Source of emotion


FrontalCortex has a great posting on the magic of Wii games. (here) Lehrer connects the player’s movement with the emotional feeling of the game as an illustration of the embodied mind.

To understand how the Wii turns stupid arcade games into a passionate experience, we have to revisit an old theory of emotion, first proposed by William James. In his 1884 article “What is an emotion?” James argued that all of our mental feelings actually begin in the body. Although our emotions feel ephemeral, they are rooted in the movements of our muscles and the palpitations of our flesh. .. For most of the 20th century, James’ theory of bodily emotions was ignored. It just seemed too implausible. But in the early 1980s, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio realized that James was mostly right: Many of our emotions are preceded by changes in our physical body. Damasio came to this conclusion after studying neurological patients who, after suffering damage in their orbitoprefrontal cortex or somatosensory cortex, were unable to experience any emotion at all. Why not? The tight connection between the mind and body had been broken. Even though these patients could still feel their flesh–they weren’t paraplegic–they could no longer use their body to generate feelings. And if you can’t produce the bodily symptoms of an emotion–the swelling tear ducts of sadness, or the elevated heart rate of fear–then you can’t feel the emotion. .. As Damasio puts it, “the essence of feeling an emotion is the experience of such [bodily] changes in juxtaposition to the mental images that initiated the cycle.” The resulting state of consciousness–an emulsion of thought and flesh, body, and mind–is our feeling of fear.

The content of consciousness is largely, perhaps almost totally, derived from the process of perception. It may be that emotions must be sensed in order to be felt consciously.

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