The best way to state the nature of love is to identify standard examples, typical features, and explanatory roles. Love is an emotion consisting of patterns of neural firing that represent a lover, a loved one, intense feelings, and caring behavior, all tied to chemical changes in the brain.
The emotional impact of music does not come from imparting particular emotions, but rather from being emotionally engaging in general. So it does not matter whether a song is happy or sad, only whether it has an emotional impact on the listeners.
The Cinderella story illustrates a common pattern in which a victim experiences harm because of bad actions performed by a bad agent with bad intentions. I call this pattern the wrongdoing schema, and outline how it explains important aspects of moral cognition.
The theory that consciousness is just information integration suffers from vagueness, mathematical problems, naïve claims about self-evidence, and misattribution of consciousness to entities such as smartphones.So it is less plausible than alternate theories that explain consciousness as the result of brain mechanisms.
Some social and developmental psychologists have claimed that people—even children—naturally think like scientists. I find this claim implausible because: people are naturally religious rather than scientific; everyday thinking frequently deviates from scientific reasoning; and science is a relatively recent cultural development.
Once superintelligence comes about because computers acquire and surpass human-level intelligence, it may turn out to have interests and actions that run counter to those of humans, to our detriment and possibly even our demise. But despite advances in AI, computers are still very limited compared to humans.
A new approach to explaining social change needs to combine recent theories about the brain processes responsible for cognition and emotion with understanding of social communication that is both verbal and non-verbal.
Debate continues on whether consciousness operates in brains, in non-material souls, or in anything capable of integrating information. Rapid progress is being made on the neural mechanisms responsible for consciousness.
Philosophy and psychology should abandon assumptions that human minds are at all optimal or rational, and instead concentrate on identifying the neural mechanisms that make us good at but far from perfect for remembering, forming beliefs, making decisions, using language, and pursuing happiness.
Complex concepts like intelligence are rarely amenable to strict definitions. But they can be
informatively characterized by specifying exemplars (standard examples), typical features, and explanations.
Understanding decision making as a psychological process of emotional coherence provides a better explanation of why people often get so paralyzed by crucial decisions, which is mysterious on the economic model of maximizing expected utility.
Fear-driven inference occurs when people acquire beliefs with little evidence because the beliefs scare them. David Nussbaum and I propose that the mechanism underlying fear-driven inference is gut overreaction, which involves an ongoing feedback loop between judgment and emotional response.
Empathic understanding of other people's emotions can result from an automatic mode based on mirror neurons and emotional contagion by facial and bodily mimicry, and also from a deliberate mode based on verbal descriptions and analogical reasoning.
Panpsychism claims that consciousness belongs to everything, not just people, but it is implausible for many reasons. Consciousness is an emergent property of brains resulting from several neural mechanisms.
Why is there often a gap between the intentions of people like Rob Ford and their actions? My radical view, based on a new model of how intentions in the brain lead to action, is that there is no free will because there is no will.
Tips for writing productively include: conform to your body rhythms, have a daily quota, produce outlines, expect multiple drafts, read just in time, know your audience, revise well, and backup your work.
In response to students’ questions about whether time is real and time travel is possible, I’ve been reading what physicists and biologists have to say. My conclusions are that time (as a system of relations among events) is real, and that time travel is implausible.
Resilience is important in many spheres of life, from personal psychology to ecology and economics. It’s important to be resilient and bounce back from life’s difficulties, but it’s even better to bounce forward and be “prosilient”.
Bertrand Russell devised a word game he called “irregular verbs” with examples like: I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pigheaded fool. These constructions provide excellent illustrations of the varying emotional associations of words.