Emotional Theory of Rationality

This theory provides a new theoretical framework to understand the relationship between emotions, attention and cognition, being able to explain many of the psychological and behavioral phenomena in an integrated and grounded way.

As an explanatory model it is, and not only descriptive, it allows us to understand the causes that generate these phenomena, making it possible to identify the factors that characterize them and on which we can act, as well as the dynamics to which they give place. Its main contribution can be summarized in a simple way:

Emotions are the mechanism for brain functioning optimization.Garcés & Finkel 2019 - Emotional Theory of Rationality, Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience.

It is worth noting that the theory do not make distinctions between positive or negative emotions, just considering both as responses to "challenges", wether you have to scape from a danger or are trying to seduce your loved partner. To achieve this goal, emotions must carry out three fundamental tasks:

Emotional System's Tasks


Deploying a rapid response, albeit generic, that allows you to start solving a challenge for which there is not yet a specific response.


Indicating to the attention that there is a need to recruit and activate cognitive resources to generate a new and more specific response.


Marking every stimulus with an "Emotional Criticity" tag which, in case of multiple simultaneous stimuli, will allow the attention to decide which of them should assign a priority access to the cognitive resources, which are limited.

Once cognitive systems develop a more specific response, it is refined wile it starts regulating the emotional response. Once that new response become totally effective, the emotion is no longer necessary and it is finally inhibited.

This clear and simple functional structure allows us to solidly explain in detail the sort of dynamics the brain can display, as well as the factors that condition them. In turn, it makes possible to understand those dynamics in more depth, what easy modifying them.

The implications that arise from this understanding help us to explain very diverse phenomena, from the improvement in decision-making processes, or the development of motivation and learning capacities, to some other extreme phenomena such as reality distortion or non-adaptive behaviors.

In addition, better understanding of the individual brain dynamics opens up the possibility of advancing in the knowledge of other interpersonal, group and social phenomena for which nowadays we only have descriptive models.