Body Forecasts: Reconstructing the emergence of emotion

Concepts are tricky. Your idea of a great car could be entirely different from my idea of a great car. Things gets even trickier when dealing with the concept of concepts or other abstractions of non-physical information.

In the interests of trying to situate the theory of constructed emotion relative to an emergent systems perspective of cognition, this modified description of the theory replaces its author’s use of the word “concept” with “associative representations.” While concept and representation can be used interchangeably, the emergent cognition framework distinguishes among perceptual, associative, and conceptual levels of representation, and specifically uses “concept” and “conception” in reference to representations at the conceptual or symbolic level of cognition. In this context, perceptual and associative representations are literally lower level equivalents of concepts. While the theory of constructed emotion does not explicitly incorporate emergent levels, it supports the idea that the cognitive processing underlying emotion is a kind of forecasting derived from present and past sensory experiences of the body.

A brain can be thought of as running an internal model that controls central pattern generators … An internal model runs on past experiences, implemented as [associative representations]. [Associative representations] predict what is about to happen in the sensory environment, what the best action is to deal with impending events, and their consequences for [maintenance of the body] … The brain continually constructs [associative representations] to identify what the sensory inputs are, infers a causal explanation for what caused them, and drives action plans for what to do about them. When the internal model creates an [associative representation of emotion], the eventual [conception-level] categorization results in an instance of emotion.

The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience: Lisa Feldman Barrett