Mental inference fallacy

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Chapter 12 endnote 47, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

To date, scientists have identified at least three alleged fear pathways in the rat brain, each associated with a specific behavior, all of them products of the mental inference fallacy.

Circuits for specific actions only become fear circuits when fear is defined as those actions. A failure to realize this is the mental inference fallacy.

I sometimes encounter the mental inference fallacy when publishing research papers. Whenever I write that fear has no biological fingerprint, a reviewer occasionally counters with, “Ah, but we’ve found a circuit for fear.” Then I have to point out that the circuit is actually for freezing behavior. Some scientists have collectively agreed to define freezing as “fear,” but you can’t prove that definition with data. It's stipulated, not discovered.[1]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2017. "Functionalism cannot save the classical view of emotion." Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw156.