EMOTION: Theravada and Modern Psychology?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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EMOTION: Theravada and Modern Psychology?

Post by heylight » Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:34 am

Hi there everyone,

I posted this in the 'Modern Theravada' section but the topic received no replies, so I thought it might be better addressed by someone here.

I've been looking at current theories (in the field of psychology) circulating around the theory of emotion. One which strikes me as possibly resonant with, or in some ways similar to the Buddhist / Theravadan understanding of emotion is known as the Conceptual act model of emotion, as developed by Lisa Feldman Barrett. You can read about it briefly here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual ... of_emotion

Or in much more detail here: http://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu/~lindquk ... npress.pdf

One interesting element of the model is the idea of 'conceptualisation':
The process of “conceptualization” (and the other operations that support it, such as executive attention) links
perceptions of sensory input from the world with input from the body to create a meaningful psychological moment.
In our hypothesis, people automatically make meaning of their core affective state by engaging in a situated
conceptualization that links it to an object or event. Conceptualization is the process by which stored representations
of prior experiences (i.e., memories, knowledge) are used to make meaning out of sensations in the moment
(Wilson-Mendenhall et al. 2011). A person can make the situated conceptualization that core affect is a physical
symptom (e.g., a racing heart), a simple feeling (e.g., feeling tired or wound up), or an instance of a discrete emotion
category (e.g., anger vs fear). And at other times, core affect is perceived as part of an object itself rather than one’s
reaction to it. For example, a food is delicious or distasteful, a painting is beautiful or garish, or a person is warm or
Categorization (or conceptualization) is a fundamental process in the human brain that
functions like a chisel, leading people to attend to certain features in a sensory array and to ignore others. Only some
of the wavelengths of light striking our retinas are transformed into seen objects, only some of the changes in air
pressure registered in our ears are heard as words or music, and only some bodily changes are experienced as
emotion. To categorize something is to render it meaningful. It then becomes possible to make reasonable
inferences about that thing, to predict what to do with it, and to communicate our experience of it to others. There
are ongoing debates about how categorization works, but the fact that it works is not in question
I'm interested to see if anyone else detects some resonance here with Theravadan / Buddhist theories of emotion and if they could perhaps point me to some passages / texts which either (a) match this idea (b) build on this idea, (c) amend this idea


- Alex

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