In “Emergent Ghosts of the Emotion Machine,” James Coan neglects emotion displays involved in social communication and activity in central neurochemical systems associated with drug-induced changes in feelings and desires. Also, he fails to recognize that emotions are not rigidly bound to action tendencies, but rather have evolved internal signals to afford flexibility of response. Emotion indices naturally lack close coordination because different aspects—physiological arousal, expressive display, subjective experience—are differentially accessible to the responder and interaction partner, and therefore undergo different (...) social learning histories. Emotions are entities both at the biological level, involving special-purpose primes, and at the ecological level, involving displays reflecting communicative demands characteristic of a species. Language, not emotion, is the ghost in the machine. (shrink)
Primary affects exist at an ecological-communicative level of analysis, and therefore are not identifiable with specific brain regions. The constructionist view favored in the target article, that emotions emerge from does not specify the nature of these processes. These more basic processes may actually involve specific neurochemical systems, that is, primary motivational-emotional systems (primes), associated with specific feelings and desires that combine to form the of experienced emotion.
Self-organizing dynamic systems (DS) modeling is appropriate to conceptualizing the relationship between emotion and cognition-appraisal. Indeed, DS modeling can be applied to encompass and integrate additional phenomena at levels lower than emotional interpretations (genes), at the same level (motives), and at higher levels (social, cognitive, and moral emotions). Also, communication is a phenomenon involved in dynamic system interactions at all levels.
Rachlin uses the word “choice” 80 times, whereas “emotion” does not appear. In contrast, “Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases” by Preston and de Waal, uses the word “emotion” 139 times and “choice” once. This commentary compares these ways of approaching empathy and altruism, relating Rachlin's approach to Gilligan's Morality of Justice and Preston and de Waal's to the Morality of Caring.
Motivation and emotion are not clearly defined and differentiated in Rolls's The brain and emotion, reflecting a widespread problem in conceptualizing these phenomena. An adequate theory of emotion cannot be based upon reward and punishment alone. Basic mechanisms of arousal, agonistic, and prosocial motives-emotions exist in addition to reward-punishment systems.