How we represent emotion in the face: processing the content of information from and to the environment

The next E-Intentionality meeting will be Thursday, October 27th  in Freeman G31. Please note that David has offered to take preliminary comments in advance via email (


David Booth – ‘How we represent emotion in the face: processing the content of information from and to the environment’

This talk briefly presents an experiment which illustrates the scientific theory that e
mbodied and acculturated systems (such as you and me) represent information in the environment by causally processing its content in mathematically determinate ways. Three colleagues stated the strengths of emotions they saw in sets of keyboard characters that (badly) mimicked mobile parts of the human face. The mechanisms by which they rated the emoticons are given by formulae constructed deductively from discrimination distances between the presented diagrams and the memory of their features on occasions when a face has signalled the named emotional reaction to a situation. Five of the basic formulae of this theory of a mind have structures corresponding to classic conscious psychological subfunctions such as perceiving, describing, reasoning, intending and ’emoting’, and one to unconscious mental processing. Each formula specifies the interactions among mental events which, on the evidence, generated my colleagues’ answers to my questions. The calculations are totally dependent on prior and current material and societal affordances but say nothing about the development or ongoing execution of the neural or linguistic mechanisms involved, any more than do attractors, connectionist statistics or list programs. Functional accounts calculate merely amounts of information or other probabilistic quantities. Distinguishing among contents is equivalent to causal processing. Hence the plurality of mental, cultural and material systems in persons may accommodate a causation monism.

The Two Dimensions of Representation: Function vs. Content

Dear all,

The first E-Int seminar of the term will be this Thursday, October 13th, 13:00-13:50 in the Freeman Centre, room FRE- G22.  Jonny Lee, our E-Int seminar organiser, will speak.

Jonny Lee: The Two Dimensions of Representation: Function vs. Content 

The concept of mental representation features heavily in scientific explanations of cognition. At the same time, there is no consensus amongst philosophers about which things (if any things) are mental representations, and in particular how we can account (if we can) for the semantic properties paradigmatic of ordinary representation. In this paper I will discuss a recent development in the literature which distinguishes between the ‘function’ and ‘content’ dimension of mental representation, in an attempt to cast light on what a complete account of mental representation must achieve. I will argue that though the distinction is useful, chiefly because it shows where past philosophical projects have erred, there remain three “worries” about prising apart function and content. In elucidating these worries, I point to the possibility of an alternative to a traditional, essentialist theory of content, one which says that content comes part and parcel of how we treat mechanisms as functioning as a representations.