The emotional feeling as a combination of two qualia: A neurophilosophical-based emotion theory

Cognition and Emotion 22 (5):897-930 (2008)
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Abstract

It is argued that the emotional feeling comprises the following two emotional qualia. (1) A nucleus feeling or primary emotional quale, which is the phenomenological counterpart of the end product of appraisal by the central nervous system. (2) The experience of being urged to emotion-related reflection or secondary emotional quale, which is the phenomenological counterpart of the brain's decision to inhibit pre-programmed emotional behaviour, and to initiate emotion-related reflections. Different brain modules regulate these two qualia, and thus each can be experienced independently of the other. The primary emotional quale is related to activation of the amygdala, it is emotion specific, and neutral with respect to affect. The secondary emotional quale is related to activation of the orbito-prefrontal cortex (O-PFC), and includes affective aspects.It is argued that emotional behaviour is regulated by the following three neural mechanisms, two of which two are directly related to the two qualia. (1) An evolutionary ancient system (amygdala-system), which comprises the amygdalae and subcortical nuclei, and which activates pre-programmed emotional behaviour. (2) An evolutionary recent system (PFC-system), comprising the prefrontal cortex, which inhibits pre-programmed emotional behaviour, activates emotional reflection, generates and evaluates behavioural alternatives. In contrast to the pre-programmed behaviour, the behavioural alternatives are more likely to serve long-term goals. (3) A default mechanism, which gives rise to default (i.e., “just do something”) behaviour. The first two systems are mutually competitive, while the third mechanism takes over if either the competition between the first two mechanisms, or the decision process of the PFC-system, takes too long. This default mechanism involves the function of the medial-prefrontal cortex (M-PFC).

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