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Reconsidering the Neuroevolutionary Framework of the SEEKING System: Emphasizing context Instead of Positivity

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Abstract

Wright & Panksepp make an important contribution by presenting their neuroevolutionary model of the SEEKING system. This system allows for the eager anticipation and discovery of various resources needed for survival, propagation, and personal growth (Panksepp, 2011; Panksepp & Moskal, 2008). In this article, attention is drawn to salient characteristics of the SEEKING system that have been left out of this theoretical account. Instead of focusing on the mental content inherent to the SEEKING system (emotions, sensations), I argue for the need to delineate contextual factors that influence the activation of this system. Furthermore, I comment on the problems of bypassing the uniqueness of human beings for a framework of SEEKING that is relevant for all mammalian species. Finally, I revisit the claim that the SEEKING system entails primal positive emotions by detailing the distress or pain that often occurs during meaning-making efforts. A functional contextual approach, which addresses when the seeking system helps an individual make progress toward personally meaningful goals and when this system disrupts these desired efforts, may be more promising for science and clinical work.

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... Analyzing curiosity through this perspective may also help produce a taxonomy for curiosity that carves nature at its joints. Curiosity has been split in several different ways, including novelty-seeking and scientific (James, 1890), perceptual and epistemic (Berlyne, 1954) specific and diversive (Berlyne 1966), interest and deprivation (Litman, 2008), forward and backward (Shin & Kim, 2019), bottom-up and top-down (Kashdan, 2012), and along several other dimensions (e.g., Kashdan et al., 2020). One reason why so much diversity exists in classifying and defining curiosity is because functional accounts of curiosity have yet to be rigorously investigated. ...
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Since Berlyne's groundbreaking work in the 1960's, curiosity has been a popular topic for psychological research. Despite a rich history of research, scientists have not been able to agree upon a single definition or taxonomy of curiosity. These diverging perspectives have led to a breadth of research that has yet to be integrated under one framework. Moreover, most research on curiosity has focused on neural mechanisms and ontogenetic characteristics, while the evolutionary aspects of curiosity have received little attention. I propose that research on curiosity can benefit from an evolutionary perspective, and more broadly from a biological perspective on information-gathering behavior. In this chapter, I synthesize the literature on curiosity from the perspective of behavioral biology-i.e., Tinbergen's four questions. The behavioral biology framework provides a powerful lens through which questions about behavior can be asked and iterative empirical work and theoretical construction can take place. In particular, I argue that evolutionary perspectives on curiosity can help identify the "joints" of nature at which curiosity may be carved. By identifying the function of different types of curiosity, a more robust and universal taxonomy of curiosity can be created.
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Research on curiosity has undergone 2 waves of intense activity. The 1st, in the 1960s, focused mainly on curiosity's psychological underpinnings. The 2nd, in the 1970s and 1980s, was characterized by attempts to measure curiosity and assess its dimensionality. This article reviews these contributions with a concentration on the 1st wave. It is argued that theoretical accounts of curiosity proposed during the 1st period fell short in 2 areas: They did not offer an adequate explanation for why people voluntarily seek out curiosity, and they failed to delineate situational determinants of curiosity. Furthermore, these accounts did not draw attention to, and thus did not explain, certain salient characteristics of curiosity: its intensity, transience, association with impulsivity, and tendency to disappoint when satisfied. A new account of curiosity is offered that attempts to address these shortcomings. The new account interprets curiosity as a form of cognitively induced deprivation that arises from the perception of a gap in knowledge or understanding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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This chapter presents an overview of functional contextualism which is a pragmatic philosophy for behavioral science. The chapter describes contextualism as functional contextualism, that is, as a pragmatic philosophy for behavioral science. It demonstrates the differences between mechanism and pragmatism; contextualism as a form of pragmatism; the philosophical inconsistency in behavior analysis stemming from inconsistency in Skinner's writing; the specific commonalities between contextualism and the pragmatic wing of behavior analysis; and some of the implications of adopting functional contextualism as an explicit philosophy for behavior analysis, particularly the freedom from implicit prejudices that have prevented behavior analysts from undertaking the analysis of private events. One goal of a pragmatic approach to the philosophy of science is to prevent the obstruction of useful inquiry. Behavior analysis and pragmatism have common roots in the American cultural tradition. Pragmatism interpreted in the context of behavior analysis evolves into a functional philosophy of science. Behavior analysis interpreted in the context of pragmatism clarifies its existing goals and subject matter, encouraging an integrated, focused, yet flexible science of behavior.
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An ACT Approach Chapter 1. What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy? Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, Kara Bunting, Michael Twohig, and Kelly G. Wilson Chapter 2. An ACT Primer: Core Therapy Processes, Intervention Strategies, and Therapist Competencies. Kirk D. Strosahl, Steven C. Hayes, Kelly G. Wilson and Elizabeth V. Gifford Chapter 3. ACT Case Formulation. Steven C. Hayes, Kirk D. Strosahl, Jayson Luoma, Alethea A. Smith, and Kelly G. Wilson ACT with Behavior Problems Chapter 4. ACT with Affective Disorders. Robert D. Zettle Chapter 5. ACT with Anxiety Disorders. Susan M. Orsillo, Lizabeth Roemer, Jennifer Block-Lerner, Chad LeJeune, and James D. Herbert Chapter 6. ACT with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Alethea A. Smith and Victoria M. Follette Chapter 7. ACT for Substance Abuse and Dependence. Kelly G. Wilson and Michelle R. Byrd Chapter 8. ACT with the Seriously Mentally Ill. Patricia Bach Chapter 9. ACT with the Multi-Problem Patient. Kirk D. Strosahl ACT with Special Populations, Settings, and Methods Chapter 10. ACT with Children, Adolescents, and their Parents. Amy R. Murrell, Lisa W. Coyne, & Kelly G. Wilson Chapter 11. ACT for Stress. Frank Bond. Chapter 12. ACT in Medical Settings. Patricia Robinson, Jennifer Gregg, JoAnne Dahl, & Tobias Lundgren Chapter 13. ACT with Chronic Pain Patients. Patricia Robinson, Rikard K. Wicksell, Gunnar L. Olsson Chapter 14. ACT in Group Format. Robyn D. Walser and Jacqueline Pistorello
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Psychologists have always been intrigued in interest, and modern research on interest can be found in nearly every area of the field: researchers studying emotions, cognition, development, education, aesthetics, personality, motivation, and vocations have developed intriguing ideas about what interest is and how it works. This book presents an integrated picture of how interest has been studied in all of the wide-ranging areas of psychology. Using modern theories of cognition and emotion as an integrative framework, it examines the nature of interest, what makes things interesting, the role of interest in personality, and the development of people's idiosyncratic interests, hobbies, and avocations. The examination reveals deep similarities between seemingly different fields of psychology and illustrates the profound importance of interest, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation for understanding why people do what they do. A comprehensive work devoted to interest, this book reviews the history of psychological thought on interest, presents classic and modern research, and suggests fruitful directions for future work.
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Curiosity, interest, and intrinsic motivation are critical to the development of competence, knowl- edge, and expertise. Without a mechanism of intrinsic motivation, people would rarely explore new things, learn for its own sake, or engage with uncertain tasks despite feelings of confusion and anxiety. This article explores two sides of interest: momentary feelings (the emotion of inter- est) and enduring traits (the character strength of curiosity). Recent theories in emotion psychol- ogy can explain why and when people experience feelings of interest; recent research has illuminated the role of curiosity in cultivating knowledge, meaning in life, close relationships, and physical and mental resilience. The problem for future research - and for social and personality psychology more generally - is how to bridge the dynamics of everyday experience with stable, lifespan aspects of personality.
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The majority of definitions, research studies, and treatment programs that focus on social anxiety characterize the prototypical person with the disorder as shy, submissive, inhibited, and risk averse. This stereotype, however, has been challenged recently. Specifically, a subset of people with social anxiety who are aggressive, impulsive novelty seekers deviate from that prototype. People with this atypical profile show greater functional impairment and are less likely to complete or fare well in treatment compared with inhibited socially anxious people. The difference between these two groups of people with social anxiety cannot be explained by the severity, type, or number of social fears, nor by co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders. Conclusions about the nature, course, and treatment of social anxiety may be compromised by not attending to diverse behaviors and self-regulatory styles. These concerns may be compounded in neurobiological and clinical studies of people with social anxiety problems that rely on smaller samples to make claims about brain patterns and the efficacy of particular treatments.
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Suitable as an introductory text or as supplementary reading for courses in personality and related fields, this highly readable volume offers students an original approach to five diverse and competing theories of personality. Using T. S. Kuhn's model of scientific revolutions as a framework, Jane Loevinger explores the major paradigms of personality produced by psychoanalysis, behaviorism, psychometrics, social learning theory, and cognitive developmentalism and places each theory in its appropriate social and historical context. The author shows how each paradigm rests on a major discovery (not necessarily in the field of personality), how each has generated a unique body of research findings, and how each provides unique access to a different facet of the person: the dynamic unconscious, behavior and its control, traits, social behavior and cognition, and character development. Loevinger explains how other theories of personality can be fitted within the Kuhnian framework as well, without overloading the student with a catalog of theoretical variations and disconnected experimental facts. "Paradigms of Personality" uses a contemporary case study of bulimia to illustrate major psychoanalytic concepts such as resistance, transference, childhood sexuality, dream analysis, and the problem of mastery. In its extensive coverage of the relatively new and growing field of cognitive developmentalism, the text emphasizes W. G. Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development in the college years, enlarging not only students' views of psychology but also their view of themselves. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Using a terror management theory paradigm, the present research assessed whether people characterized by both an attitude of curiosity, as well as mindful attention, would exhibit non-defensive reactions to targets that threaten their worldview. Participants (N = 118) were randomly assigned to an existential threat (mortality salience) condition or a control condition then asked to read an essay describing humans as just another animal or an essay describing the uniqueness of humans. Participants higher in both curiosity and mindful attention responded non-defensively, rating the humans as animals essay writer as likeable and intelligent, with a valid opinion. Participants who were high in mindfulness but low in curiosity responded defensively, with negative judgments of the essay writer. Mindlessness (endorsing low curiosity and mindful attention) also mitigated defensive responding. Although mindful and mindless people both showed non-defensive reactions, we theorize about distinct causal paths. Results suggest that curiosity plays an important, understudied role in the benefits linked to mindfulness.
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• This work, a second edition of which has very kindly been requested, was followed by La Construction du réel chez l'enfant and was to have been completed by a study of the genesis of imitation in the child. The latter piece of research, whose publication we have postponed because it is so closely connected with the analysis of play and representational symbolism, appeared in 1945, inserted in a third work, La formation du symbole chez l'enfant. Together these three works form one entity dedicated to the beginnings of intelligence, that is to say, to the various manifestations of sensorimotor intelligence and to the most elementary forms of expression. The theses developed in this volume, which concern in particular the formation of the sensorimotor schemata and the mechanism of mental assimilation, have given rise to much discussion which pleases us and prompts us to thank both our opponents and our sympathizers for their kind interest in our work. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Purpose-a cognitive process that defines life goals and provides personal meaning-may help explain disparate empirical social science findings. Devoting effort and making progress toward life goals provides a significant, renewable source of engagement and meaning. Purpose offers a testable, causal system that synthesizes outcomes including life expectancy, satisfaction, and mental and physical health. These outcomes may be explained best by considering the motivation of the individual-a motivation that comes from having a purpose. We provide a detailed definition with specific hypotheses derived from a synthesis of relevant findings from social, behavioral, biological, and cognitive literatures. To illustrate the uniqueness of the purpose model, we compared purpose with competing contemporary models that offer similar predictions. Addressing the structural features unique to purpose opens opportunities to build upon existing causal models of "how and why" health and well-being develop and change over time.
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The purpose of this article is to suggest some new directions for the presentation and reporting of data in psychotherapy outcome research. Statistical comparisons based on group means provide no information on the variability of treatment outcome, and statistical significance tests do not address clinical significance. Although psychotherapy research has begun to address these issues, it has done so unsystematically. New standards and conventions are needed to serve as criteria for classifying therapy subjects into categories of improved, unimproved, and deteriorated based on response to treatment. A two-fold criterion for determining improvement in a client is recommended, based on both statistical reliability and clinical significance. Statistical procedures for determining whether or not these criteria have been met are discussed.
Article
Curiosity is the propensity to recognize and seek out new information and experience, including an intrinsic interest in learning and developing one's knowledge. With few exceptions, researchers have often ignored the social consequences of being curious. In four studies using cross-sectional (N = 64), daily diary (Ns = 150 and 110, respectively), and behavioral experimental (N = 132) designs, we tested the hypothesis that individual differences in curiosity are linked to less aggression, even when people are provoked. We showed that both trait and daily curiosity were linked to less aggressive responses toward romantic relationship partners and people who caused psychological hurt. In time-lagged analyses, daily curiosity predicted less aggression from one day to the next, with no evidence for the reverse direction. Studies 3 and 4 showed that the inverse association between curiosity and aggression was strongest in close relationships and in fledgling (as opposed to long-lasting) romantic relationships. That is, highly curious people showed evidence of greater context sensitivity. Intensity of hurt feelings and other personality and relationship variables failed to account for these effects. Curiosity is a neglected mechanism of resilience in understanding aggression.
Article
Self-determination theory (SDT) maintains that an understanding of human motivation requires a consideration of innate psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. We discuss the SDT concept of needs as it relates to previous need theories, emphasizing that needs specify the necessary conditions for psychological growth, integrity, and well-being. This concept of needs leads to the hypotheses that different regulatory processes underlying goal pursuits are differentially associated with effective functioning and well-being and also that different goal contents have different relations to the quality of behavior and mental health, specifically because different regulatory processes and different goal contents are associated with differing degrees of need satisfaction. Social contexts and individual differences that support satisfaction of the basic needs facilitate natural growth processes including intrinsically motivated behavior and integration of extrinsic motivations, whereas those that forestall autonomy, competence, or relatedness are associated with poorer motivation, performance, and well-being. We also discuss the relation of the psychological needs to cultural values, evolutionary processes, and other contemporary motivation theories.
Article
Traditionally, positive emotions and thoughts, strengths, and the satisfaction of basic psychological needs for belonging, competence, and autonomy have been seen as the cornerstones of psychological health. Without disputing their importance, these foci fail to capture many of the fluctuating, conflicting forces that are readily apparent when people navigate the environment and social world. In this paper, we review literature to offer evidence for the prominence of psychological flexibility in understanding psychological health. Thus far, the importance of psychological flexibility has been obscured by the isolation and disconnection of research conducted on this topic. Psychological flexibility spans a wide range of human abilities to: recognize and adapt to various situational demands; shift mindsets or behavioral repertoires when these strategies compromise personal or social functioning; maintain balance among important life domains; and be aware, open, and committed to behaviors that are congruent with deeply held values. In many forms of psychopathology, these flexibility processes are absent. In hopes of creating a more coherent understanding, we synthesize work in emotion regulation, mindfulness and acceptance, social and personality psychology, and neuropsychology. Basic research findings provide insight into the nature, correlates, and consequences of psychological flexibility and applied research provides details on promising interventions. Throughout, we emphasize dynamic approaches that might capture this fluid construct in the real-world.
Article
Part I: The Basic Account. 1. Language and Cognition: Constructing an Alternative Approach Within the Behavioral Tradition S.C. Hayes, et al. 2. Derived Relational Responding as Learned Behavior S.C. Hayes, et al. 3. Multiple Stimulus Relations and the Transformation of Stimulus Functions D. Barnes-Holmes, et al. 4. Relations Among Relations: Analogies, Metaphors, and Stories I. Stewart, et al. 5. Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Pragmatic Verbal Analysis S.C. Hayes, et al. 6. Understanding and Verbal Regulation D. Barnes-Holmes, et al. 7. Self and Self-Directed Rules D. Barnes-Holmes, et al. 8. Relational Frame Theory: A Precis S.C. Hayes, et al. Part II: Extensions and Applications. 9. Psychological Development Y. Barnes-Holmes, et al. 10. Education Y. Barnes-Holmes, et al. 11. Social Processes B. Roche, et al. 12. Psychopathology and Psychotherapy K.G. Wilson, et al. 13. Religion, Spirituality, and Transcendence D. Barnes-Holmes, et al. Epilogue. References. Index.
Article
The position advanced in this paper is that the bedrock of emotional feelings is contained within the evolved emotional action apparatus of mammalian brains. This dual-aspect monism approach to brain-mind functions, which asserts that emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamics of brain systems that generate instinctual emotional behaviors, saves us from various conceptual conundrums. In coarse form, primary process affective consciousness seems to be fundamentally an unconditional "gift of nature" rather than an acquired skill, even though those systems facilitate skill acquisition via various felt reinforcements. Affective consciousness, being a comparatively intrinsic function of the brain, shared homologously by all mammalian species, should be the easiest variant of consciousness to study in animals. This is not to deny that some secondary processes (e.g., awareness of feelings in the generation of behavioral choices) cannot be evaluated in animals with sufficiently clever behavioral learning procedures, as with place-preference procedures and the analysis of changes in learned behaviors after one has induced re-valuation of incentives. Rather, the claim is that a direct neuroscientific study of primary process emotional/affective states is best achieved through the study of the intrinsic ("instinctual"), albeit experientially refined, emotional action tendencies of other animals. In this view, core emotional feelings may reflect the neurodynamic attractor landscapes of a variety of extended trans-diencephalic, limbic emotional action systems-including SEEKING, FEAR, RAGE, LUST, CARE, PANIC, and PLAY. Through a study of these brain systems, the neural infrastructure of human and animal affective consciousness may be revealed. Emotional feelings are instantiated in large-scale neurodynamics that can be most effectively monitored via the ethological analysis of emotional action tendencies and the accompanying brain neurochemical/electrical changes. The intrinsic coherence of such emotional responses is demonstrated by the fact that they can be provoked by electrical and chemical stimulation of specific brain zones-effects that are affectively laden. For substantive progress in this emerging research arena, animal brain researchers need to discuss affective brain functions more openly. Secondary awareness processes, because of their more conditional, contextually situated nature, are more difficult to understand in any neuroscientific detail. In other words, the information-processing brain functions, critical for cognitive consciousness, are harder to study in other animals than the more homologous emotional/motivational affective state functions of the brain.
Article
A number of literatures and philosophies throughout human history have conveyed the idea that there is personal gain to be found in suffering, and it is an idea central to the existential-humanistic tradition of psychology. However, it is only relatively recently that the topic of growth following adversity has become the focus for empirical and theoretical work. In this paper, we review theoretical models of growth, and discuss the implications of growth for clinical practice. Three main theoretical perspectives are reviewed, the functional-descriptive model, the meta-theoretical person-centered perspective, and the biopsychosocial-evolutionary view. It is proposed that these three approaches to theory offer different but complementary levels of analysis, and that theoretical integration between them is possible. We then go on to explore the implications of this theoretical integration for clinical practice, and conclude with a consideration of the role of therapy in facilitating growth following adversity.
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