November 11, 2016
Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer
This is my fifth response to “The basic emotional circuits of mammalian brains: Do animals have affective lives?” by Jaak Panksepp (2011). I love this man who dedicated his career to understanding emotions of our “fellow creatures” so as to create an evolutionary foundation for human emotions. According to Panksepp “our emotional feelings are grounded on ”instinctual behavioral” neural networks that evolved long before humans walked the face of the earth.” I deeply appreciate his willingness to talk with other researchers about his profound findings.
Why would Panksepp emphasize that “Clear dialogue in this area requires a disciplined distinction between the affective-emotional aspects of experience and the widely studied cognitive and emotional-behavioral aspects of human and animal Brain-Minds ?” He is trying to use his neuroscientific knowledge to make the distinction between Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) and Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB). In SVB the speaker evokes and maintains positive emotions in the listener, but in NVB the speaker elicits negative emotions in the listener.
Panksepp identifies “evolved brain functions in terms of primary processes (tools for living provided by evolution), secondary-processes (the vast unconscious learning and memory mechanisms of the brain), and tertiary-processes (the higher order functions of mind permitted largely by the cortical expansions that allow many thought-related symbolic functions).” This maps onto radical behaviorism’s phylogenetic, ontogenetic and cultural causes of behavior. However, the SVB/NVB distinction brings our attention to how these processes sound to the listener when they are expressed by speakers during our conversations.
“Primal emotions are among the most important aspects of our mental lives—they bring us great joys and sorrows and intrinsically help anticipate the future—but behavioral neuroscientists have offered few hypotheses about how experiences emerge from brains, especially those of other animals.” I don’t think that behavioral neuroscientists will come up with hypotheses about how we talk about these primary processes. Panksepp is probably as good as it gets. However, it should be clear to the reader that the processes he describes have different sounds. In SVB we expresses positive, but in NVB we expresses negative emotions.