The case for unfelt feelings

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1 Scopus citations


Greater numbers of cognitive scientists accept that emotions can be unconscious. Less accepted — theoretically, intuitively, and empirically — is the possibility of unconscious emotional feelings. Building off David Rosenthal’s and Fred Dretske’s work on the types of consciousness, this paper makes the case for unfelt emotion feelings; i.e., unconscious feelings. I argue for two main claims: (1) not only emotions proper, but emotional feelings, can be unconscious; (2) we can often best learn of the emotional feelings of others and ourselves by observable behaviors, expressions, and bodily reactions. I explore three levels of data to support these claims: empirical studies on affective priming, phenomenal first person experience, and behavioral third person observational evidence. I also explore sev-eral implications of the claims for theories concerning the nature of emotions, emotional consciousness, and the functional role of emotional feelings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-38
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Mind and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Consciousness
  • Emotions
  • Feeling theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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