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A READER'S JOURNAL
What Emotions Really Are
Paul E. Griffiths
The Problem of Psychological Categories
Published by University of Chicago in 1997
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2000
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In this book, a philosopher tackles the thorny and sticky problem of emotions as psychological categories.By a category, Griffiths means something specific, which he defines in this way:
[page 175] I try to consistently use category to refer to the aspect of reality to which some concept is supposed to correspond. I use concept to refer to a psychological entity.
To help untangle his philosophese, it seems to me that, in General Semantic terms, he uses the word category to refer to the territory and the word concept to refer to a map of the territory. Thus "the problem of psychological categories" as they apply to emotions refers to a study of the emotions themselves as people experience them. This seems simple enough, but no philosopher worth his dissertation would allow things to remain so simple. Griffiths must evaluate emotions from every possible philosophical angle. That includes the propositional attitude of Anthony Kenny, the cognitive, causal-evaluative approach of William Lyons, the six points of Robert Solomon, the emotional mental contents of Michael Stocker, and the bodily systems responses of Antonio Damasio, among others. Damasio's somatic markers are his name for physical body states or doyles. In this review, I will attempt to extract some useful insights of Griffiths work as they apply to the science of doyletics.
In doyletics we have no philosophical problem of categories or kinds or propositional attitudes because we deal directly with the doyles or physical body states and emotions, however they might be thought of cognitively. They all boil down to some set of physical body states or doyles that are triggered either by some stimulus outside the person or some thought inside the person. When some recurrent, recognizable set of doyles occur that alter our mood we acknowledge that condition by saying we are experiencing an emotion. Emotions are the names we give to sets of specific doyles.
Griffiths examines the "scientific literature on emotion from diverse disciplines including ethology, evolutionary theory, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and anthropology." (Page 7) One thing that I wholeheartedly agree with him on is his conclusion that "the general concept of emotion is unlikely to be a useful concept in psychological theory." (Page 14) That said, he proceeds to examine the short-range, mid-range, wide-range emotions. The affect program approach gives a reasonable account of the short-ranged emotions like "anger, fear, disgust, sadness, joy, and surprise." In the mid-range, it is the social constructionists that he turns to. In the larger range of emotions, he examines what the evolutionary psychologists have speculated about emotions across cultures.
Here's his take on Lazarus and other cognitivists in their approach to emotions.
[page 25] First, they claimed that an emotional response must be preceded by processing of information concerning the stimulus. This is relatively uncontroversial. Even a response as simple as surprise at a sudden noise requires some processing of the sensory input. The triggering of fear, rage, and so forth undoubtedly requires it too. Second, however, the cognitivist claims that this processing must be of a kind sufficiently sophisticated to be called cognition. Zajonc opposed this claim, citing a large number of empirical findings which suggest that there are very direct pathways leading from the perceptual system to responses that would usually be regarded as emotional. He argued that the intervening processes do not deserve to be regarded as cognitive.
Looking at this quotation in the light of doyletics, let us ask whether there is a processing of information concerning the stimulus before an emotional response occurs. Yes, definitely there is. The amygdala in the limbic system, according to LeDoux, has primitive pattern recognition capability as befits the ancient root brain that it is, both in essence and origin, both in phylogeny and ontogeny. Before humans had the full-fledged cognitive capability provided by the neocortex, they had a fully functioning limbic system that was able to store physical body states and their associated stimuli. To store a stimuli is to store some pattern that when it is later presented, triggers the release of its associated doyle that was stored in the amygdala-limbic system. Note the distinction with the doyles that comprise emotions: Yes, there is information processing; No, there is no cognitive processing by the neocortex. As LeDoux graphically illustrated in his book, there are neurons that go directly from the amygdala to the hypothalamus as well as neurons that go directly to the neocortex. Thus a signal from the amygdala will arrive at the hypothalamus at the very instant the same signal arrives at the neocortex. Thus the hypothalamus is sending out signals to change the homeostasis of the body before the neocortex is finished processing the signal! This is described in human terms the following way, "It happened before I knew it!" Some dark shadow flashed in the corner and my heart began beating faster before I was able to realize that it was simply our cat's tail.
I would have to agree with R. B. Zajonc in opposing the claim that the information processing that occurs before we experience an emotion must be cognitive. The facts are clearly in Zajonc's favor. Obviously there are signals in our environment at times that, in themselves, do not cause an automatic response of fear, but, upon cognitive processing of the signals, we become fearful. In the example of the dark shadow I mentioned above, I asked my spouse where the cat was and she said it's at the vet's over night. My relief suddenly disappeared and my heart began beating fast again. How do we explain that in terms of doyletics? What has happened is that we recovered cognitively the original signal of the dark shadow and re-triggered the same doyle that had been triggered moments before! No one disputes that cognitive processing can trigger or ameliorate emotions. But the way they do so is by triggering of doyles, which will have exactly the same result in emotional reaction as the doyle triggered by an immediate perception mediated by the amygdala-limbic system of the root brain with no cognitive processing (no neocortex processing) whatsoever. This is the process of creating emotional responses by "thought alone" as Doyle Henderson first expressed it. He used that process to help people do traces with his software program .
With the root brain and neocortex, we have parallel processing. The root brain is fast, instinctive, and indistinct. The neocortex is medium fast, conscious, and distinct. The root brain governs emotions, feelings, organized motor operations, homoeostatic settings of our internal viscera, and all other operations learned and stored before the memory transition age of five-years-old. (The existence of the memory transition age of five is a major tenet of doyletics.) The neocortex begins to operate around three-years-old and takes over all cognitive processing thereafter, but does so in tandem with the root brain which continues to work, feeding up a particular pre-five-year-old memory as a doyle so long as the neocortex with its higher cognitive processing abilities does not intervene by making a cognitive memory of that specific doyle. When that happens, the doyle is no longer activated by the root brain, instead, the cognitive memory stored in the neocortex is activated. Instead of feeling fear, we retrieve a memory of some kind. This is the essence of why a doyle trace works.
If cognitive processing alone could trigger emotional responses, then it would not be possible to eliminate emotional responses by simply removing the underlying doyles. The very fact that doyles can be removed permanently by tracing belies the cognitive processing explanation. Thus, cognitive processing as it impacts emotions is mediated by non-cognitive, limbic system processing. What cognitive processing can do, all it can do, is make an after-the-fact correction of an unwanted emotion. (This ability is the heart of cognitive or reality therapy.) Here's a classic experiment that confirms the nature of cognitive processing as after-the-fact:
[page 48] Japanese subjects were shown to cut short expressions of negative emotions in response to stressful stimuli if they experienced the stimuli in the presence of an authority figure.
Limbic system processing by virtue of its non-cognitive nature is basically unconscious. The study of Kunst-Wilson and Zajonc, in which they presented visual stimuli for very short (1 millisecond) intervals, confirms this to be true. Too short for cognitive processing or consciousness, the stimuli nevertheless had an impact on the subjects.
[page 27] When the stimuli were presented again, along with novel stimuli, recognition was at chance level but preference was linked to previous exposure. Once again information seems to be available for affective processes that is not available to paradigm "cognitive" processes. . . . Zajonc's data suggest that people can have an emotional response to something they have no thoughts about in the everyday sense of "thoughts." The data suggest the need to postulate information-processing mechanisms that operate parallel to the formation of reportable beliefs.
In Chapter 3 on Darwin's work on emotions, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, there is one delicious quote that I want to comment on:
[page 44] One of Darwin's explicit aims in this book was to refute Sir Charles Bell, who had argued in the tradition of the British natural theologians that the human face contained muscles provided by God for the purpose of expressing emotion.
Darwin proceeded in his book to show that emotional expressions are vestiges of other expressions in the hope of refuting Bell's claim. To me it is clear that the facial expressions are as much a communication of one's inner state as are one's vocal expressions. The tone of one's voice changes as one's facial expressions change, as anyone can notice. Would finding speech to be a vestige of animal grunts refute the idea that humans are designed to be able to communicate their inner states by talking? And since facial expressions and voice tone are parallel channels of the same communication, a communication of one's inner state, surely by whatever path we arrived at them, those capabilities have a divine intent.
The tenets of doyletics that emotions are comprised of physical body states stored in the amygdala-limbic system are supported by a current revival of the James-Lange theory.
[page 81] Antonio Damasio's recent best-selling account of research into the neural basis of emotion embraces James as the intellectual ancestor of his theory that emotion feeling is the perception in the neocortex of bodily responses to stimuli mediated through lower brain centers.
What led the James-Lange theory into disrepute were the efforts of skeptics such as Walter D. Cannon around 1930. He argued that experiments, in which the spinal cord of dogs were cut, showed that they were still able to display emotional responses like anger and rage. Since we know from doyletics that the amygdala-limbic system re-creates doyles by activating the sensors at the extremities of the body, cutting the spinal cord of a human would clearly not remove their abilities to express emotions. Even the suggestion of that today would be laughed at, as anyone who has seen Christopher Reeve (the actor who portrayed Superman in the movies) smile in his wheelchair, even though paralyzed from the neck down. But in Cannon's time, he was able to discredit the James-Lange theory with his arguments. How can the sensors be activated at the extremities of the body, one might ask, if the spinal cord is cut and no communication is possible? When the doyles are triggered, the body responds to the activation of the sensors exactly as if they were there. This is easy to see in phantom leg pain. Obviously there is no leg there to feel the pain or the itch, but when the pain or itch is experienced in the missing leg, their facial muscles will contort exactly the way they would if the leg were present. Rightly understood, phantom leg pain results from doyles and their irritating effects can be eliminated by a simple doyle trace.
Here's another experiment that purports something that is easily overturned by the science of doyletics:
[page 88] In a famous experiment on this subject J. B. Watson (1930) showed that newborn babies respond to loud sounds and loss of balance with fear, to prolonged restraint with rage, and to gentle forms of skin stimulations with pleasure. He argued that all other associations were learned.
His bold statement presupposed that all associations present at birth are un-learned! And yet we have a myriad of evidence to the contrary in doyletics. If it is possible to trace and remove a fear-of-flying or seasickness doyle at a time mark of between -3 and -4 months before one was born, then this is clearly compelling evidence that learning takes place in the womb. If so, it is easy to conjure up situations in which a pregnant mother is exposed to a loud sound at some point during her nine months pregnancy and that exposure created a strong reaction in her. Pregnant mothers generally react more strongly than others to slips and loud sounds out of concern for their unborn child. Her reaction to the sounds or slip will be stored in her child and will be triggered later upon presentation with a loud sound as a fear doyle. The slip will be triggered later when as an adult the person is flying perhaps and the plane drops suddenly. Either one of these doyles can be demonstrated to disappear after a simple sixty second doyle trace.
Taste aversion is another aspect covered by Griffiths that deserves a closer look in the light of what we know about doyletics. He discusses what Logue et al. 1986 showed in their studies of human taste aversions.
[page 89] It appear that in humans, as in other animals, there is a tendency to acquire disgust for a taste which has been followed by illness, even where higher-level cognitive systems are aware that no causal connection exists between the food and the illness.
What doyletics shows us is that the disgust for the taste is the result of the doyles stored that were associated with the illness. If the illness happened before one was five-years-old either the symptoms of the illness itself or the body's response to the illness were stored as a doyle. When the item is tasted again, a physical illness may ensue. In many cases the only remnants of the illness is a touch of nausea perhaps and that is interpreted subjectively as disgust. When one encounters a taste in the presence of a severe rebuke before five-years-old, one's bodily response to the rebuke will be stored as a doyle and the stimulus will be the taste. As an adult, whenever one tastes or even smells the food, the same bodily responses will be triggered as a doyle and one will be turned away from the food by the unpleasant and un-natural sensations in one's body, in other words, one will feel "disgust" for the food. This explains the disgust I felt for sauerkraut, which after a single doyle trace I was able to eat and now enjoy eating it several times a week. I love Reuben sandwiches now. I just ate one.
There is another aspect of taste aversions to be considered and that's when one acquires the aversion as an adult, such as after an illness. My own example with sauerkraut disgust is useful here. According to my mother I was over five-years-old when I acquired the dislike. My mother served sauerkraut one night and my father, who hated sauerkraut, probably expressed his dislike with a tone that matched the tense feeling in his gut that was a doyle stored in him before he was five-years-old. I already had that doyle stored in me from before I was five-years-old and when I was eating my sauerkraut, he blasted my mother with something like this, "What's this? Sauerkraut! ! !" Bang! The taste of sauerkraut was immediately linked to that tense gut doyle and whenever I encountered it thereafter I couldn't stand the sight, smell or thought of eating it. I never traced the doyle using sauerkraut — what I did was trace the tense gut feeling because it caused me to yell at my wife the same way my dad yelled at my mom. Weeks later I awoke from a dream in which I had been eating sauerkraut and enjoying it. I knew immediately the doyle was gone. Only later was I able to understand the connection with the tense gut doyle trace. Thus, if it was possible for me to acquire a taste aversion after five-years-old by linking the taste with a doyle, then tastes aversion can be acquired by eating some food during an illness. The word illness refers to a plethora of physical body states, some of which are doyles that were stored before five-years-old and are therefore available to be linked to some food one is eating while ill.
In his chapter on "Affect Programs/Emotion Modules" Griffiths makes the claim that, "A single aversive experience or a single display of fear by a caregiver may result in a fear of, say, the dark that will be retained despite any amount of information about the harmlessness of darkness." It is true that a single aversive experience can result in a fear doyle being stored, but it is only true for a child below the age of five. A child without a fear of the dark stored before five will not develop one later, however, already stored doyles of other fears might, after five, become attached to the dark by some uncaring fear-monger, and that will be called "a fear of the dark." As for the giving of information about the harmlessness of the dark to a five- or six-year-old child, I agree that is plainly useless. What is most useful, however, is to talk to the child about some time when they were very scared of being in the dark when they were younger. With luck and application, the parent can help the child to convert their fear doyle into a cognitive memory and lose their so-called fear-of-the-dark. It is better called fear-in-the-dark because darkness is the stimulus that triggers the fear. Yes, it's possible to have this fear-in-the-dark when the child is not in the dark, but, rightly understood, the child's cognitive processing is placing them in the dark and generating the fear in bright daylight, such as during the reading of a ghost story. When doyletics is taught in the grade schools of the 21st Century, fear-in-the-dark will begin to disappear from the world, among other things.
Notice how much simpler a sixty second speed trace is to what Griffiths suggests is necessary to remove a fear-in-the-dark:
[page 91] Sustained counterconditioning seems to be needed to delete an assessment once it has become linked to an affect program response. This may be due to the evolutionary advantages of false-positive responses. The costs of failing to respond to dangers, challenges, noxious stimuli, and so on may well outweigh the costs of responding unnecessarily. Failing to respond to danger may lead to death, while responding unnecessarily merely wastes a little energy. In evolutionary terms, phobias and irrational distastes may have much to recommend them.
He tells us how difficult it is to remove unwanted doyles, up until now. Then he goes on to justify the presence of unwanted doyles by saying that they have an evolutionary advantage. If fears, phobias, and irrational distastes have so much to recommend them, why bother to remove them? The answer is that these are due to doyles stored by the root brain which was the highest memory ability in our life when we stored them. They exist because they are our personal history, and when we are ready to understand them cognitively with our new higher brain function (our neocortex), they will be ready to be retrieved, inspected, and converted into cognitive memories. There is no advantage to having a paralyzing fear state come over one when one is in danger! Being frozen in fear in the presence of danger is exactly the wrong thing to have happen. Running away without thinking may be likewise exactly the wrong thing to do. Freezing, shuttering, stuttering, trembling, etc, all use resources that would be better applied to calculating an appropriate response or exiting the scene safely.
Here's a simple metaphor I created to help explain this process. You're a mother icing a cake or a father ready to release a cue stick on a bank shot you've carefully lined up — and your child pulls on the hem of your dress or your sleeve! What does that pull have to recommend it as far as icing the cake or the accuracy of your pool shot? Nothing! It can do nothing to improve the look of the cake or the bank of the cue ball! Yes, you can stop and talk to the child, and return to your cake or your shot, but the pull itself is no help to your task.
The doyles of sweating and increased heart-rate that come up unbidden when you're about to make a presentation to your boss are like the pull on the sleeve. Stop, and pay attention to that child pulling on your sleeve immediately! It's your child, the inner child in you, that stored those sweating and heart-rate doyles before you were five, and now it's reminding you that it happened. Take sixty seconds now, trace those doyles while they are active in your memory and convert them to a cognitive memory. Now proceed with your presentation to the boss in ease and concentrated attention. Do this just one time in some specific area of your life, and I guarantee that you will vehemently disagree with anyone who claims that your formerly "irrational fears" had much to recommend about them. What they had to recommend was that they contained information about your personal history. You will also come to learn for yourself that the ability to respond to a life-threatening situation is not diminished by removal of the irrational fears, but rather is enhanced.
Griffiths acknowledges that something akin to the doylic system exists in the following quote:
[page 94] the proprietary appraisal mechanism for the psychoevolved emotional responses would be a module of this sort — a system akin to a reflex in its encapsulation and mandatory operation, but with relatively sophisticated information processing arrangements for the interpretation of the stimulus.
In the next quote Griffiths quotes Zajonc as pinpointing the limbic system as the storage unit for storing these emotional responses or doyles:
[page 97] Zajonc has argued that the localization of emotion in the limbic brain implies that emotional responses must have evolved earlier than the intelligent, flexible cognitive systems characteristic of humans and other large mammals.
And here is Zajonc's words in which he describes exactly the two-layered or parallel processing mechanism I discussed above.
[page 97 quoting from Zajonc's article in the American Psychologist 35:169-70] The limbic system that controls emotional reactions was there before we evolved language and our present form of thinking . . . When nature has a direct and autonomous mechanism that functions efficiently — and there is no reason to suppose that the affective system was anything else — it does not make it indirect and dependent on a newly evolved function [cognition]. It is rather more likely that the affective system retained its autonomy, relinquishing its exclusive control over behavior slowly and grudgingly . . . These conjectures make a two-system view more plausible than one which relegates affect to a secondary role mediated and dominated by cognition.
In this next passage, Griffiths describes research that I think shows us that rhesus monkeys have doyles. It would be a wonderful research project to investigate to determine what is the memory transition age of monkeys. We know from the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." that there is likely some age at which dogs are no longer able to store doyles, but since doing doyle traces with animals is difficult, there is no data available. My discussions with an osteopath who raises horses indicates to me that the story told in the book, Horse Whisperer, tells of what closely approaches a doyle trace for horses, in its effect, if not its process.
[page 106] I described there how the sexual behavior of rhesus monkeys, a paradigm example of an evolved trait, depends for its development on suitable social interactions during infancy.
With his title for this book, Griffiths promised to tell us what emotions really are. You, dear Reader, will have to decide for yourself if he has accomplished his goal. I am most thankful that he wrote this book because it has certainly helped me get a better idea what philosophers, evolutionists, neurologists, sociologists, psychologists, contructionists, and many other "ist's" think emotions really are. I suspect that many of them will be surprised to discover that emotions are comprised simply of those physical body states I have called doyles, and that the nascent science of doyletics is experientially able to verify its predictions about how doyles are stored by removing them from any person, anywhere in the world, in a simple sixty-seconds memory trace. When Einstein presented his theory of relativity, the world had to wait for a key confirmation experiment to show that light waves from a distant were bent when passing near the Sun. That experiment took years of waiting for a proper alignment of stars and the Sun, plus a large team of scientists who traveled a long distance with fancy telescopes and measuring instruments, followed by lots of tedious calculations. The only instrument you need to confirm the tenets of doyletics, dear Reader, is inside your skin. The only trip you need to take is a short sixty second trip inside yourself. The only calculation you need to make is to notice the changes in your life for the better once you have done a doyle trace.
Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne
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