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The Roles of Imagery and Meta- emotion in Deliberate Choice and Moral Psychology

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Understanding the role of emotion in reasoned, deliberate choice -- particularly moral experience -- requires three components: (a) Meta-emotion, allowing self-generated voluntary imagery and/or narratives that in turn trigger first-order emotions we may not already have, but would like to have for moral or other reasons. (b) Hardwired mammalian altruistic sentiments, necessary but not sufficient for moral motivation. (c) Neuropsychological grounding for what Hume called 'love of truth,' with two important effects in humans: (i) generalization of altruistic feelings beyond natural sympathy for conspecifics; and (ii) motivation to inquire into moral/political/psychological truth without automatic, a priori commitment to specific action tendencies -- to avoid trivializing ethical and social choices. After deliberation, the desired behaviour is then triggered by using meta-emotion and voluntary imagery to 'pull up' and habituate the needed first-order emotions. The neuropsychological basis for Hume's 'love of truth' is traced to Panksepp's 'seeking system' in combination with some prefrontal executive capacities.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Campus P.O. Box 1832, Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA 30314, USA ., Email:

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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