Brain and Values: Is a Biological Science of Values Possible

By Karl H. Pribram | Go to book overview

decades, with non-human primates. (For review see Pribram 1991, Lectures 7, 8, 9, and especiallylo). Also, T.J.'s lesions involve the mediobasal structures of the limbic system and the related anterior frontal cortex. However, in monkeys the resections that produced the defects were symmetrical; in T.J. the lesion was primarily, though not exclusively, in the right hemisphere. What is striking about T.J. is how well he can traverse the social scene despite his catastrophically severe deficit in episodic processing. What remains to be investigated is just how his judgements, his values are affected. So far he manages on what he has learned; in the jargon adopted in my papers in this volume he has obtained his preferences from his social environment.

But there is also considerable intactness in T.J.'s emotional processing. Are drive stimuli and their influence on emotions and values influenced by a system separate from that which influences episodic processing? If so, is the drive-emotional system centered on the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (as reviewed by Schore in this volume, while episodic processing involves the hippocampal-dorsal-frontal-cingulate cortex? And if this is so, how do we reconcile the data and models of hippocampal function presented in this conference (and in my discussion thereof) with the fact that semantic learning can proceed without hippocampal intervention? An answer to this last question may be the one given by Vindogradova ( 1970) (and by Douglas and myself, 1966; 1969) that in learning, an ounce of "emotion" is the equivalent of a ton of repetition. Perhaps the hippocampal models presented here apply to those circumstances when something novel catches our interest -- and not to the rote learning of the alphabet, and other prerequisites to semantic processing.

I have pursued only two of the possible trains of thought brought up during the proceeding of this conference. Of equal interest is the model of visual processing developed by Vogl, Blackwell and Alkon. And what about Stemberg's demonstration of the importance of values in shaping our testing procedures and therefore the formation of their values during the educational process in youths whose far frontal cortex is still developing ( Hudspeth and Pribram 1990).

Each of these trains of thought deserves a whole conference of its own. For now, I do feel this conference has added a great deal to our understanding of the role of the brain in shaping our values. But one does have to dig a bit in order to extract the gold.


References

Douglas, R. J. & Pribram, K. H. ( 1969) "Distraction and habituation in monkeys with limbic lesions". J Comp. Physiol. Psychol, 69, pp. 473-480.

Douglas, R. J. & Pribram, K. H. ( 1966) "Learning and limbic lesions". Neuropsychologia, 4, pp. 197-220.

Hudspeth, W. J. & Pribram, K. H. ( 1990) "Stages of brain and cognitive maturation". Journal of Educational Psychology, 82( 4), pp. 881-884.

Pribram, K. H. ( 1991) Brain and Perception: Holonom and Structure in Figural Processing. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Vindogradova, O. ( 1970) Short-term Changes in Nueral Activity & Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zajonc, R. B. ( 1966) "An Experimental Approach". Basic Concepts in Psychology Series. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, Inc.

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