intellectual history, countless psychologists, linguists, and philosophers
have touched upon the subject of emotions, and many have proposed
ontologies for them. In The Cognitive Structure of Emotions,
Ortony, Clore, and Collins (OC&C) give a particularly lucid
discussion of the shortcomings and gaps exhibited in the prominent
theories of emotions which have arisen in prior work, and then themselves
propose quite an elegant and well-elaborated framework for emotions.
Their framework is at once intuitive and predictive, and bears implications
for the computation of emotions.
portray the major shortcoming of prior theories on emotions as discussing
more the phenomenology and entailments of emotions rather than describing
the cognitive origins of emotions. OC&C make the case for a
small ontology of cognitive appraisal processes
which constitutes the eliciting conditions for
emotions. The cognitive emotions have largely been obscured in prior
work. For example, in William James's famous paper What is an
emotion? (1884), James introduces surprise, curiosity, rapture,
fear, anger, lust, and greed as "The Standard Emotions,"
whereas OC&C argue that these are simply the low-cognitive,
rather reactive, states (and to be precise, the authors don't consider
many of these emotions at all). High-cognitive emotions
such as shame and embarrassment require more complex cognitive
appraisal, and these are the class of emotions which benefit most
from OC&C's theory. OC&C characterise prior theories of
emotions as falling into two groups: dimensional scaling theories,
and arousal-appraisal theories (e.g. Mandler, 1975). The
authors enumerate four sources of evidence that prior emotional
theories draw from: linguistic, self-reported experiential, behavioural,
and physiological evidence; they criticise that often times language,
behavior, and physiological patterns have been equated with emotions
through one-to-one mappings, and prefer to motivate the study of
emotions as cognitively triggered phenomena.
characterises emotions as valenced reactions
to events, agents, or objects, with their particular nature being
determined by the way in which the eliciting situation is construed.
Their theory of emotions is that it arises out of the cognitive
appraisal of an event, a causing agent (animates, or projections
onto inanimates), and objects (inanimates, or depersonified animates),
additionally remarking that appraisal typically happens in this
left-to-right ordering. Although not clearly articulated in the
book, there is a temporal logic to this left-to-right evaluation
insofar as events are the most immediate (reactive), finding the
root cause takes some time (deliberative), and accreting what's
felt about the agent onto attitudes about objects only happens after
a longer time of reflexive conditioning (sub-liminal reflection).
Also, it is important to realise that an event, agent, and object
may in fact be differing perspectives of the same thing, and that
the only difference is the stance taken toward
it. Perhaps it makes sense to map event, agent, and object onto
Dan Dennett's physical, intentional, and design stances, respectively.
In addition to the articulation of event, agent, and object, OC&C
articulate two dimensions of emotion, the first being valence, and
the second being intensity. Also implicit in OC&C model is the
idea of inwardly appraised emotions (self-reflection)
versus outwardly appraised emotions (other-reflection).
The diagram on page 19 almost entirely captures the theory.
of the major implications of the theory is that many states which
have previously been called emotions in prior work do not meet OC&C's
cognitive-origins definition. For example, surprise
and "being abandoned" are not OC&C emotions because
they are cognitive states rather than affective states. While "being
abandoned" is often the antecedent leading to fear, anxiety,
etc, OC&C point out that emotions are not an eventuality of
"being abandoned." It is a sensible point in general to
tease apart non-emotional antecedent states from
the affective consequent states. Furthermore, OC&C point out
that affective states may be undifferentiated or
differentiated. Usually the typical flow is from
unemotional state to undifferentiated affective reaction (e.g.
feeling displeased) to differentiated emotions (e.g. resentment,
reproach, anger). There is a superpositioning relationship
between this flow and the left-to-right appraisal flow. Anger is
typically felt not about an event, but about an agent causing the
event. Finding the cause gives shape and directedness to emotions,
clarifying the vagueries of "events."
the details of OC&C's theory lie some nice confirmatory parallels
to my own work on emotions and attitudes. In my What Would They
Think? project (Liu & Maes, 2004), the idea that attitudes are
the result of reflexive conditioning is consistent with the notion
that objective appraisal involves instaneous, "unthoughtful"
attraction judgements, much like the idea that human pre-dispositions
like tastes and personal aesthetics are opaque to explanation and
introspection. One of the subeventual appraisals leads to what OC&C
calls prospect-based emotions. What this amounts
to is judging a current event based on its likely causal
implications. This kind of temporal connotation
is how Emotus Ponens is able to characterise events by situating
it in a contextual neighborhood of concepts (Liu et al., 2003a).
Emotus Ponens also bears other parallels to OC&C's theory insofar
as EP parses out events, people, and things from text and makes
those three semantic types the subject of appraisal. Events lead
to causal projection and abductive explanation, while people and
things are characterised based on their typical properties and class-based
inheritances. Also, there is agreement between the two works on
the tenet that surface linguistic features not dominate the assessment
of emotions. The emotions contained in text amounts to more than
an integration of surface features but rather requires digging down
to the signified. Another parallel between WWTT and OC&C is
that in WWTT, an affective valence is associated with both an event
in-the-vague, and also a found root cause of an event (mapping to
OC&C's agents); also, WWTT's identification of self-conscious
emotions in the manner of Marvin Minsky's The Emotion Machine
(forthcoming) maps well to OC&C's self-agent attributions.
insights in OC&C. First is concerning the intensity modulation
of emotions. The authors argue that realism, self-involvedness,
attention-grabbing, and prior arousal constitute an important global
context for determining the intensity of an emotional reaction.
There are also a slew of emotion-specific and event/agent/object
-specific priors which serve as reference points against a reaction
can be made. Second, in the proposed scheme, certain emotions can
be characterised as compound emotions if they require
the presence of some combination of event/agent/object reaction.
For example, gratification and anger
both require a prospect-irrelevant well-being event appraisal combined
with a self-agent attribution appraisal. One final insight: this
cognitive appraisal does not necessarily have to be consciously
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