THEORY OF MIND
The purpose of this site is to unify theories of the brain, the mind, and emotions in order to answer fundamental questions about life and for finding a harmonious existence:
How do the brain, mind, and emotions work? (EEBD diagram) (Oct. 21-25, 2009, Science & Nonduality Conf. slides)
If we think of our lives as akin to a spinning toy top, then our optimum state would be an unrestrained, undisrupted, and "balanced" high spin (optimum well-being). But if the top meets a wall or a bump on the floor, it begins wobbling and may fall over (death). Sometimes, though, it survives the momentary wobbling (imbalance) and spins up again.
For most of us, life is spent doing a lot of "wobbling", but we keep working hard to "spin up" again. Since we sense this "wobbling" and enact behaviors to counteract it, we must be a special type of system - a "control system" (see William T. Powers). All control systems have a tight range of optimum performance which is called a "reference signal" or "set point". For humans, this point of ideal performance is called "homeostasis" (see Walter Cannon). Homeostasis is a state where we would be "spinning like a top". Evidence points to the hypothalamus as the location within the brain where this reference signal is monitored and managed. We recognize homeostasis by our personal sense of well-being as well as feelings of happiness and euphoria.
Essentially, "health and well-being" = "homeostasis" = "systemic balance" = "optimum existence" = "happiness, contentment, and peace of mind". And in this optimized state, we are truly alive and well. In fact, being in this state feels so good, that it has also been called the "reward system" since this state is related to acheiving success and overcoming obstacles and challenges. Obviously, we have many words which relate to this "feeling" or "emotional" state. Yet, all of these terms are recognized as being "positive", and we try to recreate such feelings and emotions.
Though various authors ascribe different attributes or criteria to "feeling" versus "emotion", the crux of the matter falls within identifying which of two fundamental subsystems are operating during the feeling/emotion. The two subsystems are the Internal Control System (predominantly the parasympathetic nervous system or "Rest & Digest" system) and the External Control System (predominantly the sympathetic nervous system or "Fight or Flight" system). When a person (probably all mammals and many other creatures) believes it is safe, the Internal Control System (ICS) takes control and provides pleasant or "positive" feelings and emotions. All systems are "go", all systems are fed, and all systems are balanced. Happiness, peace of mind, euphoria, nirvana, feeling great, homeostasis - whatever you want to call it, the ICS is in charge and effecting this state.
If risk or danger is perceived, then the External Control System (XCS) comes into play by first, reducing energy flows to other subsystems deemed not critical to "fight or flight". Such non-critical subsystems include digestion and the immune system. (Why waste resources fighting a "cold" or processing "lunch" when you are running from a lion?) As blood flow is diverted to the extremeties, or conserved for use by them, blood flow to the torso is sacrificed, which we sense as a "sinking feeling in the gut" or even nausea. This sensation is deemed "unpleasant", stressful, and "negative". The more risk or danger that is perceived, the more the XCS shuts down the ICS. When in terror, the XCS is at "full throttle" and the ICS is virtually turned off. We do anything possible to avoid or escape this feeling/emotional state.
The external environment is inherently risky, so the XCS is a defensive system which conserves resources while operating. The mind is a subsystem within the XCS and includes all of the senses which sample the external environment for information. Because the sensed information must be either sought or avoided to protect homeostasis, the mind assesses positive and negative "value" to what is sensed (Victor S. Johnston). This value system is unique to each individual and dynamically changes through the person's experiences.
Having been sculpted by Natural Selection (Charles Darwin), the brain/mind mimics it for making choices and decisions. Thus, Survival of the Fittest (Herbert Spencer), or more correctly, competition of ideas via "best fit", rules the decision-making process. The evidence points to the pre-frontal lobes piecing together alternative plans for behavior. These various alternatives are designed to either protect or improve the organism's state within the outside world. Recent research suggests that these alternative plans compete within the nucleus Reticularis Thalami (nRT). Of all the competing plans, the one which musters the most powerful coalition of neuronal circuits "wins" and activates behavior (B.J. Baars, C. Koch, J.G. Taylor, and others). This also appears to be the mechanism by which the brain retrieves information from memory - using a "best fit", "winner take all" process (O.G. Selfridge, Dominic Massaro).
Plans which are executed regularly become optimized (habit) and fall out of conscious control - thereby enhancing the speed of enactment (a survival advantage). Any musician or athlete is well aware of this trait. Motions which are time-consuming and learned slowly at first become smooth, fluid, and fast after hundreds or thousands of repetitions. Virtually everyone experiences this phenomena when learning to read and write - slow and difficult at first, then fast and easy.
The main facets of the brain/mind appear in the Emotive Energy Behavioral Diagram (EEBD) below. To understand the diagram, begin by clicking on the Value Scale, then the two main control systems (ICS and XCS). The Resource Usage System would follow next, and the Efficiency Curve last.
Additional explanations for the EEBD are in the slides (pdf) below:
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- Emotive Energy Behavioral Diagram (Poster Presentation)
Science & Nonduality Conference, Oct. 21-25, 2009
- Slide #2 Purpose & Description
- Slide #3 Artificial Intelligence & Robotics
- Slide #4 Value Scale
- Slide #5 Resource Usage System
- Slide #6 Internal Control System
- Slide #7 Efficiency Curve
- Slide #8 External Control System
- Slide #9 Best Fit, Positive Thinking, & Springboards
- Slide #10 Conclusions
- Slide #11 Skinner to EEBD Conversion
The term is not as restrictive as terms implying "biology" or "DNA". Emotive Energy is purposely broader to accommodate systems not presently acknowledged as "alive". In other words, Emotive Energy is a superset intended to include all known life forms, but it is also intended to include other forms not yet known nor described. For example, a robotic system could be designed to "ratchet away from equillibrium" as well as to "reproduce itself". But any robot, no matter how life-like, would not be considered biologically alive even though it may be an Emotive Energy system.
With the "spinning top" analogy, the number one goal is to keep "spinning" - to optimize our well-being and happiness, to maximize homeostasis. To do so, you need to maximize your understanding of the world you live in and know where the "walls and bumps" are. Your purpose is to grow in understanding of yourself, your inner values, and the world around you as you seek peace and happiness. To fully express your unique gifts - your ideas, experiences, feelings, skills, and talents - you must learn and appreciate what makes you "spin", what specifically promotes your personal health and happiness as well as what pitfalls cause you to "wobble" (stress & disease). Above all, you must "get real good" at recovering from "wobbling". Again, you must grow in knowledge and creative problem solving abilities.
We live within an "ocean" of complexity and change (see Heraclitus). To survive and thrive, we must find out how to "spin like a top" and "how to avoid the bumps and the walls". Fundamentally, we need to seek what brings health and happiness and to avoid what causes stress and disease. Whatever promotes our individual health and happiness we refer to as "good". Whatever brings disease and destruction, we call "bad". These two general terms form the basis of our value system - what we like, love, fear, hate, ignore, etc.
These two fundamental needs, seek "good" and avoid "bad", have physical roots in the workings of the brain: the Rest&Digest system (parasympathetic nervous system) and the FightOrFlight system (sympathetic nervous system). These two systems are constantly active to varying and opposite degrees. As one turns up, the other turns down. And we recognize these two systems within our system of values by what we like, what we don't like, what we love, what we fear, etc. And our purpose is to create uniquely personal paths which lead us to what we love, while avoiding what we fear. This is a constant challenge given the myriad of dynamic facets of this universe - most of which are outside of our personal control.
Even with the fledgling "virtual systems" of today, they have important applications for training such as flight simulators and other simulators. And the more the trainee believes the sensations and perceptions are "real", the more effective the training becomes. It would seem plausible that a "virtual universe" might provide training for the offspring of an advanced civilization, and we would be that offspring.
If scientists believe that the universe is over a dozen billion years old, would it not be possible that some civilization, somewhere in our vast universe, was 1,000,000 years ahead of us, or even just 100,000 years more technologically advanced than we are? The virtual system that such an advanced civilization could be capable of creating would be mind boggling to us. But to prepare us for existing in such an advanced civilization, the "virtual universe" we live in might provide vital training to prepare us. The Star Trek television episode, "Errand of Mercy", provides an intriguing view of such an advanced civilization with mind boggling capabilities - the Organians.
If such a life form does exist, and we are its offspring, then a "virtual reality school" suddenly becomes reasonable. In which case, we would be students enrolled in a "Virtual University" to prepare for our future life in a far advanced society of beings. And our training would be mostly the "sculpting" of our individual value systems - our understanding and application of "right" and "wrong".
But, again, this is all speculation and can neither be proven nor disproven at this time.
Emotive Energy Introduction
Fundamental to life on this planet is understanding the keys to existence: health and happiness. Without health, we will die. Without happiness, or release from stress, we will also likely die. This website is dedicated to furthering our goal of achieving health and happiness by integrating our knowledge of the brain, mind, and emotions. Such unification empowers the ideas, validates them, and provides direction for future research and greater enhancement of life. From the rigors of mathematics and physics to the subtleties of fine art and music, from the idealism of philosophy and religion to the hard realities of biology and economics, a unified theory must encompass them all. It must handle the greatest scientific detail and yet elucidate the vagaries of passion and the human spirit. Most of all, it must explain the enigma of emotion:"... emotion is a central organizing process for consciousness, and ... any theory of consciousness must have a theory of emotion as one of its linchpins ..." - Douglas F. WattIf emotion is anything, it must be composed of energy - as demanded by Einstein's famous equation, E=mcc, which encapsulates the 1st law of thermodynamics, The Conservation of Energy. Thus, energy is the common denominator for our entire universe (real or virtual). And if we have different emotions or feelings, then there must be differences in the amount and or direction of energy flowing through our minds and bodies.
The present unification can be described as a "thermo-bio-psy-conomic" theory in that it integrates physics (primarily thermodynamics), biology (including neurobiology), and psychology (humanism, behaviorism, Gestalt, cognitive science, and more) using the economic idea of "supply and demand" as the fundamental design element of the brain, mind, and emotion. Further, energy is the common resource being bartered. It is the fundamental currency of our universe and the basis of all "transactions". Below are some of the theories included in the present unification:
Behavioral Investment Theory (BIT) - Gregg Henriques; a thermo-psychonomic theory asserting that living organisms use an "approach" system (Behavioral Activation System) and an "avoidance" system (Behavioral Inhibition System) to effect an energy efficient input:output ratio. The return-on-investment (ROI) must be survival.
Adjacent Possible Theory (APT) - Stuart Kauffman; a theory that living organisms (Autonomous Agents) move away from chaos (maximum entropy) and toward greater organization and complexity (Adjacent Possible).
Hedonic Tone Theory (HTT) - Victor S. Johnston; a theory describing emotions (positive, negative, and neutral) as key to a tri-loop adaptive system (evolutionary, learning, and rational thought).
Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) - William T. Powers; a theory that living organisms monitor perceptions and adjust behavior until the perceptions match a targeted state (Reference Signal).
Multidimensional Model of Emotion (MME) - Robert Plutchik; a theory that all emotions are scalar expressions of a small set of core emotions which, in turn, are categorized as either positive or negative.
Global Workspace Theory (GWT) - Bernard J. Baars; a theory describing mental processes as competing for access to consciousness using a "theater of consciousness" model.
Fuzzy Logical Model of Perception (FLMP) - Dominic W. Massaro; a theory of pattern recognition based upon feature evaluation, integration, and identification (decision) based upon relative goodness of match to the stimulus information.
Opponent-Process Theory (O-P) - Richard Soloman; a theory describing positive emotions as directly related to levels of previous stress.
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