear began to spread to white objects in general - white sheets of paper, a white rabbit, a white fur coat. Actually, this is a good illustration of how the experience of experiencing a “bad” state caused by loud sounds is transferred to the accompanying symptoms.
If you dig deeper, it turns out that all human emotions can be explained through the formation of statistical generalizations of the experience of evaluating what is happening. Moreover, it was possible to give an exhaustive explanation for love, harmony, beauty and humor, to believe, so to speak, algebra harmony.
I do not expect this article to be very convincing. For a coherent and evidence-based presentation, I needed to write a whole book. If someone is interested in understanding this in more detail, then the book is called “Color Emotions of the Cold Mind” (Alexei Redozubov). You can download it here .