Mika Turkia: On defining affects computationally

Master's thesis, University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science, C-2007-017. Date: 12.2.2007.

Abstract: One of the most tangled fields of research is the field of defining and modeling affective concepts, i. e. concepts regarding emotions and feelings. The subject can be approached from many disciplines. The main problem is lack of generally approved definitions. However, e.g. linguists have recently started to check the consistency of their theories with the help of computer simulations. Definitions of affective concepts are needed for performing similar simulations in behavioral sciences.

In this thesis, preliminary computational definitions of affects for a simple utility-maximizing agent are given. The definitions have been produced by synthetizing ideas from theories from several fields of research. The class of affects is defined as a superclass of emotions and feelings. Affect is defined as a process, in which a change in an agent's expected utility causes a bodily change. If the process is currently under the attention of the agent (i.e. the agent is conscious of it), the process is a feeling. If it is not, but can in principle be taken into attention (i.e. it is preconscious), the process is an emotion. Thus, affects do not presuppose consciousness, but emotions and affects do.

Affects directed at unexpected materialized (i.e. past) events are delight and fright. Delight is the consequence of an unexpected positive event and fright is the consequence of an unexpected negative event. Affects directed at expected materialized (i.e. past) events are happiness (expected positive event materialized), disappointment (expected positive event did not materialize), sadness (expected negative event materialized) and relief (expected negative event did not materialize). Affects directed at expected unrealized (i.e. future) events are fear and hope. Some other affects can be defined as directed towards originators of the events. The affect classification has also been implemented as a computer program, the purpose of which is to ensure the coherence of the definitions and also to illustrate the capabilities of the model.

The exact content of bodily changes associated with specific affects is not considered relevant from the point of view of the logical structure of affective phenomena. The utility function need also not be defined, since the target of examination is only its dynamics.

ACM Computing Classification System (CCS): I.2.11 [Distributed Artificial Intelligence], J.4 [Social and Behavioral Sciences]

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