Affect

Generally non-cognitive psychology is not an area I feel comfortable in. However, I’ve noticed I’ve been dancing around an issue in various post and comments on other blogs. The issue in question is AFFECT – or the emotional response component of cognition (or vice-versa). I’m dancing around it because when we meet forms of argument or rationalization in print or on the internet we can pull apart the structure of the arguments used but the emotional aspect is less tractable. This isn’t strictly a Mr Spock logic v emotion thing because the pulling apart includes looking at fallacious forms of reasoning, as well as heuristics and cognitive short cuts.

Affect is less tractable because our own emotional reaction to words is important to us and skilled writers seek to provoke emotions in their readers and so do skilled internet trolls and common-or-garden psychopaths. The intended emotional reaction is (except in the most blatant cases) also deniable – i.e. it is easy for a writer to say that the emotional impact of the words they chose was not one they intended or could have easily anticipated.

Further it is not easy to judge a writer’s own emotional reaction (again except in the more blatant cases) from the words they use. Politicians often fall into this trap, by appearing either too emotive or too emotionally distant or too flippant in news soundbites.

On top of this I dislike remote-psychological diagnosis – i.e. trying to identify psychological disorders in people via what they have written on the internet. It is another fools game. Having said that I can see that my recent Unified Puppy Theory could be accused of that but that is something else altogether – there I’m trying to work out how a set of cognitive models work. I am not assuming the people involved have dysfunctional brains – indeed the whole notion doesn’t work if I was to assume that the people involved have minds that don’t work as per-normal.

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3 thoughts on “Affect

  1. Of course, there’s always the thorny question of what “normal” actually is. I mean, in the end, we are all weird. We’re just weird in different ways, and sometimes our individual weirdness appears to resemble a general group weirdness so it can be labelled, and if that general group happens to be large enough, then it can be labelled as normal.

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