On Having One or More Theories of Emotion: Perturbance and Ur-Emotions

We can’t get away from “folk psychology” and “intuitive physics” (also known as “naive physics”), i.e., from using everyday concepts like emotion, memory, force and energy. However, in everyday discussions as in more technical ones, those words can trip us up. “Emotion” in particular is a tricky one. This difficulty is acknowledged in multiple articles in the emotion literature (and elsewhere on this web site). But, even in psychology, often the term is used without reference to particular theory of emotions. And therein lies the problem:

without a reference theory of emotion, the term “emotion” doesn’t mean much at all.

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A Tale of Two Summer Conferences: ISRE-2015 and CogSci 2015

I attended and presented at two conferences this summer:

  • ISRE-2015 July 8-10, in Geneva (International Society for Research on Emotions),
  • CogSci 2015, July 23-25 in Pasadena (37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society).

I enjoyed and will continue to benefit from both conferences. But there were psychosocially interestingly differences.

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On Ruminating and Intrusive Thinking…

I’ve been thinking a lot about rumination recently… actually have been for quite a while. Obviously, rumination can  hinder productivity. Psychologists have looked at the dark-side of rumination, to the point of defining it as counterproductive.  However, some measure of obsession and tenacity is required in order to stick with and solve hard problems. The history of expertise and creativity in science are a testament to such tenacity. (See the discussion of cognitive miserliness and other thinking dispositions in Cognitive Productivity. [Footnote 1] )
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“Information Overload” and Productivity

Yesterday, I was interviewed by Ian Jessop of CFAX 1050 Victoria on the topic of “Information Overload and Cognitive Productivity”. We had a good 20-minute chat. Here are some of my reflections on the topic.

Information Overload Myths and Realities

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My 2015 Progress Update (to Feb 15)

Already mid-February! A good time to see whether I’m on track for my 2015 plans.

I’ve never published my personal progress reports online before. But I wanted to take a detailed look at the last few weeks. And it might be helpful to some of my collaborators, stakeholders, clients or customers, who only see a certain slice of my life. Also, it will give you a picture of the R&D behind the products I develop. I run different facets of my projects through different organizations ( CogZest, CogSci Apps Corp. and Simon Fraser University). It also illustrates the variety of tasks that small business leaders engage in.

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Meta-painting & Science of the Human Mind: An Epistolary Response to Lam Wong’s 21 Elements

Preface

A version of this essay will appear in the second edition of Lam Wong’s 21 Elements book. The book is based on his September 2014 exhibition, about which I have recently blogged. For reasons that will become obvious, I’ve written this document as a letter to a fictional friend.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin: Pessoa’s Cognitive-Emotional Brain

Luiz Pessoa Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland has recently published The Cognitive-Emotional Brain: From Interactions to Integration a book that lends neuroscientific support to one of the major tenets of CogZest and Cognitive Productivity. I haven’t read the book yet; but I’ve heard Pessoa interviewed by Ginger Campbell on one of my favourite podcasts, the Brain Science Podcast. In this compelling episode, which I highly recommend, they focus mainly on the amygdala and a region of the thalamus, debunking several myths while conveying very deep ideas about the brain, not the least of which is the importance of embracing complexity.
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Call for Papers: Workshop on Computational Modeling of Cognition-Emotion Interactions: Relevance to Mechanisms of Affective Disorders and Therapeutic Action

On July 23, at the CogSci 2014 conference in Quebec City, there will be a workshop on “Computational Modeling of Cognition-Emotion Interactions: Relevance to Mechanisms of Affective Disorders and Therapeutic Action”. I am on the workshop’s panel committee, with a great set of researchers. I will also be submitting a paper.

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Emotion as Perturbance, Draft of ACT in Three Acts (Performed)

I was asked to assemble a service for Beacon Unitarian. I accepted and decided to meet several constraints, some of which are mentioned below.

As I said in my last post, I am trying to relate (a) acceptance and commitment therapy/training to (b) H-CogAff (a theory of affect). This is to better understand mental phenomena and to develop new solutions that promote well-being and cognitive productivity (including “meta-effectiveness”, the skills and propensity to use knowledge to become more effective.)

So, I decided to create a service entitled Emotion as Perturbance: A Draft of ACT in Three Acts to informally present the perturbance theory of emotion in combination with acceptance and commitment therapy/training and the work of Jacques Brel. That allowed me to pursue several CogZest projects in one Zest of Brel production.
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You Can’t Fully Control Your Own Mind: Affect at Work

It is tempting to say that having control over own’s emotions, or more generally one’s affect, is necessary for cognitive productivity and overall well-being. But “control” is too strong a word. For the mechanisms that generate “affect”—moods, emotions, feelings, urges, wishes, wants and so on–are not under direct voluntary control. You can effectively instruct your finger to scratch your nose. In contrast, (normally) you can’t simply will yourself to stop feeling pain, hunger, sadness or fear. It’s worth noting that the instruction to scratch your nose is not directly effected because human behaviour and perception are always very indirect, mediated by several neural layers and several virtual layers, as a bit of neuropsychology or computational modeling quickly reveal. (Going forward, you will notice that many authors overlook this critical fact when they talk about “direct perception” of the world or their minds. They’re wrong. In fact, people can be mistaken about the contents of their own consciousness!)
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