Robotic Feelings

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As a practitioner of professional psychotherapy, in order to help clients effectively, one must take into consideration a number of different variables that help to ‘paint a picture’ of that person that will prove helpful in applying the necessary therapeutic techniques. Apart from obtaining the basic identifying information such as name, birth date, etc. among the factors that are considered, here are just a few: reason for seeking treatment, longevity of problematic issues, previous professional help, marital status, family of origin issues, family relationship patterns, children, identifiable symptoms, job role and performance, health status, major stressors, social interaction issues, medications, personal/intimate relationship patterns and finally, projected therapy goals,

There is one factor, though, that enables both the client and the therapist to more effectively determine the nature of the problems brought into therapy as well as for finding the resolution to those problems: in a word it is FEELINGS. It is the identifiable feelings associated with each of the factors described above that allow the two to embark on a mission of how those feelings might be changed in order to help resolve the issues-at-hand. As the particular feeling or feelings are identified, they serve as a pathway that enables people to begin a change pattern. Some of those feelings might not even be part of the client’s conscious awareness because they have been so much a part of life that they are taken for granted or have gone unrecognized.

In the December 31, 2013 issue of The Week, an article appeared entitled “Artificial Emotions.” It has to do with the study of human feelings by scientists so that they might soon be able to program robots to experience emotions as well as humans. The premise goes on to indicate that it might not be that far into the future … maybe fifteen to twenty years hence … before robotic companions share our homes and lives. The importance of feelings is encapsulated in the article’s statement: “we hold our emotions at the core of our identity.”

Then, the article goes on to indicate that our whims and fancies are what makes us human but our thinking may be erroneous in that[1]

far from being some inexplicable, ethereal quality of humanity, emotions may be nothing more than an autonomic response to changes in our environment, software programmed into our biological hardware by evolution as a survival response.”

Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux describes emotion as:[2]

“survival circuits existing in all living things. As an environmental stimulus may be experienced, it flips switches on survival circuits prompting behaviors that enhance survival.”

The article goes on to say that the mechanics of expressing emotions is being studied intensively since if indeed they are mechanical, they can them be detected and measured which can then be transferable to computers that will be able to display and detect feelings from our voices, faces and even the way we walk. For instance, if someone is angry, their throat tightens thus altering their voice which can then be measured by a computer.

Imagine, if you will, should the research and implementation of some of these theories can be accomplished with robots, what a boon it would be for the helping professions dedicated to helping people deal with their emotions. Whereas, the list of variables I cited at the beginning of this article tend to provide a picture, albeit a subjective one of the person’s seeking help at best, the ancillary usage of robots could make the assessment even more precise thus allowing treatment methods to be brought to bear earlier and more precisely.

In effect, the helping process would be immensely facilitated and both the cost factors and effectiveness would thereby be enhanced. And to think that my writing and your reading this article puts us on the cusp of a potentially amazing discovery. Depression, anxiety, relationship problems, personal functioning, etc. could take on a new life … a much less emotionally threatening life.

Now you might pose the question: will robots replace the potential and heart and soul of the human person? NEVER!

[1] THE WEEK, December 31, 2013 Great reads from 2013, p/ 28.
[2] LeDoux, Artificial emotions, THE WEEK, p. 29.

(2 July 2014)


Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.

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