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Perturbance: Unifying Research on Emotion, Intrusive Mentation and Other Psychological Phenomena with AI

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Intrusive mentation, rumination, obsession, and worry, referred to by Watkins [1] as "repetitive thought" (RT), are of great interest to psychology. This is partly because every typical adult is subject to "RT". A critical feature of "RT" is of transdiagnostic significance—for example obsessive compulsive disorder, insomnia and addictions involve unconstructive “RT”. We argue that “RT” cannot be understood in isolation but must rather be considered within models of whole minds. Researchers must adopt the designer stance in the tradition of Artificial Intelligence augmented by systematic conceptual analysis [2]. This means developing, exploring and implementing cognitive-affective architectures. Empirical research on "RT" needs to be driven by such theories, and theorizing about “RT” needs to consider such data. We draw attention to H-CogAff theory of mind (motive processing, emotion, etc.) and a class of emotions it posits called perturbance (or tertiary emotions) [3,4], as a foundation for the research programme we advocate. Briefly, a perturbance is a mental state in which motivators tend to disrupt executive processes. We argue that grief, limerence (the attraction phase of romantic love) and a host of other psychological phenomena involving "RT" should be conceptualized in terms of perturbance and related design-based constructs. We call for new taxonomies of "RT" in terms of information processing architectures such as H-CogAff. We claim general theories of emotion also need to recognize perturbance and other architecture-based aspects of emotion. Meanwhile “cognitive” architectures need to consider requirements of autonomous agency, leading to cognitive-affective architectures.
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Perturbance: Unifying research on emotion, intrusive
mentation and other psychological phenomena with AI
Luc P. Beaudoin1, Sylwia Hyniewska2 and Eva Hudlicka3
Abstract. Intrusive mentation, rumination, obsession, and
worry, referred to by Watkins [1] as "repetitive thought" (RT),
are of great interest to psychology. This is partly because every
typical adult is subject to "RT". A critical feature of "RT" is of
transdiagnostic significancefor example obsessive compulsive
disorder, insomnia and addictions involve unconstructive RT.
We argue that RTcannot be understood in isolation but must
rather be considered within models of whole minds. Researchers
must adopt the designer stance in the tradition of Artificial
Intelligence augmented by systematic conceptual analysis [2].
This means developing, exploring and implementing cognitive-
affective architectures. Empirical research on "RT" needs to be
driven by such theories, and theorizing about “RT” needs to
consider such data. We draw attention to H-CogAff theory of
mind (motive processing, emotion, etc.) and a class of emotions
it posits called perturbance (or tertiary emotions) [3,4], as a
foundation for the research programme we advocate. Briefly, a
perturbance is a mental state in which motivators tend to disrupt
executive processes. We argue that grief, limerence (the
attraction phase of romantic love) and a host of other
psychological phenomena involving "RT" should be
conceptualized in terms of perturbance and related design-based
constructs. We call for new taxonomies of "RT" in terms of
information processing architectures such as H-CogAff. We
claim general theories of emotion also need to recognize
perturbance and other architecture-based aspects of emotion.
Meanwhile “cognitive” architectures need to consider
requirements of autonomous agency, leading to cognitive-
affective architectures.
12
In the evenings she peeped out at him from the bookcase, from
the fireplace, from the corner he heard her breathing, the
caressing rustle of her dress. In the street he watched the
women, looking for someone like her. (“The Lady with the Dog”,
Anton Chekhov.)
1 INTRODUCTION
Over 35 years ago, Aaron Sloman and Monica Croucher
launched a research programme based on an important , subtle
insight that had first been suggested by Herbert Simon [61]:
Humans have emotions for the same reason that future robots
will, as a consequence of interacting information processing
mechanisms that address the requirements of autonomous
agency [5,6]. This theory was grounded in Artificial Intelligence
1 Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser Univ. Email: lpb@sfu.ca.
2 Dept. of Psychology, Univ. of Bath. Email:
Sylwia.Hyniewska@gmail.com.
3. Psychometrix Associates, Inc. Email: hudlicka@ieee.org.
(AI) and conceptual analysis. From 1990 to 2005 the ensuing
Cognition and Affect (CogAff) project (mainly at the University
of Birmingham, England) actively pursued this insight, by
exploring, implementing, assessing and refining requirements,
and software tools, and developing cognitive-affective
architectures capable of modelling the hypothesized affective
processes[7].
Sloman ultimately proposed three major types of emotion:
primary, secondary and tertiary [3]. Tertiary emotion, the focus
of [5,6] where it is simply called emotion, is also the focus of
this paper; for reasons explained below, we refer to it as
perturbance [4]. In a nutshell, in order for a motive to disturb
deliberative processes, such as problem solving, it must
implicitly or explicitly be assigned a sufficiently high insistence
level. A perturbance is a state in which an insistent motivator
tends to distract or alter deliberative processes in a manner that
is difficult for reflective processes to suppress or control. These
terms are briefly described below, and more extensively in
various CogAff project publications we cite. In short, the
concept of perturbance provides a parsimonious, design-based
way of understanding the obsessive aspects of emotion-like
states, wherein the agent experiences a certain loss of control of
attention and hence of management processes.
In this paper, we argue that perturbance is a major feature of
the human mind that has been ignored by psychologists but
deserves considerable attention. This concept has the potential to
unify several areas of study, including fundamental processes
such as attention, emotion and emotion regulation, cognitive
phenomena such as intrusive thought, and psychopathological
conditions such as rumination, obsessive worrying and
addictions. Like any theoretical concept, the concept of
perturbance does not stand alone. It is meaningful, promising
and useful because of the theoretical framework within which it
is embedded: a) the CogAff architecture schema, and b) H-
CogAff, a particular architecture based on CogAff which is
aimed specifically at understanding humans [3].
Whereas Sloman made significant attempts to disseminate the
design-based approach and H-CogAff to emotion and AI
researchers, the impact on the psychology literature so far has
been minimal, due to various factors some of which we will
allude to here. Meanwhile, affective computing (AC), a
discipline of computer science that focuses on emotion,
including emotion modelling, is gaining momentum. However,
AC currently tends to pursue narrow problems relevant to
practical applications focusing on primary emotions (e.g.,
machine perception of primary emotions). In AC, there is almost
no research on automatically detecting perturbance, let alone
attempts to produce systems that can experience and monitor
perturbance. This is the case despite the fact that Sloman’s work,
including the concept of perturbance, was described in Rosalind
Picard influential Affective Computing [65]. Sloman, who was
one of the first AI researchers to systematically emphasize
computational architectures, did foresee that AC would be a
long road [66]. Still, AI’s highly visible progress, and its work
on architectures, bode well for AC. We believe that history will
prove Sloman’s theory of perturbance is a sleeping beauty.
According to [8] these beautiestend to awakenwhen they
are discovered by a new community of researchers.
This paper is meant to promote consideration of H-CogAff by
indicating its relevance to many phenomena and research
communities, while focusing on one of its original concepts,
perturbance. However, we only have space for a cursory
overview of the theory itself. For more information about it, see
[2-7,9-10] and other papers cited below.
2 WHY HUMANS HAVE PERTURBANT
EMOTIONS AND HIGHLY AUTONOMOUS
ROBOTS WILL TOO
Sloman & Croucher [5,6] claimed emotions will emerge as side-
effects in minds designed to meet the requirements of
autonomous agency. These challenges include dealing with
multiple endogenous sources of motivation with limited physical
and processing resources in a rapidly changing, unpredictable,
and only partially controllable environment. Autonomous agents
require relatively simple mechanisms to generate and activate
goals. For various a priori reasons their deliberative mechanisms
have limited parallelism (see [4] ch. 4 and [61]) .
Not every activated goal can be considered simultaneously by
deliberative processes. There must be comparatively simple
mechanisms to decide whether the deliberative layer of the
architecture may be interrupted (or otherwise influenced) by a
given goal. These include insistence assignment, which
heuristically reflects the importance and urgency of a goal, and
interrupt filtering. For example, if a hungry autonomous agent
detects a rare opportunity to consume a source of energy, a new
goal to approach the source may be triggered. However, in order
for this goal to even be considered, it needs to be sufficiently
insistent to penetrate the attention filter and interrupt current
executive processing and behaviour. If the agent is under attack,
its executive processes might not even notice its goal to
approach the source because the filter threshold will have been
raised higher than the insistence level of the goal to approach. As
any good software designer knows, designing software involves
trade-offs. It’s impossible to design perfect insistence and
filtering rules. Sometimes, the robot will tend to be distracted by
its own insistent goals that it keeps rejecting (e.g., to approach an
appealing agent the pursuit of whom would violate its norms or
other goalsconflicted robot love.) Thus, not all emotion-like
states need be built into a robot; perturbant emotions will
emerge.
Sloman, Beaudoin and their colleagues on H-CogAff project
continued to be challenged by psychologists who insisted that
the states they were describing were not really emotions.
Meanwhile, psychologists still do not agree on the meaning of
the word “emotion” [11-13], a highly polymorphous concept in
ordinary language. In order to avoid pointless turf wars over a
label and to stimulate progressive research, Beaudoin [4] coined
the term “perturbance” for Sloman’s original technical concept
of emotion [5]. Since then, one has been able to say there are
perturbant emotions (or perturbant states), while allowing
researchers to stipulate other types of emotion. We prefer the
term perturbance to ‘tertiary emotion’ (introduced later by
Sloman [3]) because the former denotes a more general
concepte.g., it can be interpreted in terms of architectures
with more than three layers.
Perturbance is of considerable adaptive significance because
it is an affection of the human brain’s executive processes, which
govern the agent.
Alas, internal attentional disturbance still does not figure
prominently in general theories of human emotion (e.g., [13,14]).
Ironically, it is in a biological theory of emotion that such
disturbance is highlighted, in what Panksepp & Biven [15] also
call tertiary emotions. Unfortunately, the architecture-based
concept of perturbance is still not used widely outside H-
CogAff. Yet the loss of control of attention of many emotional
episodes needs to be accounted for in such terms. We believe
that the concept of perturbance and its label still need to be
disseminated. It is our hope that this paper will help the idea gain
acceptance and treat this alexithymia in the literature on affect.
3 H-CogAff: AN AUTONOMOUS AGENT
ARCHITECTURE
The concept of perturbance is part of a design-based research
programme that proposes a class of mental architectures
(CogAff) whose particular instance, H-CogAff, is the backdrop
of this paper [7]. H-CogAff is a response to human autonomous
agency requirements emanating from that programme. They
were alluded to above, and elaborated in [4]. A sketch of H-
CogAff is presented next to the more generic CogAff schema in
Figure 1.
Figure 1. CogAff schema and H-CogAff architecture diagrams
from [3]
This highly interconnected architecture assumes mechanisms
for perceiving and affecting the environment, generating alarms,
and creating and activating goals (and other types of motivators)
in real-time, synchronously and asynchronously from executive
processes. There are two broad types of executive processes:
deliberative processes (manifold base level reasoning,
evaluating, planning, scheduling, deciding, and control, also
known as management processes) and meta-management
processes (reflection and high-level control), localized in the
upper two levels of the H-CogAff architecture. The meta-
management layer could, for instance, postpone the
consideration of a newly activated goal till some juncture
deliberation scheduling. The “reactive” layer is more closely
coupled to the environment than the other two. H-CogAff
supposes variable-threshold qualitative and quantitative interrupt
filters, which protect limited-capacity executive processes. A
detailed specification of the structure of goals and the H-CogAff
processes operating on them is provided in [4].
On the basis of this architecture, Sloman was able to
distinguish three types of emotion [3,16]. Primary emotion
involves alarms triggered by perceptual information, such as an
angry glare or the unexpected appearance of the object of one’s
infatuation. Secondary emotion involves alarms triggered by
noticing an executive layer’s content (e.g., suddenly realizing a
plan of action will or would have a disastrous side-effect).
Alarms have global effects in the architecture, physiological or
exclusively mental. Tertiary emotionmore generally,
perturbanceinvolves an interaction, between motive
activators, filters, deliberative and meta-management processes,
etc. In perturbance, even if the deliberative layer were to
postpone consideration of an insistent motivator, the motivator
would still tend to penetrate the filter and divert deliberative
processes; or the motivator might maintain control of executive
processes. Perturbance is an emergent phenomenon; special
cases aside, it is not necessarily adaptive or maladaptive.
Adaptiveness and function are attributes of the architecture and
its constituent mechanisms.
The potential of this theory for psychology derives partly
from the research methods, the designer stance [67], that gave
rise to it. This stance can address a deep issue that surrounds but
has not previously been explicitly linked to psychology’s
“replication crisis” [17]. Psychology often lacks sufficient theory
for the phenomena it empirically investigates. We call for (1) a
better explicit characterization of human capabilities, an
exploration of mental architectures (designs), and
implementations [2]; and (2) empirical research driven by
unified theories of mind [18,19]. Cognitive architectures, still
largely ignored in psychology, are not enough; affective
processes deserve equal consideration. H-CogAff is still
incomplete; but it is a starting point worth considering.
4 TWO PERTURBANT EMOTIONS
Let us consider two emotions that can last for months, are
eminently perturbant, but are insufficiently explained by general
theories of emotion: grief and limerence. Perhaps this oversight
is because these emotions cannot ethically be manipulated in the
laboratory. Empirical psychology needs to be more concerned
with explaining observed individual possibilities in detail
(Newell, 1973), including detailed case studies, diary studies,
correspondence studies (e.g., [20]) and fiction ([21-23]).
Researchers could do worse than to try to design minds that
support the perturbant emotions depicted in humanity’s greatest
works of romantic poetry and fiction such as of the main
characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and Chekhov’s The
Lady with the Dog.
Grief. When grieving, one tends to be assailed by memories
and motives about the deceased. Wright, Sloman & Beaudoin
[24,25] offered a design-based explanation of emotion,
illustrated by a case study of grief, in which they claimed grief is
(often) an extended process of cognitive reorganization
characterized by the occurrence of negatively valenced
perturbant states caused by an attachment structure reacting to
news of the death.” That theory addresses important questions
such as: Why does grief consume the mourner? Because
executive processes have limited capacity and become swamped
by highly insistent motivators generated by a structure of
attachment to a highly valued individual; in addition, re-learning
and detachment require extensive rumination, which can
maintain perturbance.
Limerence. The prototypical perturbant state is limerence:
The nearly universal attraction phase of romantic love [26,27].
Notably, limerence researchers agree that limerence is
characterized by focused attention on and intrusive mentation
(IM) about the limerent object (LO) with manifold intense and
insistent motives for union with the LO ([26]). Limerence is of
great evolutionary and human significance, because it enhances
the likelihood of matingand, in most cultures, attaching to the
LO, which helps offspring survive [28]. Yet affective scientists
have hardly considered the phenomenon as a generally
representative and illuminating emotion, let alone from the
designer stance.
A defining feature of perturbance is diminishment of the
already limited human capacity to control one’s own attention.
Consider a limerent’s diary entry ““This obsession has infected
my brain. I cannot shake those constantly intruding thoughts of
you. Every thought winds back to you no matter how hard I try
to direct its course in other directions.”” [26]). Many, perhaps
most, limerent minds are aware of this intrusiveness. This is only
possible because (unlike most species) humans can, to a limited
extent, monitor and voluntarily control their attention (i.e.,
execute meta-management functions).
The H-CogAff framework seems to be at least as promising
for limerence as it is for grieftwo emotions that normally
operate in opposite ways on attachment structures. Limerence,
the attraction phase, involves establishing attachment structures:
motivators, motive generators, insistence assignment rules, other
reactive processes, filters, plans, etc. Grief is an extended
process of dismantling such attachment structures. Limerence
and grief overlap in heartbreak and lovelornness. Also like grief,
limerence can loosen prior attachment (facilitating the
abandonment of one’s current partner for a new one, or
forgetting a prior love). Accounting for attachment processes is
important given that emotions seem to have evolved in large part
to enable individuals to indirectly manage each other via
commitments and attachments [29]. Several H-CogAff projects
have already examined perturbance in relation to attachment
(e.g., [30]).
While it may be tempting to cast limerence as a pathological
form of romantic love [31,32], this would distort the original and
common academic conception of limerence [33]. This would
also overlook the near universality and evolutionary significance
of limerence. Like other obsessions and other emotional states,
limerence lies on continua [34] and may or may not be
pathological. We believe the distorted casting should be resisted
by scholars; instead other terms should be used to describe
pathological limerence. We also recommend that scientific
literature on this phase converge on the term limerenceand
help shape folk psychology.
There is more to limerence than perturbance, just as there is
more to motive processing and emotions than perturbance.
Perturbance is a particularly promising concept partly because
it encourages questions to be raised progressively about mental
states in terms of whole-mind design (motive generators,
attachment structures, etc.), leading to further requirement and
design specification. Perturbance cannot be understood in
isolation. It transcends folk psychology and the intentional
stance.
5 REPETITIVE AND INTRUSIVE
MENTATION INVOLVE PERTURBANCE
Watkins [1] suggested that an important attentional
phenomenon should be conceptualized as “repetitive thought”
(RT). He echoed a definition of RT as a “process of thinking
attentively, repetitively or frequently about one’s self and one’s
world [forming] the core of a number of different models of
adjustment and maladjustment.” (p. 163) Under the banner of
RT, Watkins included such varied phenomena as cognitive and
emotional processing of persistent intrusions, depressive
rumination, perseverative cognition, rumination, worry,
planning, problem solving, and mental simulation, mind
wandering, counterfactual thinking, post-event rumination,
defensive pessimism, positive rumination, reflection, habitual
negative self-thinking. To this list we would add obsessive and
compulsive mentation and cravings. Watkins notes that worry,
for instance, was defined in [35] as “a chain of thoughts and
images, negatively affect-laden and relatively uncontrollable”
and as “an attempt to engage in mental problem-solving on an
issue whose outcome is uncertain but contains the possibility of
one or more negative outcomes” (p. 9).
Watkins’s reasons for favouring RT as the overarching
concept were that it is more inclusive than the alternatives,
atheoretical, clearer, highly correlated with measures of worry
and rumination, and non-evaluative (constructive or
unconstructive).
We agree that RT phenomena are scientifically significant.
For many of them are typical of normal self-regulation
everyone experiences IM, for instance. Furthermore, extreme
forms of RT are transdiagnostic [36]. RT plays a critical role in
insomnia and depression, for instance [37]. Insomnia also is of
transdiagnostic significance [37]a cause and consequence of
RT.
However, Watkins’ RT conceptualization is limited. Firstly,
the expression “RT” misleadingly suggests that the repetitive
content is cognitive in the traditional sense (“thought”), whereas
it is often affectively-laden. Moreover, the processes that
manage the ‘repetitive’ mental content serve these motivators,
such as assessing and deciding. Repetitive mentation (RM) is
more inclusive and germane. Further, the atheoretical criterion is
unrealistic and counterproductive; it also runs against Watkins’s
other criterion of being conceptually clear. One needs a general
theory, beyond folk psychology, in relation to which intrusions
and the executive processes that respond to them are specified.
(Compare progress in evolutionary classification based on
molecular genetics rather than phenotypic features.) Whether
authors are explicit and clear or not about their theory, the
concepts at play in RT involve, or at least require, a functional
architecture. For something must be generating motivators;
something must be interrupting in intrusions; something must be
considering goals; something must be prioritizing them; etc.
These mechanisms need to be named and specified in relation to
an architecture. The theory ought to “cut nature at its joints” and
be amenable to a progressive research programme of simulation,
further theoretical development and cumulative empirical
research [38]. Furthermore, the all inclusive RT
conceptualization comes at the cost of papering over significant
differences, for instance between reflection and rumination. The
farrago of “RT” concepts requires conceptual analysis and
functional specification, which will lead to much pruning and
reclassification.
The phenomena of RM are too global, involving too many
diverse wide-ranging mechanisms of mind, to be understood
without reference to a broad and explicit theory of mind.
Moreover, one must understand the how of normal information
processing (IP) to assess mentation as constructive or
unconstructive. Alas, the RT literature has failed to adopt or
develop architectural models of mind. For instance, in describing
a highly studied phenomenon of RM, affective biases, Mathews,
Mackintosh & Fulcher [39] invoke interrupt signals, attentional
vigilance, effortful suppression and intrusions. The concepts of
cognitive and attentional ‘biases’ [68], are currently cast mainly
in terms of ‘external and internal stimuli’ rather than in terms of
goal or motive processing (contrast [4-5,61]), i.e., the
mechanisms that are being affected. The attentional bias and RM
literatures fail to invoke an overall model of mind which, for
instance generates motives, prioritizes, them and acts upon them,
i.e., that addresses the types of capabilities with which H-CogAff
is concerned.
Wells & Mathews published a book length theory, the Self-
Regulatory Executive Function (S-REF) model [40], that
valiantly attempts to address many phenomena at the intersection
of cognition and affect, including RT. The model is explicitly
inspired by architecture-based AI. However, the empirical RT
literature seems at most to pay lip service to it. For instance, in
their extensive book on transdiagnostic processes, Harvey et al.
[36] summarily reject S-REF. It is not noted that and how S-REF
would need to be improved to address more of the requirements
of autonomous agency normal multi-purpose (multi-motive)
competence. The main issue, that this promising underdeveloped
theory needed AI attention was not mentioned.
Watkins (2008) and others point to control theory as an
explanatory framework for “RT” and self-regulation. While
some of these models are promising (e.g., [41]), they too need to
be integrated with a broader architecture. They need to deal with
rich qualitative control states and mechanisms that follow from
the requirements of autonomous agency (see [42]).
H-CogAff provides a theoretical framework in relation to
which classification and modelling may proceed. This
framework has the advantage of being constructed to explore
how human minds might solve real world problems of
autonomous agency. It is by no means a complete or detailed
specification; but it has proven to be useful for generating and
exploring models, many of which have already been
implemented [7,9].
H-CogAff offers a path towards a deeper conceptualization of
“RT”. In [1], intrusive thought (IT) is not a category of RT,
likely because it is an essential aspect of RT. IT is better, and
more generally, conceived as intrusive mentation (IM), and more
deeply as perturbance. The concept of perturbance is based on
the dispositional concept of insistence of mental content: a
motivator may be insistent and yet not disrupt processing. To
understand IM as perturbance we must specify in terms of an
architecture (like H-CogAff) the ways in which insistence
assignment, interrupt filtering and attention switching are
effected.
This may also help address the need in the RT literature for a
design-based taxonomy of patterns of executive processes. [4]
and [25] put forth several categories, such as oscillation between
decisions, manifest perturbance, digressions and maundering.
Several other patterns have been identified in the CogAffect
project (e.g., [25,43]). These, and several types of phenomena
labelled by Watkins as RT (such as worry and rumination) need
to be systematically characterized in terms of patterns of
interaction between management, reflective and reactive
processes in H-CogAff.
6 OTHER PSYCHOLOGICAL LITERATURES
IN NEED OF PERTURBANCE AND RELATED
ARCHITECTURAL CONCEPTS
Several other research problems need to be reinterpreted
specifically in terms of perturbance and, more generally, from
the designer stance. Motivation in psychology tends to be
conceived as the directing and energizing of behaviour [44]
(what goals do people choose; when, why, and how intensely do
they pursue them), rather than in terms of motive processing
(how can motives be processed to evince autonomous agency).
For instance, none of the Behavior & Brain Sciences peer
responses to the Selfish Goal theory [45] noted its lack of
explicit architecture nor that its goal specification and processes
are bare (e.g., where is insistence? Contrast [4]). Pleasure and
avoidance of pain are still normally assumed to be the final ends,
while the deeper, more subtle and generative possibility of
architecture-based motivation [46] is ignored even in rare
discussions of effectance ([41]; contrast [47]). Stanovich
developed a promising theory [48] to explain and improve
rationality with a three-level architecture which, although
referring to H-CogAff, fails to use motive processing constructs.
Yet the perturbance theory was meant to account for breakdowns
in rationality [5]. Meanwhile, the recent theory of cognitive
energetics [49], which is meant to explain all instances of goal-
directed thinking, also lacks an architecture (contrast the related
concept of economy of mind in Wright [25]).
Given that perturbance is an underlying construct to explain
RT, and RT is transdiagnostic, it stands to reason that the
concept of perturbance is relevant to transdiagnostic approaches.
For instance, addictions involve motivators that are both insistent
(attention grabbing) and intense (control behaviour). Obsessions
and compulsions also involve perturbance. More generally, a
design-based approach is required for transdiagnostic
understanding [50]. Even more generally, to understand
abnormal psychology we must understand normal psychology in
design-based terms.
Pain in its various forms involves aversive perturbance and
should be modelled with H-CogAff or related designs.
Beaudoin [47] argued that mindfulness-based therapies,
which are either explicitly behaviourist [51] or use architectures
detached from AI, could benefit from H-CogAff. Mindfulness
therapies assume direct experience [51]. But no one has ever
built a machine that can directly perceive anything, nor
demonstrated the possibility of such a machineperception is in
fact always highly indirect. Mindfulness therapies prescribe
awareness of emotion, but by this term their authors mainly refer
to affective feelings. Shouldnt therapists and clients be trained
with a rich design-based theory of mind to improve clients’
awareness, i.e., models of themselves? Similarly, the acceptance
and commitment therapy (ACT) technique of “cognitive
defusion” [51] requires an IP ontology of mental states that ACT
fails to invoke.
Perturbance is also quite relevant to human memory.
Following Anderson’s adaptive explanation of memory [62],
Beaudoin [47] proposed the heuristic relevance-signaling
hypothesis (“HRS”) from the designer stance. On a daily basis,
humans process enormous amounts of information. The brain
cannot deeply interpret it all, nor store all of its interpretations.
Nor can the cortex directly signal relevance top down (The direct
command “I shall remember this phone number” does not work.)
What information should be given precedence? Testing effects
are amongst the most well documented findings in empirical
psychology: repeatedly recalling information potentiates it. The
HRS hypothesis states that deliberative layer recall attempts are
implicit cues to the brain’s heuristic memory indexing
mechanisms to prioritize access to information (‘memories’)
related to the perturbanceinformation (interpretations,
narratives, etc.) that the deliberative layer has at least attempted
to recall (reconstruct). Perturbances are hijackings of these
mechanisms by insistent motivators, potentiating memories
related to the perturbant objects (e.g., the limerent object).
Psychology has struggled with the question: in what respect
can the experience of music in particular and art more generally
be emotional? From the designer stance we might similarly ask
how can great art rivet us and reverberate within us, from catchy
ear worms to more? We suggest a new answer based on H-
CogAff theory, namely that music and fiction may trigger an
illusion of perturbance: the reflective-layer impression that the
agent is experiencing a genuine perturbance (as if self-generated
motives were insistently being activated, captivating
management processes). More obviously, art likely often
operates by increasing the insistence of one’s own latent
motivators (triggering limerence and grief, for instance). To
explore and specify these vague hypotheses, we suggest
modeling responses to high-calibre, multi-modal art depicting
limerence and grief that uses repetition in provocative ways,
such as Veda Hill & Amiel Gladstone’s musical theatre
adaptation of Tchaikovsky opera, Onegin [64], itself based on
Pushkin’s poem, Eugene Onegin.
It should be noted that perturbance is not the only type of loss
of control in minds. Dean Petters described several other types in
relation to H-CogAff [43].
We also believe a theory of perturbance can be used for
positive psychology and self-help. For example, Beaudoin
(2013) developed the cognitive shuffle a technique to combat
insomnia which is meant to work partly by interfering with
bedtime perturbance [52]. Focusing and flow are essential to
cognitive productivity and hence to knowledge economies.
Distraction is largely affective yet theories of attention and
knowledge translation on the subject e.g. [53-54] Levitin (2014),
Gallagher (2006) do not deal with motive processing and fail
to invoke perturbance. Theories of learning, expertise and
productive practice need to explain how humans can deliberately
develop their mental architectures, e.g., creating new goal
generators [47,55-56].
In short, previous research phenomena and problems can
systematically be revisited from the designer stance as involving
perturbance.
7 CONCLUSION
We have called attention to perturbance as a way to understand a
broad variety of normal and pathological mental phenomena in
IP terms. This concept has the advantage of being firmly rooted
in AI and of involving a flexible, extensible architectural
framework. This enables research problems to be considered in
terms of models of entire minds.
Perturbance and other aspects of H-CogAff are not final
explanations. They are part of the beginning of what we believe
can be a progressive research programme.
The designer stance also is directly relevant to education and
training. Psychology students need to be able to think about
themselves, other humans and possible minds in terms of
multiple cognitive-affective IP architectures. Psychology and AI
students should also graduate well-trained in conceptual
analysis [57,58] as they are in empirical research methods.
(These would be fitting topics in [59], for example.)
We are not suggesting a one-way flow of influence. Instead,
we advocate a progressive theory-driven research programme to
improve H-CogAff and related proposals. There is a need for
more AI researchers to consider broad, integrative, multi-
layered, affective autonomous agency. We believe psychology
and AI researchers need to work more closely together, not only
on purely cognitive problems but affective ones as well. AI and
psychology must blend more. For the opening quotation of
Beaudoin’s (1994) Ph.D. thesis [4] is still true: “The problem is
not that we do not know which theory is correct, but rather that
we cannot construct any theory at all which explains the basic
facts” [60] (p. 109.)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We would like to thank Dr. Al Sather, Carol Woodworth and
two referees for their comments which helped improve this
paper.
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