November 22, 2016
Written by Maximus Peperkamp, M.S. Verbal Engineer
This is my sixteenth response to “The basic emotional circuits of mammalian brains: Do animals have affective lives?” At this point it is becoming clear to me how wrong Panksepp is in putting all his cards on gaining broader acceptance from the neuroscience community. In spite of the fact that “the evidence for various types of affective feelings in other mammals is now rather overwhelming,” the majority of the neuroscientists are still not listening to him. Why are knowledgeable people incapable of accepting facts which refute their beliefs?
The way of talking, which maintains beliefs that prevent people from looking at the facts, needs to be addressed before these beliefs can be changed. Panksepp’s stubborn adherence to a behavior-causing “mind” didn’t gain him any support from the behaviorist community. He once told me in an email that he had started out as a behaviorist, but he became dissatisfied with it as it. It is the Panksepp the behaviorist who writes “Wherever in the ancient subcortical reaches of the mammalian brain we evoke coherent emotional behaviors with electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB), we can also demonstrate that the central states evoked can serve as rewards and punishments.”
One moment, he uses behavioral constructs, such as “rewards and punishments”, but another moment, he refers again to the “affective aspects of mind.” He goes back and forth between behaviorism and mentalism; in the former, behavior is caused by environmental stimuli, but in the latter, behavior is assumed to be caused by the “ancient subcortical reaches of the mammalian brain.” I understand his dilemma.
Panksepp deserves credit for explaining “the fundamental nature of “reinforcement” as a brain process.” How could it have been anything else? It had to be a brain process, but this of course doesn’t change the fact that our brains are also affected by environmental stimuli. Behaviorists should be grateful for the great work of Panksepp, who gives a neuroscientific analysis of reinforcement and punishment.