Archive for November, 2011

Bridge's table

The Eight Rasas/Emotions (contd)

one of the most laughter inducing photos i've ...

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In the last post we looked at the eight Rasas and how they are related to the eight color terms and the eight basic emotions.


Another list of basic emotions follows from the work of Carroll Izard; Izard is interested in the infants facial expressions and believes that due to lack of socialization etc there is perfect concordance between the infants facial expressions and infants emotional states.  As such he has come up with a list of 10 basic facial emotional expressions as found in babies, and if we include Shanta rasa as another rasa in Navrasas then we can try to map that with the Izard’s  list. That list (in no particular evolutionary / developmental order)  and the mapping with navaras is given below:

1. Interest-excitement: Veera

2. Enjoyment-joy: Hasya

3. Startle- surprise : Abdhuta

4. distress- anguish: Karuna

5. Rage- anger: Raudra

6. disgust- revulsion: Bibhetsa

7. Contempt-scorn: Shringar (reverse scored)?

8. Fear-terror : Bhayanak

9. Shame-shyness-humiliation: Shringar (normally scored)?

10. Guilt-remorse : Shanta?


Now, today’s discussion centers around basic emotions as gleaned from infants facial expressions. There have been people, like Camras,  who have opposed this approach saying that in infants the same emotion expressions of anger and sadness cannot be distinguished as also the same states (emotional stimuli) can lad to different emotional facial expressions.   There had also been research suggesting that phobic patients show disgust reaction rather than fear reactions to fearful stimuli; thus some concern that fear and disgust are mixed/ indistinguishable.


It is  instructive to pause here and return to the Eight rasas theory whereby there are four primary Rasas and the rest of the four rasas are derived from those primary rasas.

It is said that Sringara, Rowdra, Veera and Bibhatsa are the main Rasas and the others Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta and Bhaya are derived from the former four. That means that from Sringara comes Hasya; from Rowdra comes Karuna; from Veera comes Adbhuta and from Bibhatsa comes Bhaya.

Thus, there are four constellations:

1. Karuna- Raudra: or that of sadness – anger.

2. Bhayanak- bibhitsa : or that of Fear – disgust

3. Hasya- Shringar : or that of joy-affection (love)

4. Adbhuta- Veera: or that of surprise- Interest.


In the light of above it is easy to see why Anger and sadness expressions may be mixed or why People in fearful , phobic situations may show disgust reactions; after all they are closely tied together.


That also brings me to research by Katherine Bridges and Sroufe, whereby they delineate how emotions and emotional expressions develop from diffuse to discrete emotions. As per the following table based on  Bridges work, the emotions generally start with a diffuse excitement and slowly develop into discrete basic emotions like sadness, anger, fear, disgust, joy, affection, interest and surprise.


This can also be viewed schematically as follows, with  diffuse emotional states leading to discrete emotions as the infant develops.


To me, the above looks very promising and supports multiple lines of evidence regarding both the exact content of basic emotions and how they develop/ are related to each other.

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Camras, L., & Shutter, J. (2010). Emotional Facial Expressions in Infancy Emotion Review, 2 (2), 120-129 DOI: 10.1177/1754073909352529

The Eight Rasas (aesthetic essences)

Guru N?ty?c?rya M?ni M?dhava Ch?ky?r performin...

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According to Indian Aesthetics , as outlined in Bharat Muni’s Natyashatra,  there are eight Rasas or impacts that an aesthetic piece of work like dance form/ literary piece, tries to achieve/invoke in the beholder/reader. These can be loosely thought of as eight different kinds of aesthetic experiences.


As is evident I like all things eight, as I believe they have an underlying eight fold evo-devo stage structure behind them.  In this case in visual art from each of the rasa is associated with a predominant color that signifies that rasa. For eg Shringar or Love/beauty/erotic rasa has as its color, color green.


Now, I have also blogged previously about color terms and how they may have evolved in an eight step model. In brief, I believe that Black came first , white next, then Red followed; after which followed yellow, blue and green and then other terms like orange, brown and grey followed.  This I believe is also tied to the way our color vision and sensitivity would have grown/evolved.


Taking cue from that color term evolution model , I belive the eight rasas evolved in the same order as the color used to denote them, and that nicely fits with other aspects of the eight stage theory too, like the eight stage emotion development.


So, in essence, please find listed below the eight Rasaas in the correct eight stage order:

1. Bahyanak Rasa: color Black : emotion fear.

2. Hasya Rasa: color white: emotion joy/laughter

3. Rudra Rasa: color red : emotion anger

4. Adbhuta Rasa: color yellow , emotion wonder

5. Bibhitsa Rasa: color blue, emotion disgust

6. Shringar rasa: color green; emotion erotic/love

7. Veera rasa : color orange; emotion heroism

8. Karuna rasa: color grey; emotion compassion/ sadness.


Contrast this with the basic emotions list I have come up earlier viz.
1. Fear – Bahyanak
2. Joy/happiness – Hasya
3. Anger – Raudra
4. Sadness – Karuna
5. Disgust – Bibhitsa
6. Surprise – shringar
7. Contempt – Veera
8. Interest (anticipation) – Adbhuta


With just one switch between the Adbhuta (wonder/interest) and Karuna (sadness/ compassion), the eight rasas fit both the color term evolution and basic emotions evolution. That surely means we are at something and moving in the right direction as different routes are leading to the same destination. .

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The four mechanisms of evolution

Darwin's finches or Galapagos finches. Darwin,...

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Regular readers of the blog will know of my enthusiasm for evolutionary and developmental theories especially the eight stage evo-devo theory.

I have also advocated the four primary problems faced by all creatures undergoing evolution, as delineated by Theodore Millon- the problems of Existence; Adaptation; Replication and Abstraction which lead to polarities of pain/pleasure;  active/passive; self/other and broad/narrow at each of the stages/domains/ solutions.

However, when we pause to look at what the mechanism of evolution actually is, we clearly note that there are a few prerequisites for evolution to take place and unless all the four mechanisms/ preconditions are present it is unlikely that the creatures will evolve.   I have been having this in the back of my mind for quite some time especially as I  have been ruminating on the BVSR (blind variation and selective retention)  theory of Donald Campbell as applied to creativity.

I was recently reading ‘Driven’ and in that book too a lot of emphasis is placed on the V-S-R (Variation, Selection, Retention) mechanism of evolution. I think this popular portrayal of evolution misses another important ingredient required for evolution that of Struggle due to limited resources and excess fecundity. If the problem of limited resources and excess fecundity was not there, probably there would be no pressure to evolve.


Thus I would like to frame the four evolutionary prerequisites/ mechanisms as Struggle-Retention- Variation-Selection or S_R_V_S.  To elaborate:

1. Struggle: This is driven by the fact of limited resources and overproduction due to excess fecundity. Here two strategies, leading to 2 polarities,  work; one can either compete for resources or one can cooperate and exist symbiotically.  Also, one can either have a r-strategy (low investment in many) of reproduction or A K-strategy (high investment in few). In the eight stage model, the organisms at first 2 levels would be primarily constrained by this evolutionary mechanisms.

2. Retention:  There must exist some mechanism by which the traits that confer survival/reproductive or selection advantage can be retained over time in the same individual and over generations in the same species. Again the mechanism of stable trait over time as well as  over generations may be in conflict with each other and may lead to a polarity. Creatures at stage 3 and 4 of 8 stage evo-devo theory would likely face issues regarding stability and retention of traits; retaining in individual the same trait is an active process; while retaining in generations is more passively driven.

3. Variation. There must exist some  mechanism that causes minor changes in the stable traits such that variation may lead to deleterious or beneficial effect over the individual having that variation. This is classically implemented using mutations and sexual-recombinations. While mutations confer (dis)advantages at an individual level; recombinations take that to the next level by affecting offsprings variability. The creatures at stages 5 and 6 of evo-devo stages are grappling with these problems of adequate variation in self and other.

4. Selection: There must exist some selection criteria based on which the struggling creatures having stable but slightly varying traits can be selected for or against.  While Natural selection (stage 7) employs the three methods of directional, stabilizing and disruptive selection; the stage 8 deploys a qualitatively different method of sexual selection where the criteria for selection may be  arbitrarily driven by choices of the other gender conspesifics.  While the Natural selection criteria is broad, the sexual selection criteria can be said to be narrow. Another way to look at this is that the selection crteria is either to survive (natural selction) or to reproduce (sexual slection) and those who are sucessful can very well move from one level/species to another (speciation due to sexual selection).

To me this is further  corrobrating evidence of the eight stage evo-devo theory and ABCD model being on the right track.


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Buddha’s Brain

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I recently came across an authors@google talk by Rick Hanson, who is the author of ‘Buddha‘s Brain:  the practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom’ and was immediately drawn by the similarity of the framework he uses and my ABCD model. Rick draws a lot from the Buddhist tradition and its humbling to find many similarities between what buddha preached thousands of years ago and what neuroscience tell us today.

In particular the root cause of suffering is believed to be due to

1) trying to avoid unescapable threats/ pains etc like ageing and death.

2) pursuit of pleasures/opportunities etc that are fleeting in nature/ not permanent.

3) trying to separate from and become individuated while the nature of reality is connected and interdependent.

4) trying to stabilize  that which keeps on changing

The roots of these Rick believes are tied up to the three (I’ve extended them to 4) motivational systems that govern us. These are:

1) Avoid system – reigning this in leads to Calm , a sense of peace and increase in a feeling of moment-to-moment Happiness.

2) Approach system -  properly aligning this leads to Contentment, a sense of gratitude and increase in feelings of Well-being.

3) Attach system – properly utilizing this leads to Caring, a sense of loving-kindness and increase in feelings of Love.

4) Absorb system – properly using this leads to Creativity, a sense of insight and increase in feelings of Wisdom.

To me these are absolutely aligned to the ABCD model; the Avoid system is primarily about reacting to -ve (or even +ve ) Affect; Approach system is driven by how Behaviouraly actively or passively you respond to opportunities;  the Attach system is all about the dynamics driving the Self-other relational issues; while the Absorb system is the more Cognitively focussed one driven by broad /  narrow focus concerns.


Rick also thinks that these are related to how the learning (synaptic strength modification)  , regulation (inhibition or excitation due to firing)  and selection (the decision to fire based on summation of inputs)  happens in brains at synapse levels and that reigning these systems leads to Mindfulness (attention relevant/leading to learning) , Virtue (self-regulation of behaviour)  and Wisdom (the ability to make informed choices) at the macro level. As Rick believes that not only brains lead to minds, but what and how our minds act also affects our neural wiring due to self-directed neuroplasticity, he advocates practising mindfulness, virtue and wisdom to rewire your brain to take it to the Buddha’s state.

Here one might pause and consider what mind actually is. some would equate it simply as mind is what the brain does, but more reflection shows that mind is multidimensional (ya…. fits the ABCD model). To me, mind is a result of:

1)  Brain Activity

2) Body rootedness (embodied cognition)

3) Embedded with Other minds (relational construct)

4) Shaped/interpreted by culture

Another thing to note about Rick is that he is a fan of Paul Mc lean’s tripartite brain; extending both the MacLean model and Rick associations and aligning with ABCD model, I see the evolution of brain as:

1) Brain-stem (Reptilian brain) : the relative brain sizes in reptiles or those driven by this Avoid mode system should be proportional to their land areas that they need to defend as in territorial defence; this is what I predict, the greater the area/ territory they typically defend the bigger this area. In the reptilian evolution this factor must have driven brain evolution.

2) sub-cortical areas ( Paleomammilian brain) : the relative size of brain in these simple mammals should be tied to their foraging area or how vastly they explore for food/ mating opportunities. I predict that brain evolution during this phase was tied to the Approach mode and linked with exploration propensity and must be linked with typical foraging area, with animals foraging far and wide having bigger brains proportional to those who don’t.

3) cortical areas ( mammalian brain ) : the relative size of brain in these higher mammals corresponds with the social group size (the famous Dunbar number) . This phase of brain evolution was primarily driven by Attach motivational system where concerns for others and groups drove evolution of brain with those having dense social groups needing more brainpower.

4) Neocortical areas/ lateralizations (the human/primate brain): the relative size of brains might be related to artistic/ imaginative ability. This phase of brain evolution is still taking place and is being primarily driven by Absorb system; how much one assimilates and accommodates and how much one intellectually rejects would determine whether the brain evolves further and proportional to how creative (broad-minded) the species is. The more narrow minded/ unimaginative the lesser thee neo-cortical size; perhaps this is the advantage we had over Neanderthals and other hominids. The autism-schizophrenia continuum may be one effect of the cognitive evolution still happening.

Which brings me maenderingly to my final comparison:

1) Affect, or Avoid system deregulation leads to Major Depression. The neurotransmitter of relevance here is Serotonin. Compare also to cloningers Harm Avoidance.

2) Behaviour or Approach system deregulation leads to Addiction.  The neurotransmitter of concern here is Dopamine. Compare also to cloningers Novelty Seeking

3) Drive/Dynamics or Attach system deregulation leads to Bipolar or manic depression.  The neurotransmitter of concern may turn out to be norepinephrine. Compare to cloningers Reward Dependence.

4) Cognition or Absorb system deregulation leads to Schizophrenia . The neurotransmitter of concern may turn out to be acetylcholine.

That covers the major group of disorders. I’m still reading ‘Buddha’s brain’ and not all insights shared above are related to what Rick/ Buddhism says; but I find them broadly aligned with my ABCD model and the eight stage evo-devo model based around Theodore Millons four basic polarities.

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