PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Does the Brain Respect Basic Emotion Theory? Pattern Classification and Correspondence in fMRI Research

In this essay, I examine Lindquist and colleagues’ claim that fMRI data contradicts basic emotion theory, which predicts that the brain has distinct systems dedicated to particular emotions—e.g., an “anger system,” a “fear system,” etc. They argue that each emotional brain region is recruited for several basic emotion categories; thus the brain does not respect basic emotion theory. Drawing on recent pattern classification studies, I argue that extant fMRI findings are compatible with an alternative explanation in which large-scale brain networks provide specific neural signatures of basic emotion categories. Thus the brain may respect basic emotion theory after all.

Author Information:

Joseph McCaffrey    
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh


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