A Neuroscientific View on the Role of Emotions in Behaving Cognitive Agents


While classical theories systematically opposed emotion and cognition, suggesting that emotions perturbed the normal functioning of the rational thought, recent progress in neuroscience highlights on the contrary that emotional processes are at the core of cognitive processes, directing attention to emotionally-relevant stimuli, favoring the memorization of external events, valuating the association between an action and its consequences, biasing decision making by allowing to compare the motivational value of different goals and, more generally, guiding behavior towards fulfilling the needs of the organism. This article first proposes an overview of the brain areas involved in the emotional modulation of behavior and suggests a functional architecture allowing to perform efficient decision making. It then reviews a series of biologically-inspired computational models of emotion dealing with behavioral tasks like classical conditioning and decision making, which highlight the computational mechanisms involved in emotional behavior. It underlines the importance of embodied cognition in artificial intelligence, as emotional processing is at the core of the cognitive computations deciding which behavior is more appropriate for the agent.

Künstliche Intelligenz, 25(3). doi:10.1007/s13218-011-0106-y