This wasn't the first time I had this thought, but it's the first time it's left my head.
As I alluded to a few weeks ago, I have a model of thought as intentionally activating neural patterns associated with there referrand of the the thought.
[M]y ... pet theory involved visualization triggering the activation patterns associated with what you're trying to visualizeLet me unpack that statement.
The gist of idea is that the brain 'hashes' sensory data into neural circuits, and thought activates those neural circuits independently. Profundity comes from applying that notion to more exotic areas of experience.
The justification for the antecedent the partially elaborated in my other blogpost, "You are a Pattern-Matching Agent", but it was mostly enslaved to pontificating my determinism philosophy. To those uninterested in reading that other piece, the point is related to my understanding of symbolism as one qualia ("dogness") associates very strongly with another ('d','o','g'). This leads to the Pattern-Matching effect I noted, that thought is an abstract kind of pattern-matching, where circuits trigger others based on symbolic closeness and learned patterns of association (dialogue, grammar, soliloquy). The obscured bit here is that the brain hashes the detailed bits of observed reality into idealization, sorta related to Betty Edwards' "tyranny of the symbol system". You'll note that this is a lossy representation, like a hash. (Not a compression, since you can't recover every little detail of x from the few bits of memory you have a of x). Thus, the brain hash axiom.
Every referrand has bits which are considered important and bits that aren't (try to draw a person. You'll put much more data into the face (drawing mouth, eyes, maybe even ears or noses) than on the legs or arms (drawing them of noodly appendages, or just lines, only sometimes gracing them with all hands or fingers). And the bits that are represented allow them to connect with other symbols with similar enough attributed (the foundation of metaphor, sorta).
"What does this have to do with anything?"
I'm getting to that.
After that detour, you just be close enough to me in inferential distance to understand that central thrust of my argument. Which is that 'qualia' is hashed behavior in exactly the same way symbols are. Even stronger, I think this capture much of the experience of emotion.
Those are hefty claims. Remember my epistemic status on this, I don't think this is likely. But I think it's plausible, and may lead to genuine insights, rather than just insight porn.
I'm abiding by the warning of the Typical Mind Fallacy, which is the most grievous sin you can commit in neurophilosophy.
In my experience, my emotions (what emotions? True rationalist only feel cool reason!) manifest as a drive to action. Anger makes me want to punch something, euphoria makes me what to dance, distress makes we want to turn to jelly and collapse. These bodily feelings comprise what I think much of the internal experience of emotion is. Anger was hashed repeatedly into the patterns of behavior that it manifested, dangerous fighty energy. Same for the others. The behavior codified the experience, and the associated chemical reactions now trigger the neurally hashed feelings.
This applies to 'qualia' in general, although I think applying it to affect will produce incomplete understanding. If you found the proceeding paragraph unsatisfying as an explanation, we are in accord.
There are a few problems with this armchair speculation.
Primo, this is clearly meaningless speculation in the empirical/positivist sense, i.e. there is no what to test this. These 'circuits' obviously would/could have no definite place in the mythic Average Brain, meaning there would be know way to tell if think of x activating the same 'circuits' as experiencing x.
Secondo, I don't even know what it would mean for this idea to be empirical. In the loosest sense, the idea is mostly unfalsifiable per being a condensation of triviality; that is signifying nothing because it's just an consequence of the factual atoms of neuroscience; that is nothing but rephrasing assumptions into an unfamiliar guise.