Glossary

From How Emotions Are Made
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Affect
Your simplest feeling that continually fluctuates between pleasant and unpleasant, and between calm and jittery.
Affective niche
Everything that has any relevance to your body budget in the present moment.
Affective realism
The phenomenon that interoception influences what you see, hear, and otherwise perceive.
Amygdala
A brain region once widely believed to be the home of fear in the brain.
Arousal
A basic feeling that you experience constantly, ranging from calm to agitated. A property of affect.
Autonomic nervous system
The part of your peripheral nervous system devoted to involuntary movements of the organs and tissues in your body.
Axon
A root-like structure that extends from the body of a neuron and carries information to other neurons.
Basic emotion method
An experimental method that asks subjects to match posed faces or vocal sounds to emotion words or phrases.
Basic emotion theory
The most popular flavor of the classical view of emotion.
Body budget
A metaphor for how your brain allocates energy resources within your body.
Body-budgeting regions
A simplified way to refer to brain regions that help to predict your future energy needs. Scientifically they are called visceromotor regions or limbic regions.
Brain network
A population of neurons that operates as a unit. Different neurons within the population participate at different times, like a sports team with some players in the game while others are on the bench.
Brain region
A grouping of neurons that are treated as a unit. Examples are the amygdala (a subcortical region) and the prefrontal cortex (a cortical region).
Category
A collection of instances that are treated as similar for some purpose. Traditionally, categories are supposed to exist in the world, whereas concepts are mental representations of categories (see Concept).
Categorization
The process by which the brain uses a concept to make sensory input meaningful.
Central nervous system
The brain and spinal cord.
Classical appraisal theories
The view that the brain triggers emotion circuits after first judging (“appraising”) the current situation. A flavor of the classical view of emotion.
Classical view of emotion
The view that happiness, fear, and other emotion categories have unique, biological fingerprints that are universal and have been passed down to humans through evolution.
Collective intentionality
Agreement by a group of people that something is real.
Concept
A collection of instances that are treated as similar for some purpose (compare to Category).
Concept cascade
A hierarchy of predictions, beginning with an efficient, multisensory summary in the interoceptive network, and cascading downward to primary sensory and motor regions.
Conceptual combination
Combining known concepts to construct an instance of a new concept.
Construction
The idea that the brain creates experiences and perceptions from more basic ingredients.
Control network
A brain network that ramps up the firing rate of some neurons and slows down others to optimize the process of categorization (among other things). Gives adults their “spotlight of attention.”
Core system
A single population of neurons that contributes to many outcomes. (One to many.)
Cortex
Neurons arranged in layers that lay atop the subcortical regions of your brain. Also called “gray matter.”
Degeneracy
The observation that many different combinations of neurons can contribute to the same outcome. (Many to one.)
Dendrite
A branch-like structure that extends from the body of a neuron and receives information from other neurons.
Emotional acculturation
Learning the emotion concepts of another culture.
Emotional granularity
The ability to construct more or less specific (finer-grained) emotional experiences and perceptions.
Emotional experience
Feeling an instance of emotion.
Emotional perception
Perceiving an instance of emotion in a person, an animal, or even an inanimate object.
Essence
An underlying, true nature or cause. For example, a brain circuit or gene held to be responsible for some human behavior.
Essentialism
The belief that essences exist in nature, e.g., that fear and happiness have distinct biological causes.
Evolutionary psychology
A flavor of the classical view that considers an emotion to be like a mental organ for a specialized function, with a set of genes as its essence.
Experiential blindness
Being unable to categorize in the moment, e.g., during your first view of the blobby picture in chapter 2.
Facial configuration
A more objective term than “facial expression,” without implying that faces express emotion.
Facial electromyography (EMG)
A laboratory technique of placing electrodes on the face to measure precise muscle movements.
Fear learning
An experimental technique in which a subject learns to freeze through classical conditioning. The word “fear” here is a misnomer.
Fingerprint
A distinct pattern of physical changes (in the face, body, voice, and/or brain) that is said to be sufficient to determine which emotion someone is experiencing.
fMRI
Functional magnetic resonance imaging: a technology for viewing brain activity in a living creature.
Gezellig
A Dutch emotion concept representing a kind of comfort with friends, which has no exact English translation. It is not an internal feeling that one person has for another, but a way of experiencing oneself in the world.
(an) Instance of emotion
A more scientifically objective way to say “an emotion” when you’re talking about a single occurrence.
Interoception
The brain’s representation of sensations from your body’s organs, tissues, hormones, and immune system.
Interoceptive network
A collection of brain regions that together play an important role in interoception.
Intrinsic network
Any brain network that is active, issuing predictions, when you are at rest.
Lesion
Damaged tissue in the brain.
Limbic system
A mythical system in the brain that allegedly houses your emotions. The word “limbic” has scientific meaning, regarding the structure of certain brain tissue, but there is no brain system dedicated to emotion.
Lobe
A major, contiguous area in the brain that may contain many regions. In the human brain, the four lobes are frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital.
Mental inference
Attributing a mental state to another person, animal, or object.
Mental inference fallacy
Assuming that an action or behavior equals a mental state. For example, assuming that widened eyes constitute a “fear expression,” even though we widen our eyes for all sorts of reasons.
Meta-analysis
A technique of analyzing many scientific studies together to reach a unified conclusion.
Naïve realism
The myth that you perceive the world objectively.
Natural selection
Charles Darwin’s idea that organisms that are best adapted to their environment will best survive to reproduce.
Neuroimaging
Scanning the brain of a living creature to observe brain activity.
Neuron
The most common type of brain cell.
Neurotransmitter
A chemical that enables signals to pass between neurons.
Pattern classification
Training a computer to distinguish between alternatives statistically (say, for many instances of fear vs. anger in the brain), so that the computer can classify future instances reliably. This legitimate technique is often misunderstood or misused in the science of emotion to claim the existence of neural fingerprints for emotion.
Perceiver dependent
Real in the human world, only when humans are present. The concept of “Money” is perceiver-dependent.
Perceiver independent
Real in nature, regardless of whether or not humans are present to perceive it or not. A neutron is perceiver independent.
Peripheral nervous system
The part of your nervous system devoted to movement.
Plasticity
Changes in brain wiring, due to aging or experiences.
Population thinking
Darwin’s idea that a species is a population of diverse individuals that have no essence at their core.
Prediction
A guess made by the brain of what sensory input will arrive in the next moment.
Prediction error
The difference between a prediction and the actual sensory input that it attempted to predict.
Prediction loop
A brain wiring arrangement in which a prediction is launched, simulated, compared to actual sensory input, and then either corrected or left alone.
Primary interoceptive cortex
A brain region, better known as the posterior insula, where interoceptive sensations are simulated.
Proinflammatory cytokines
Proteins that cause inflammation in the body and brain.
Sensory input
Anything that reaches your sensory organs to travel to your brain: light, air pressure, chemicals, and so on. This includes input from your organs, tissues, hormones, and immune system.
Simulation
When your brain changes the firing of its own sensory neurons in the absence of incoming sensory input.
Social reality
Agreement by a group of people that something is real, which they share by way of language.
Somatic nervous system
The part of your peripheral nervous system devoted to voluntary movement.
Statistical learning
An inborn ability of the brain to learn patterns by observation, computing probabilities of what is similar and what is not.
Stimulus-response
The myth that the brain is merely reactive to events in the world, operating like a reflex.
Subcortex
Clumps of neurons beneath the cortex.
Synapse
A connection between neurons.
Theory of constructed emotion
My theory of emotion. In every waking moment, your brain uses past experience, organized as concepts, to guide your actions and give your sensations meaning. When the concepts involved are emotion concepts, your brain constructs instances of emotion.
Triune brain
The myth that the brain evolved like a layer cake, with “cognitive” circuitry wrapped around “emotional” circuitry, allegedly permitting thoughts to control feelings.
Valence
A basic feeling that you experience constantly, ranging from pleasant to unpleasant. A property of affect.
Voxel
A three-dimensional pixel representing a tiny part of a three-dimensional brain.