What Are Emotion Theories About?

Aaron Sloman

This is a set of notes relating to an invited talk at the cross-disciplinary workshop on Architectures for Modeling Emotion at the AAAI Spring Symposium at Stanford University in March 2004. The organisers of the workshop note that work on emotions "is often carried out in an ad hoc manner", and hope to remedy this by focusing on two themes (a) validation of emotion models and architectures, and (b) relevance of recent findings from affective neuroscience research. I shall focus mainly on (a), but in a manner which, I hope is relevant to (b), by addressing the need for conceptual clarification to remove, or at least reduce, the ad-hocery, both in modelling and in empirical research. In particular I try to show how a design-based approach can provide an improved conceptual framework and sharpen empirical questions relating to the study of mind and brain. From this standpoint it turns out that what are normally called emotions are a somewhat fuzzy subset of a larger class of states and processes that can arise out of interactions between different mechanisms in an architecture. What exactly the architecture is will determine both the larger class and the subset, since different architectures support different classes of states and processes. In order to develop the design-based approach we need a good ontology for characterising varieties of architectures and the states and processes that can occur in them. At present this too is often a matter of much ad-hocery. We propose steps toward a remedy.

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