What are the cognitive constructs behind our emotions

According to Ekman there are about 7 basic emotions (surprise, anger, joy, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness), and all our other emotions are offshoots of those seven. Others like Plutchik claim 8, but the jist is that a central list of emotions cause all our other emotions.

So what are the cognitive issues behind emotions? Things like comparisons, reciprocity, prediction, etc. are all needed to form the cognitive framework to have emotions.

For example, people can feel anger when someone is rewarded for bad behavior. But that requires the ability to compare their rewards vs. expected rewards and punishments, awareness of reciprocity, and various other things.

So what are the cognitive and evolutionary frames behind our emotions? What is a good book on this?

I don’t have a particular book to recommend but you may want to start with a decent text on neuropsychology. Briefly put it is perhaps better put that cognition does not underlie emotion any more or any less than emotions underlie cognition; both constantly underlie and influence each other and are also constantly effected by the systems in which they are placed - the sensory and motor systems and timing systems of our bodies, the hormonal and other chemical milieu, and the environments in which our bodies function. Exciting research is ongoing specifying out how, for example, various particular brain structures interact in the very example you give, anger over lack of fairness, expected rewards and punishments, and the evolution of these interactive cognitive-emotional processes.

Au contraire.

You cannot have thoughts without emotions; you cannot draw conclusions without emotions. You can’t make comparisons, can’t recognize patterns, without emotions. Emotions are the more fundamental building blocks. Most of what we conceptualize as “thought” is dependent upon language; we recognize something and label it in our head; we use languaged constructs to build very complex mental pictures in our heads, rendering large-scale ongoing or time-dependent processes into nouns in order to consider how those nouns interact with other nouns. We do this so well that we easily lose track of how much all that depends on an emotionally-driven foundation, without which it can’t happen at all. No feel, no think.

On some chemical level there may be only 7 or 8 emotions, in the same sense that our eyes only see 3 colors, but just as people who work with color can distinguish (and have names for) millions of different colors, our emotional reaction to stimuli is a rich and deeply hued emotional tapestry, no matter that they may be composed in some sense of composite mixtures of a smaller set of basic building-block emotions.

I wouldn’t really agree with that either. The tiny little “aha” moment in your mind when you look at these letters on your screen and recognize them is a “feel”. I’m a confirmed Pirsigian on emotional / cognitive epistemology.

Can’t say I recognize the Pirsigian reference but I’ll grant you that of the two emotions are more primary. While no one know “what it feels like to be a bat” or any other animal, we can fairly easily imagine behaviors based on emotional responses triggering fixed action patterns without evoking any conscious cognition. And Vulcan attempts to suppress them notwithstanding, cognition without emotions to give salience and valence to possible outcomes would be more difficult to imagine ever, especially as an earlier development.

I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re looking for, but Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio is a really excellent book about how critical emotion is for human reasoning. The two are not separate but rather integrated by necessity.

There is also a book I know of that would turn your premise on its head. Moral Minds by Marc Hauser argues that moral judgments are instinctual and separate from cognition and emotion. Cognition and emotion are exterior layers to what is actually a much deeper mechanism for moral decisions.

Both are excellent reads that deal with neuropsychology, cognition and emotion.