chapter  5
24 Pages

Action and Emotion

In this chapter we examine two closely related aspects of our cognitive lives, action and emotion – how we move and what moves us.


The sensory systems provide internal representations of both our own bodies and the world outside. A major function of these representations is to extract the information necessary to guide the movements that make up our behavioral repertoire. These movements are controlled by a set of motor systems that allow us to maintain balance and posture, to move our body, limbs, and eyes, and to communicate through speech and gesture. In contrast to the sensory systems, which transform physical energy into neural information, the motor systems transform neural information into physical energy by issuing commands that are transmitted by the brainstem and spinal cord to skeletal muscles. The muscles translate this neural information into a contractile force that produces movements. As our perceptual skills are a reflection of the capabilities of the sensory systems to detect, analyze, and estimate the significance of physical stimuli, so our agility and dexterity are reflections of the capabilities of motor systems to plan, coordinate, and execute movements (Ghez 1991).