Conscious mental states should not be the first-choice explanation of behavior

Here are some 2014 ruminations by Joseph LeDoux, the grandfather of studies of the amygdala. He attempted to disambiguate feeling brain structures’ activations and responses from ideas of what feelings are, specifically regarding fear:

“Damage to the hippocampus in humans disrupts explicit conscious memory of having been conditioned but has no effect on fear conditioning itself, whereas damage to the amygdala disrupts fear conditioning but not the conscious memory of having been conditioned.

Conscious mental states should not, in the absence of direct evidence, be the first-choice explanation of behavior.

Neither amygdala activity nor amygdala-controlled responses are telltale signatures of fearful feelings.

Conscious fear can cause us to act in certain ways, but it is not the cause of the expression of defensive behaviors and physiological responses elicited by conditioned or unconditioned threats.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/8/2871.full “Coming to terms with fear”

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