The University of Sussex

Sketch for a cognitive theory of the emotions

Keith Oatley, Philip N. Johnson-Laird

A sketch is drawn of a theory that emotions are cognitively based states which coordinate quasi- autonomous processes in the nervous system. They are a biological solution of certain problems of transition between plans in systems with multiple goals. Their function is to communicate significant junctures of plans to ourselves and others in order to accomplish and maintain these transitions. There are five basic emotion modes. Complex emotions are derived from these and typically involve evaluations of junctures of social plans.

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