Simulation

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Chapter 1 endnote 24, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

The 1983 study is, for this reason, subject to an alternative explanation, because the test subjects were given instructions for how to pose their faces. Western subjects could conceivably identify most of the target emotions from these instructions. This understanding can actually produce the heart rate and other physical changes Ekman and colleagues observed, a fact that was unknown when these studies were conducted.

Neurons in certain parts of the brain change the firing of neurons in sensory and motor regions of the brain. This process, known as simulation, is also called embodiment, embodied cognition, perceptual inference, or grounded cognition.[1][2]

For example, the brain processes and understands words with the help of sensory and motor regions, particularly for words that refer to body movements,[3] such as facial muscle movements. When unscrambling sentences that prime the concept of fear, for example, people show enhanced skin conductance and are more easily startled.[4][5] Simulation might also account for studies that rely on the facial feedback hypothesis. For example, asking test subjects to pose their faces in a way that is stereotypical for a certain emotion (e.g., scowling to depict anger) can actually produce the heart rate and other physical changes that scientists sometimes observe in studies of anger.


Notes on the Notes

  1. Barsalou Lawrence W. 2008. "Grounded cognition." Annual Review of Psychology 59: 617-645.
  2. Barsalou, Lawrence W., W. Kyle Simmons, Aron K. Barbey, and Christine D. Wilson. 2003. "Grounding conceptual knowledge in modality-specific systems." Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7 (2): 84-91.
  3. Pulvermüller, Friedemann. 2013. "How neurons make meaning: brain mechanisms for embodied and abstract-symbolic semantics." Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17 (9), 458-470.    
  4. Oosterwijk, Suzanne, Maurice Topper, Mark Rotteveel, and Agneta H. Fischer. 2010. "When the mind forms fear: Embodied fear knowledge potentiates bodily reactions to fearful stimuli." Social Psychological and Personality Science 1 (1): 65-72.
  5. For other examples, see Oosterwijk, Suzanne, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2014. "Embodiment in the construction of emotion experience and emotion understanding." In Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition, edited by Lawrence Shapiro, 250-260. New York: Routledge.