Monthly Archives: December 2014

Grounded Cognition

Microsoft Word - Tier2_frontiers_last.docStemmler’s doctoral dissertation : “Just do it! Guilt as a moral intuition to cooperate–A parallel constraint satisfaction approach,” (post Simultaneous Feeling and Deciding)  also made me aware of the concept of grounded cognition. Stemmler indicates that his findings are mainly in line with current approaches of grounded cognition. Models of  grounded cognition assume that cognitive processing and conceptual knowledge is grounded in the perceptual and action systems. According to Stemmler  in these approaches, the experience of an emotion is based on the way a situation is temporarily conceptualized or categorized. Conceptualizations of emotions represent abstract conceptual constructs that aggregate information from di fferent perceptual and action systems. Since these approaches assume that conceptual knowledge is stored with relation to other information which was co-activated within a current situation, the situations itself can activate knowledge, similar to the assumption of network-models of emotion. For instance, situations may be accompanied by memory-retrieval of similar situations which then have to be adapted to the current situation. Hence, present and past situational information is integrated in a coherent fashion. Situational information, memories from the past and current a ffective feelings can be integrated to form a meaningful gestalt.

Continue reading

Moral Coherence

sacredindexThis post is the first after a few technical issues. Some of my decision making has been suboptimal, but we will keep trying. The post is based on a commentary, “Is Anything Sacred Anymore?” that appeared in Psychological Inquiry, 23:  155-161, 2012. The authors are Peter H Ditto, Brittany Liu, and Sean P Wojcik. The commentary examines the paper: “The Moral Dyad: A Fundamental Template Unifying Moral Judgment,” by Gray, Waytz, and Young, that appeared in the Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, 23:2, 206-215. I have found commentary articles easier for me to understand since they have to examine two or more positions.

Ditto et al agree with Gray et al about the central role of mind perception in moral judgment and are intrigued by the idea that moral evaluation requires not just an intentional moral agent but also a suffering moral patient, and moreover that this dyadic structure of agent and patient, intention and suffering is the center of morality. They do not agree that interpersonal harm is the very meaning of morality, that no act can be morally offensive unless it is perceived to result in suffering.

Continue reading

Simultaneous feeling and deciding

wurzburgindexThis post is based on a doctoral dissertation: “Just do it! Guilt as a moral intuition to cooperate–A parallel constraint satisfaction approach,” written by Thomas Stemmler at the University of Wurzburg. Stemmler does a good job of fitting together some ideas that I have been unable to fit together. Ideas of Haidt, Glockner, Lerner, and Holyoak are notably connected.  He conducted five experiments examining guilt and cooperation to test, in the most simple terms, the hypothesis that making moral judgments is closer to making an aesthetic judgment than to reasoning about the moral justi fications of an action, and that moral intuitions come from moral emotions. The hypothesis is based on  Jonathan Haidt’s idea that the role of reasoning is literally to provide reasons (or arguments) for the intuitively made judgment if there is a need to communicate it. Part of the hypothesis is also that emotional intuitions in moral decision-making are the result of compensatory information processing which follows principles of parallel constraint satisfaction (PCS).  I am going to largely skip over the results of the experiments, but note that Stemmler believes that they support his hypothesis. He notes that guilt is only one emotion, but points out similarly confirming results for disgust.

Continue reading