X-Message-Number: 12621
From: "Scott Badger" <>
References: <>
Subject: Re: More on Intelligence, Emotions, and Values
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 11:12:21 -0500

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned earlier, psychologists have identified two major emotional
factors:  Positive Affect and Negative Affect.  I thought I might offer a
bit more on this topic and hope I don't come across as excessively pedantic.
Much of it, I admit, is Psych 101, but perhaps some of you may enjoy going
over these concepts again.

It's been suggested that there are at least six primary emotions which can
be identified by facial expressions in infants and appear to be innate
regardless of the culture in which they are observed.

1. Joy-Happiness-Pleasure
2. Fear
3. Anger-Excitement
4. Interest-Surprise
5. Sadness-Distress
6. Disgust

I'll bet you can see these infants' facial expressions in your mind as you
read through that list.

Our affective experiences are mediated by the older paleo-mammalian
component of our brains which contain the Limbic System.  All of these
emotions have been evoked by electrically stimulating specific locations in
this middle brain region.  A button is pushed and a charging bull stops in
his tracks because the Fear center is stimulated.  Rats become neurotic
pressing the lever that stimulates the pleasure center.  I suspect these
physiological reactions developed as innate responses that served as
"natural incentives" to enhance survival.  But are there true biochemical
differences between these affective states?

Experiments have been conducted where one group of individuals were given a
shot of adrenaline and told that it would make them feel happy, silly, and
somewhat high.  The other group was told that it would make them feel
unusually irritable and angry.  The first group was placed among others who
were joking around and being quite pleasant while the second group was
placed among others that were instructed to complain, whine, and be
generally annoying.  As predicted, the context and the expectations
determined the interpretation of the aroused state.  IOW, the first group
reported positive affect and the second group reported negative affect.

Other researchers disagree that all states of arousal are identical.  They
recognize that adrenaline is a common biochemical component in most
emotional states, but they have identified certain hormonal distinctions
between emotions.  For example, Anger/Excitement is characterized by higher
levels of sex hormones while Fear is characterized by lower levels.  Even
so, I do not doubt that humans engage in a significant amount of cognitive
interpretation based on past experiences, expectations, and context.  This
arrangement places us at considerable risk for making poor decisions.
Especially those who express the desire to "go with their gut".  Cognitive
distortions and irrational beliefs can easily lead to faulty interpretations
of emotional states.

I've noted that the word, "feel" is bandied about and broadly misused by the
public.  "I feel hungry." tells us that you sense hunger.  It does not
reflect an emotion.  Hunger is a primary drive and we are motivated to eat
by a number of signals other than the basic body signals (e.g. low levels of
blood sugar).  Hunger deprivation and satiation can certainly facilitate
emotional states, however.  Many people often equate and confuse the terms
"desire" with "emotion".  These strike me as separate but related notions.
"I feel like an ice cream cone" does not reflect an emotion.  It reflects a
desire . . . a goal.  The motivation to seek out the ice cream cone is
derived from previous positive affective reactions to eating ice cream

Now just a bit more on the concept of motivation.  Clearly there are
physiological motivators, but motivators may also be psychological in
nature.  Traditionally, psychology has identified four important motive

1. The Achievement Motive
2. The Power Motive
3. The Affiliative Motive
4. The Avoidance Motive (fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of
success, etc)

But getting back to the question in this discussion which interested me . .
. Is it possible to have intelligence without emotional states?  My response
is that I think it is possible (though let me reiterate, I am quite ignorant
in the field of AI).  Still, I can conceive of an intelligent entity with
powerful decision-making algorithms choosing from alternative goals and
alternative plans of action, without the need for previous affective
experiences or affective reactions to outcomes.  For decision-making to
improve over time, valences would have to be assigned to expected and actual
outcomes.  To my way of thinking, assigning values like this to outcomes is
not equivalent to feeling an emotion, but it would be sufficient to
intelligently operate in and interact with the world.

In summary, robots don't need hormones.  And maybe someday technology will
render the Limbic System completely vestigial, and we won't need emotions to
motivate us, or to help us remember things, or to guide our decision-making.
And we'll be purely cognitive creatures.

But the crux of the argument for me is that that entity is not going to be
human, per se, and I kinda like being human for the most part.  So I would
prefer that emotional responses be very accurately simulated if I were to be
uploaded.  But I would also want to have the ability to regulate those
emotional states with far greater control than we currently have.  Although,
if my consciousness were stored artificially, I'm not sure what use I would
have for negative affect.

Someone wrote:

>>As compared to a computer that is programmed to monitor its internal and
external environment and always make positive adjustments (or least
logically likely to be positively corrective), humans may also do the
same. But often or just as likely, a human will take action to worsen
the bad feelings ( ignore it, do drugs, irrationally attack another,
self destruct)or celebrate the good feelings like having a party or
laughing or buying flowers or taking a day off from work. Computers do
none of these things.<<

It sounds like you're saying that we make bad decisions on purpose (e.g.
suicide, hurting others, etc.).  I question that notion. I think we do
things because we believe *on some level* that there's something in it for
us. All behavior has a perceived payoff, even if that perception is
unconscious and not evident to us or others. This happens because we endorse
irrational beliefs which are most frequently based on several, very common,
informal logical fallacies. These irrational beliefs are unconscious for the
most part.  Consequently, positive and negative valences may be incorrectly
applied to internally and externally produced events.  Some people call this
"emotional tagging".  The Avoidance Motive, mentioned earlier, is also
responsible for many of the self-defeating behaviors that we engage in.

By now many of you are asking yourselves, "What motivated Badger to write
this long-winded post?"  The answer is, "Because I felt like it!"

Best regards,

Scott Badger

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