On the brain and emotion

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (2):219-228 (2000)
Abstract
There are many advantages to defining emotions as states elicited by reinforcers, with the states having a set of different functions. This approach leads towards an understanding of the nature of emotion, of its evolutionary adaptive value, and of many principles of brain design. It also leads towards a foundation for many of the processes that underlie evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology. It is shown that recent as well as previous evidence implicates the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex in positive as well as negative emotions. The issue of why emotional states feel like something is part of the much larger problem of phenomenal consciousness. It is argued that thinking about one's own thoughts would have adaptive value by enabling first order linguistic thoughts to be corrected. It is suggested that reflecting on and correcting one's own thoughts and plans would feel like something, and that phenomenal consciousness may occur when this type of monitoring process is taking place.
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