Emotional Merger

an unknown cognitive process


Merger doesn't get enough attention, considering its universality and importance. Let's give it some attention, okay? Forgive my brevity.

Emotional Merger seems to be a general process within emotion-related (i.e., all) cognition.

Let "categorization" be that cognitive process which merges an instance into its category.

Here I consider the universal but underappreciated process of emotional categorization which, I presume to assert, moves from universal to specific rather than the other way around.

As with every emotional change of coloring some part of the, or perhaps even the entire, subjectively perceived universe is internally erased and reconstituted more or less from scratch under the new emotional valence or color, all things are merged into that emotional meaning as into its emotional import or perhaps category. Subsequently, this perceived world is subjectively and carefully re-evaluated as to what is and isn't emotionally relevant in this newly colored world, in a specification process that removes from conscious focus those aspects not relevant to the current emotional frame.

Merger, then, is the operation that collapses everything into the new emotional field, and specification is its successor process which rules out wide aspects as not to be attended to. Thus as emotions swap in and out, consciousness throbs in a rhythm of inclusion and exclusion, with revaluation and both attending and ignoring as fundamental mechanisms. Consider some related examples and scenarios.

Two processes countervail: specification, and merger. In specification, the system separates out the emotion-concentrating aspects of experience from all others, for example the feared stimulus or the angering subcircumstance, etc. Specification is an inhibitory, differentiating process which circumscribes the zone of threat or attention so as to focus on a smaller area with particular attention. Specification tries to limit the emotional assessment E(s) => e, to as specific and small a subset of circumstance as possible, in order to solve or resolve it most easily. Specification is intelligent work, it requires sophisticated processing, but it seems to be a bit subconscious in that while the attentional zone is the conscious area, this in contrast is about the work of reducing that attentional zone to the small part you have to do something about. It is the intelligence of making unconscious, the wisdom of removing material from view, the back side of the coin of emotion-driven attention.

In merger (which occurs ab initio during any emotional change) is more natural and effortless, the system fails to differentiate some causes of emotion versus others, and considers them effectively the same, for the purposes of the emotional response. Merger can operate at different levels, from great specificity to great generality. On one end you might not differentiate between your enemies on the battlefield, for example, but treat them all as the same. On the other end, you might decide like a saint that all people are beloved, or all things. Inclusiveness is, however, more natural than inhibitory, and less work is required. If you recognize your emotion is supportable irrespective of circumstance, then it can apply to all circumstances, and you don't have to differentiate or emotionally specify. The high emotions seem to have this quality, whereas the low emotions support greater specificity, are more wisely experienced with detailed specificity, more naturally hold to specification than merger.

Emotional Merger is a subcategory of Abstraction. Biological information processing systems are abstract; they collapse a variety of different circumstances into a single category, perhaps defined as those things to which one responds in a particular way W, so as to respond in generic and useful ways to survive and reproduce consistently over evolutionary time. Only general mechanisms can achieve such a survival outcome, because circumstances change and vary, yet responses must be effective. Given a limited set, perhaps vocabulary, of responses, abstraction follows logically. H.

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Copyright © 2022 Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Written: January 25, 2022