THE EMOTIONAL FOUNDATIONS OF PERSONALITY: A NEUROBIOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH – Kenneth L. Davis & Jaak Panksepp (2018)

the emotional foundations of personality

The main ideas of this book were first formulated by Jaak Panksepp, the psychobiologist and neuroscientist who became a wee bit famous outside the field for his research about laughter in non-human animals, especially laughing rats. He died before it was finished, and this volume could be considered his crowning achievement. The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach is hard to review, as I’m not really the target audience.

The book is definitely not without merit, but for the general reader there are some problems. For starters, let me try to break those down.

Afterwards I’ll highlight what this reader found to be the interesting take-aways. That list should be of interest to those readers of this blog who don’t care for criticism of this book, but do care about their emotions and their brain


1) I was generally underwhelmed. “Is this it?” seems to be an adequate summary of my basic reaction. This stems from the fact that the basic premise of this book seems so obvious. Of course our emotions are rooted in biology. Of course we share our basic emotions with other mammals. Of course these things evolved. But apparently these things aren’t considered as basic facts among a lot of psychology & personality scientists – that fact was new for me, and maybe one of the most interesting things I’ll take away from reading this. As this is first and foremost a book written for that academic community, it makes that for me a big part of the book read as a defense of the obvious. Then again, common sense is not science, and what this book does extremely well is make these insights irrefutable, drawing on lots of research papers and actual experiments.

2) As another defense mechanism, the book also firmly embeds itself in the scientific tradition, and as such can also be used as a basic textbook. A few chapters deal with the history of personality science, going as far back as Darwin, tackling William McDougall’s comparative psychology, the Big Five model, the history of brain imaging, etc. It does this rather extensively, and it is generally interesting – I didn’t know Darwin’s third book dealt with emotions, for instance.

But while it is generally interesting, there is also too much detail, as the authors carefully try to position their own theory in relation to the dominant Big Five model and other models (Eyseneck, Gray, Cloninger). This should be of interest to people in the field, enabling a thorough comparison. But as it is made (convincingly) clear that the Big Five model isn’t sufficient anymore in the light of knowledge today – firmly backed up by biological evidence, not only by common sense – for the general reader these parts are rather uninteresting, for why would you spend lots of pages dealing with models that are shown to be faulty and incomplete?

3) The authors have chosen an approach that makes it possible to read each chapter more or less independently. That’s a valid choice for an academic text, of which students and scientists might only be interested in specific parts they need for their own research. For the general reader however – or for the scholar who wants to digest the entire book – this results in tons of repetition, smearing the reading experience big time. Even taking the authors’ intention into consideration, the book would have benefited greatly from a bit of editorial trimming.

4) The title is both extremely well chosen, and at the same time a bit misleading. Do not expect to gain a lot of insight in different personalities, if any. The book defends the thesis that our personalities (and a part of our sense of self) are based on our emotions, and that these emotions have a biological basis that has evolved, a base which we share phylogenetically with mammals. The result, personality, is not tackled as such, although paradoxically the authors’ research has culminated into a new personality test: the ANPS – Affective Neuroscience Personality Scale – version 2.4 of which is included in the book.

5) I expected a bit more on the cross-species sections. Again, there’s rigorous references to lots of research, grounding the basic idea well, but as a result the chapters on rats and dogs and great apes and the stickleback fish read more as a listing of all relevant research papers throughout the field’s history, and not so much as insightful chapters on the personalities or emotions of animals.

6) Certain sections were too specific for me. I don’t really care about whether this or that system is situated in the the ventrolateral caudal PAG, the lateral PAG or the dorsomedial rostral PAG – the PAG being the periaqueductal gray.

7) A final, more specific beef – and not a surprise for recurrent readers of this blog. On two occasions the authors stress all this biology and the instinctive grounding of emotions does not make animals or humans “mechanical robots”. I’m baffled why they would include this – possibly because there are still a lot of adherents to free will in the field of psychology, and these people need to be catered too?

I’m baffled because it’s such an inconsiderate statement in an otherwise intelligent book. The statement seems to be based on a misconception of robots and the word ‘mechanical’. Robots are contrasted with animals and humans, the latter being “active agents engaging and adapting to their worlds”. I have no idea why robots could not be active agents, engaging and adapting. And biology being the marriage between physics and chemistry, I also have no idea how this engaging and adapting would happen without mechanics – electric brain movement included.


What will I take away? I want to stress that this list is not a comprehensive summary, the book covers more ground, as you might have noticed from the above. These are just the tidbits that stuck.

1) Lots of descriptive psychology says more about the nature of language than about our biology.

2) The “Nested BrainMind Hierarchies” model seems more apt than other models that I’ve come across in the past. Let me try a quick summary: there’s the primary process (of emotions & affects) which is deeply subcortical, the secondary process (learning) which is largely upper limbic, and the tertiary process (cognition, language) which is largely neocortical. The first process influences the second process, which influences the third, and there’s obviously also a top-down regulation and response, from three to two, and two to one.

3) Emotions come before language, obviously. The neocortex doesn’t generate feelings, it can’t. It does however parse them with language (to a degree that is, since emotions are qualia).

4) There’s 7 prime emotions we can distinguish in the brain stem. SEEKING, PLAY, CARE, FEAR, RAGE, PANIC and LUST. (Panksepp chose to write these in all caps to indicate the difference with the regular vernacular. PANIC for instance actually is separation distress.) What we consider as emotions too, like shame, jealousy, admiration and guilt, are more complex and as such probably of another biological nature, although the authors admit these are much harder to study in animals via invasive brain experiments, which are necessary to get to the nuts & bolts. (I have to say I was quite surprised by the dualistic nature of lots of animal research, that’s often still based on simply dichotomies like reward & punishment or seek & avoid.)

5) The neocortex is developmentally constructed, not genetically. This new brain structure emerged because of one gene. As language resides in the neocortex, this is a problem for people like Chomsky who claim language to be innate. This actually is the biggest thing for me, I can’t really wrap my head around it, should it be true.

6) Defensive violence and predatory violence are not the same. They are based in different brain systems.

7) I knew of this next item already, but it was nice to read a bit more about it. At the turn of the century Michael Meaney’s research group has shown that the amount of maternal licking and grooming of rat newborns in the first week of life has significant influence on how the rats develop. To put it bluntly, rat babies that are licked and groomed a lot become more intelligent, more resilient and more inquisitive than rat babies who are licked and groomed less. This has been confirmed in different settings, and is not the result of genetics – offspring was switched from high licking mothers to less licking mothers and the result was the same. This obviously has huge implications for how kids should be raised in the first few years of life. For those who doubt one could link all this to humans, this rat research has already led to a successful diagnostic blood test for depressed humans.

8) You can breed animals (dogs, rats, fish) for happiness and playfulness. In other words, you could breed a chronically depressed breed of dogs too.

9) Cognitive therapy goes only so far in doing the job. It has a top-down approach (see the three systems above), thinking that “creating more realistic cognitive beliefs will result in healthier, less distressing feelings”. But the cognitive way to do this is via language, and both cognition and language are much more recent systems that evolved much later than the emotional systems – evolutionary preceding language by well over 100 million years. The authors don’t claim CT has no merit whatsoever, but point out it’s hard to distinguish how much of CT’s success is due to therapists that CARE for their patients and as such trigger better emotional well-being.

A good example of bottom-up regulation of feelings is something most couples will have already experienced: resolving a conflict often is easier just by touching each other and creating physical tenderness – this works better, evoking positive thoughts and perceptions, rather than the “purely cognitive top-down process” of trying “to convince your partner that his or her thoughts and ideas are the ones that are distorted”.

10) It’s kinda obvious, but good to end this list with: emotions guide our decisions, and emotions are learning systems.


I’m no psychologist or brain scientist, so I have no idea about how widespread or influential the work of Jaak Panksepp is, just as I have no idea of how revolutionary his insights were. But judging from the acclaim by fellow scientists on the back cover (I know, I know) this seems an important book for the field.

So is this recommended?

I guess it’s a significant body of research for any serious scholar of the topics this book deals with. Guessing aside, I am sure it’s a solid textbook, with both a diachronic and synchronic approach – if I may borrow those terms from linguistics. It also has an extensive bibliography for further reading, 28 pages of small print.

The general reader might be interested too, but beware of the caveats above.


Here’s a link to my other non-fiction book reviews, and here’s a link to my list of favorite non-fiction books.

21 responses to “THE EMOTIONAL FOUNDATIONS OF PERSONALITY: A NEUROBIOLOGICAL AND EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH – Kenneth L. Davis & Jaak Panksepp (2018)

  1. Never heard of this guy, but, as a former biology student I can tell you that it was “not done” to attribute emotions, or even intent, to animals in studies of behavioral biology. That would lead to a swamp of anthropomorphizing and bias, so it was said. Only in recent decades, you see books appearing that seriously think about the world of experiences of animals. A book about bird emotions told me that it was long unwanted to publish studies about bird senses. On top of all of that, there is still this vaguely religious idea that humans are special, and that our spirit, including our emotions of course, are some indivisible whole completely detached from the tree of life. Saying that our bodies are clearly part of the tree of life is one thing, but saying the same about brain structures and emotions? Scientists sometimes tend to avoid thorny issues by being overly mechanical in their descriptions and deliberately tighten their focus away from implications. It is good to see that these areas of research are finally opening up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for that. Similarly, the foreword of the book speaks of it being a paradigm shift for psychotherapy and the likes, as emotions there tend to be approached and studied merely in a descriptive matter, not biologically.

      Both these issues seem so out of date indeed. Then again, it was to be expected that it would take a few generations before the true implications of Darwin et al would become accepted in the scientific community – something that still hasn’t happened for the world population at large.

      Liked by 2 people

      • An interesting line of research goes into the evolutionary benefits of why certain emotions exist. I believe some psychological fields already accept this unconsciously. An emotion is always an impetus, an energy, and thus performs a function. Anger is an easy one. Self protection. But sadness is also self protection combined with withdrawal and recuperation. Social psychology recognizes a few basic social emotions that tie into us being social animals, but they don’t seem make the connection to behavioural biology (yet).

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yes, this books speaks about this as well. Sadness is here linked to PANIC, a form of separation distress, indeed linked to self protection. LUST is obvious too, PLAY is crucial for learning (the book discusses the negative effects of not playing briefly), RAGE is also a form of self protection, SEEK is crucial for survival (necessary for food, resources), and CARE is important for any social species, especially altricial species.

          It’s very strange these scientific domains remain walled communities to such an extent, especially as certain stuff is so obvious for casual observers like me. I guess this probably has to do with hyper-specialization.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds very interesting, despite the caveats you listed. Some of these things seem indeed obvious, but from my experience in academia there’s still a lot of reluctance in admitting that we’re so close to animals. The dilemma of nature vs nurture seems very deeply grounded in academic field, not only in biology.

    Good question about mechanical robots – I too think it’s an antiquated view, but still quite dominant in the circles that don’t read SF 😉

    As for the mechanical view of personality and the question of free will, I am not an adherent of the theory of its lack. I did read the Lucretian swerve article you recommended and cannot say I can treat is as purely scientific text – it does seem to suffer from a lot of philosophical assumptions, and the main thesis suggests that the fact that we cannot confirm an existence of something means it doesn’t exist at all.

    Great review, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, much appreciated!

      I guess the nature-nurture dichotomy is so ingrained partly because it still lingers in formal education, with (secondary school) teachers that do not keep up to date with what is happening, installing this frame of thought in new generations of students time and time again, doing damage before they even hit academia. Another part of the explanation is probably our preference for easy dichotomies. Over the years, in debating, I’ve also noticed that most people tend to set OR/OR as a default for most issues, not AND/AND, probably because most people tend to avoid complexity.

      As for free will, I think a part of the problem is that obviously “will” does exist, and we do make choices, like all animals do. What I dispute is that this process of making choices somehow escapes determinism. It’s our brains that make choices, and the processes in our brains are determined by nature and nurture. Our brain cannot determine itself, so to say, or in other words, we cannot “will what we will”. I agree on your assessment of the Lucretian Swerve text (see the link section on this blog for those interested, under ‘The biological basis of human behavior’), not being able to confirm the existence doesn’t indeed mean it does not exist, but – as the text also impliies – I still would need an explanation how free (undetermined) will works to change my beliefs on the matter.

      I also think a big part of the problem for people to wrap their head around, lies in the fact that some ‘wills’ are less free than others, i.c. some people have less options (less freedom) than others. A smoker is (in certain aspects of his behavior) more constrained/determined than a non-smoker. The same goes for a prisoner. The same goes somebody who is less emotionally resilient or stable. The same goes for somebody is very poor. Etc, etc. Because of this, some people seem more ‘in control’ than others, and you could indeed say they are more ‘free’. But all this does not mean their choices are not determined – they are only determined by a bit less (or less visible) factors. The language surrounding all this (free, freedom, determinism, materialism, will, etc.) comes with so much pre-installed emotional baggage, also of other branches of thought (think on what ‘materialism’ evokes to an anti-Marxist) , that it’s very confusing for any discussion on the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome!

        I definitely agree with your points. What I contend is easy determinism, which to me seems exactly like the OR/OR alternative you described.

        Still, I dare say even Bakker (maybe subconsciously, but in his novels it’s rather evident) assumes the more you know about yourself and what moves you, the more “free” you are, as being more aware of all what constrains you you can act upon that knowledge.

        From my perspective the axis determinism-free will is more of a continuum than an alternative dealing in absolutes. But as you noticed, all these terms come with so much baggage that even establishing what we’re exactly talking about would probably take a lot of time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed there’s an axis and a continuum, but none of the poles is “absolutely free”. I think this aspect of absolute freedom (=100% free of being determined) is the crux. This simply does not exist. But indeed, some people have more self-control/determination than others, and self-knowledge is a part of that. But the way I interpret the term, that doesn’t make them free, only more free than some others. We are all shackled to the laws of nature, both inside and outside our brain, and all of our choices are determined by them.

          Like

  3. I admire this thorough and qualified review which, as a non-scientist, presented the case for and against quite clearly and thoughtfully.

    With my off-at-a-tangent hat on, I was struck with this observation: “There’s 7 prime emotions we can distinguish in the brain stem. SEEKING, PLAY, CARE, FEAR, RAGE, PANIC and LUST.” I’m not one to make correlations based on numbers but these emotions seemed in some cases close to the The so-called Seven Basic Plots of Christopher Brooker. The Quest, and Comedy, could relate to the first two, for example, but I’d have to think a bit longer about the other Plots (Tragedy, Voyage and Return, Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, and Rebirth) as the similarities are less obvious, more amorphous.

    Anyway, great review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, much appreciated as always. An interesting tangent too! Tragedy could be PANIC, as that relates to sadness & separation distress (death of a loved one would be the ultimate separation), Overcoming the monster could be FEAR and/or RAGE. I’d say Voyage and Return also could be SEEKING (I’m having a hard time distinguishing this from Quest btw, but I haven’t read Brooker), Rags to Riches could also be SEEKING (as that’s related to the gathering of resources). Rebirth is less obvious. That still leaves CARE and LUST, but those are part of tragedy too I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve often wondered if mammals have a similar sense of narrative, especially if they’re vulnerable to those same seven prime emotions. Or perhaps they’re instincts, in some cases: migrating swallows as Voyage and Return? hunting one’s prey as the Quest? an alpha male seeing off challenges as Overcoming the Monster? a faithful dog mourning at the grave of its master as Tragedy? But perhaps I’m stretching things a little…

        PS I mis-typed Christopher *Booker* (or predictive text wrongly second-guessed me).

        Liked by 2 people

        • The difference between instinct and emotion is hard to parse, if it even exists. The book talks a bit about that too.

          As for narrative and other mammals, I guess you need complex language for that, and conscious autobiographical memory. I’m guessing most mammals aren’t suitably equipped.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I was thinking more about a sense of narrative, one not needing a complex language, more one aware of a beginning, middle and end. But I take your point!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good question. I guess most animals memory is not good enough for that? But I’ve read of
              orangutans communicating their travel plans for the next day fairly detailed (direction, distance, time of departure, if I recall correctly) to the other orangutans that might be nearby.

              Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi bormgans. An interesting review. I don’t have anything to add here, just wanted to say hey because I was enjoying your conversation with Calmgrove above and didn’t want to lurk. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Richard Moore

    My comment is in reply to your point 7, in which you state your bafflement about: “…the authors stress all this biology and the instinctive grounding of emotions does not make animals or humans ‘mechanical robots’.”
    Having corresponded with Jaak Panksepp, I will suggest a reason, but cannot speak for him, especially posthumously. You seem to think robotic systems can attain the capacity of living systems, or sentient systems. Panksepp directly challenges such a notion throughout the entirety of his research, and there are scientists across many fields who challenge it even as a basis of physical systems, because mechanism as such fails as a primary premise. Panksepp noted in one of his papers that mechanical systems can be designed, built, and function, but do not arise spontaneously of their own. Even imagining some future mechanical system that success in self-assembly for is own system reproduction, it arises from precursors that were designed, built, and functioned from extrinsic sources which supplied the motivation to their design, assembly, and functioning. They have no intrinsic motivation that magically results from their design, or complexity.
    This congrats fundamentally with natural systems, which indeed have evolved by some intrinsic drive into biology and radiated into biodiversity. Panksepp did not fully extend his argument on this, beyond the basic distinction that biology is self-animating my its own intrinsic motivation, but I shall: machines are made as instruments of an extrinsic source of their design. Biology evolves by an intrinsic drive to exist – something achieved not as independent machines but as while living systems of the sort we label biosphere with requisite biodiversity. Indeed, as we enter or Sixth Mass Extinction, one of the evident facts of prior extinctions is that they regenerate into novel biodiversity by radiation to attain a requisite diversity which sustains the system as a whole – what has now come to be called the Gaia Principle, after the Gaia Hypothesis.
    What we are finding with machine culture, because of its fundamental reliance on fossil and fissile fuel energy, is that it is causing this latest extinction event. I worlds refer your to Andrew Nokiforuk’s “The Energy of Slaves” and the opts of work by Vaclav Smil, starting with “Energy Myths and Realities,” to seedy the frame of discussion on energy itself. But then you may want to explore the basic thesis and argument behind Panpsychism to begin delving into the deep theory questions of reality and existence – why, for instance, the original quantum physicists tended to take the Hindu theories of Brahman quite seriously. And just to address a principle misunderstanding by many: Brahman is not God. Scamming what is actual meaning is begins to suggest a deep theory genesis and why there is a difference of living versus machine systems. Mechanical logic differs from the dynamic paradoxes of natural systems in important ways – not least being the utilization of entropy as essential to life, not destructive of it.
    Life and existence do not derive from chaos and complexity. To the contrary, the later are more likely produced by the former. But what then can be the “cause?” I suggest an ironic answer from physics, which by its own claims arises from Nothing, even as Equilibrium has been found to be a constant inextinguishable Energy which must constantly change or exchange its forms. A hint arises from thefact that Black Holes do not vanish into Singularity but evaporate into radiation – echo by the radiation of species in part extinction events. Void is actually a process, call it Null or Negation, which negates itself into the differentiations of energy-matter-mind. But mind is not mechanical logic as constructed in computers. Mind is the dynamic of emotions driven by the deeper intent-to-be of existence itself (see here what the literal meaning of Brahman is).
    And, for an interesting footnote, see page 44 of Bertalanffy’s “General Systems Theory” for why feedback is a secondary mechanism of systems, and then contemplate what the primary mechanism is. Them it’s worth giving consideration to Gibson’s ecological theory of direct perception – something that yet eludes machine logic and artificial intelligence.

    Like

  6. Richard Moore

    My comment is in reply to your point 7, in which you state your bafflement about: “…the authors stress all this biology and the instinctive grounding of emotions does not make animals or humans ‘mechanical robots’.”

    Having corresponded with Jaak Panksepp, I will suggest a reason, but cannot speak for him, especially posthumously. You seem to think robotic systems can attain the capacity of living systems, or sentient systems. Panksepp directly challenges such a notion throughout the entirety of his research, and there are scientists across many fields who challenge it even as a basis of physical systems, because mechanism as such fails as a primary premise. Panksepp noted in one of his papers that mechanical systems can be designed, built, and function, but do not arise spontaneously of their own. Even imagining some future mechanical system that succeeds in self-assembly for its own system reproduction, it arises from precursors that were designed, built, and functioned from extrinsic sources which supplied the motivation to their design, assembly, and functioning. They have no intrinsic motivation that magically results from their design, or complexity.

    This contrasts fundamentally with natural systems, which indeed have evolved by some intrinsic drive into biology and radiated into biodiversity. Panksepp did not fully extend his argument on this, beyond the basic distinction that biology is self-animating by its own intrinsic motivation, but I shall: machines are made as instruments of an extrinsic source of their design. Biology evolves by an intrinsic drive to exist – something achieved not as independent machines but as whole living systems of the sort we label biosphere with requisite biodiversity. Indeed, as we enter our Sixth Mass Extinction, one of the evident facts of prior extinctions is that they regenerate into novel biodiversity by radiation to attain a requisite diversity which sustains the system as a whole – what has now come to be called the Gaia Principle, after the Gaia Hypothesis.

    What we are finding with machine culture, because of its fundamental reliance on fossil and fissile fuel energy, is that it is causing this latest extinction event. I would refer you to Andrew Nokiforuk’s “The Energy of Slaves” and the opus of work by Vaclav Smil, starting with “Energy Myths and Realities,” to seed the frame of discussion on energy itself. But then you may want to explore the basic thesis and argument behind Panpsychism to begin delving into the deep theory questions of reality and existence – why, for instance, the original quantum physicists tended to take the Hindu theories of Brahman quite seriously. And just to address a principle misunderstanding by many: Brahman is not God. Considering what its actual meaning is begins to suggest a deep theory genesis and why there is a difference of living versus machine systems. Mechanical logic differs from the dynamic paradoxes of natural systems in important ways – not least being the utilization of entropy as essential to life, not destructive of it.

    Life and existence do not derive from chaos and complexity. To the contrary, the later are more likely produced by the former. But what then can be the “cause?” I suggest an ironic answer from physics, which by its own claims arises from Nothing, even as Equilibrium has been found to be a constant inextinguishable Energy which must constantly change or exchange its forms. A hint arises from the fact that Black Holes do not vanish into Singularity but evaporate into radiation – echoed by the radiation of species in past extinction events. Void is actually a process, call it Null or Negation, which negates itself into the differentiations of energy-matter-mind. But mind is not mechanical logic as constructed in computers. Mind is the dynamic of emotions driven by the deeper intent-to-be of existence itself (see here what the literal meaning of Brahman is).

    And, for an interesting footnote, see page 44 of Bertalanffy’s “General Systems Theory” for why feedback is a secondary mechanism of systems, and then contemplate what the primary mechanism is. Then it’s worth giving consideration to Gibson’s ecological theory of direct perception – something that yet eludes machine logic and artificial intelligence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your elaborate comment, it’s much appreciated. You make some interesting and valuable comments, much to ponder about.

      I guess ‘robot’ is just a shorthand, because, indeed, as you say, it’s not sure robotic/computer/software systems will ever be able to reach general intelligence, I am aware of that. I do however think we & our consciousness is the result of a mechanic (biological/chemical/physical) system that has evolved from one celled life forms, and as such I think you could call us “flesh robots” like Scott Adams once said.

      It’s interesting you mention Vaclav Smil, as I’ve just a few weeks ago I tried to decide which of his books I have to read first – I’m still undecided.

      I was unaware of Panpsychism. I’m not sure if the distinction between living and mechanical systems will continue to be productive – for now it is, for sure, but as mechanical systems have evolved too, out of living systems, it might very well be mechanical systems get an inherent drive as well. I agree that that hasn’t happened significantly yet, and it might never happen, it might even be next to impossible, but I’m reluctant to make categorical statements on the future.

      As for the evolution of life: I would recommend you Nick Lane’s The Vital Question (2015), truly spectacular, and a plausible hypothesis on the very beginning of cellular life. Some call it a Copernican book.

      The nature of Nothing interest me. If you have recommendations to read on it: do mention them. As on the nature of the Mind, yet another conundrum. I would recommend ‘How History Gets Things Wrong’ by Alex Rosenberg, maybe not for its basic premises, but because it gives an excellent oversight of the research by Eric Kandel, John O’Keefe and May-Britt Moser along with Edvard Moser on brain processes in rats. I’ve reviewed it here: https://schicksalgemeinschaft.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/how-history-gets-things-wrong-alex-rosenberg-2018/ There might be good other books on that research too, but this is the one I’ve read so it’s the only one I can attest for. It’s eye-opening research, and it resulted in two Nobel prizes.

      Thanks for the pointer about feedback – I’ve been aware of the reciprocity/recursiveness of ecology for some time. No life without input from & interaction with its surroundings.

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