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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Distraction, Information Technology and Emotion as Perturbance

Much has been said in the last decade about the fact that information technology has made it difficult for people to focus on their work. Nicolas Carr in his best selling book, The Shallows has gone so far as to claim that our brains are being (adversely) rewired by technology. In Cognitive Productivity I argued against Carr’s pessimistic, neuro-babbling characterization of our problems.
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Broad Cognitive Science Deals with Emotion, Motivation and Moods

English has the largest lexicon of all languages. It is loaded with terms about affect (emotion, moods, motivation). Western culture has produced a panoply of emotion-conveying art that displays the tremendous power of “folk psychology”. Still, it does not equip us to understand and handle emotion as well as we could and perhaps should.

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