Colloquia - “Constructing Emotion”

Kristen A. Lindquist, Ph.D. Department of Psychology and Neuroscience University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


*Reception to follow colloquium - Somers Family Hall Breezeway


Questions about the nature of emotion are some of the most enduring in psychology and neuroscience. We have been studying emotion scientifically for over a century, but answers to questions about the nature of these important states have remained elusive. Traditionally, attempts to weigh in on the mechanisms of emotion have used a single level of analysis and focus almost exclusively on cognitive, neurophysiological, or cultural mechanisms. In this talk, I discuss work that spans all three. I will begin by showing experimental evidence that emotions are mental states characterized by cognitive features such as valence, arousal, and situated semantic meanings. Next, I’ll demonstrate that these features are the product of interactions amongst distributed brain networks that predictively regulate visceromotor outputs by making best guesses about adaptive actions. Finally, I’ll close by showing that such predictions are learned via experience within particularly cultural contexts. Together, this work forms the basis of a new constructionist model in which emotions are both deeply embodied and encultured states.