This paper applies evolutionary and functional constructivism approaches to the discussion of psychological taxonomies, as implemented in the neurochemical model Functional Ensemble of Temperament (FET). FET asserts that neurochemical systems developed in evolution to regulate functional-dynamical aspects of construction of actions: orientation, selection (integration), energetic maintenance, and management of automatic behavioural elements. As an example, the paper reviews the neurochemical mechanisms of interlocking between emotional dispositions and performance capacities. Research shows that there are no specific neurophysiological systems of positive or negative affect, and that emotional valence is rather an integrative product of many brain systems during estimations of needs and the capacities required to satisfy these needs. The interlocking between emotional valence and functional aspects of performance appears to be only partial since all monoamine and opioid receptor systems play important roles in non-emotional aspects of behaviour, in addition to emotionality. This suggests that the Positive/Negative Affect framework for DSM/ICD classifications of mental disorders oversimplifies the structure of non-emotionality symptoms of these disorders. Contingent dynamical relationships between neurochemical systems cannot be represented by linear statistical models searching for independent dimensions (such as factor analysis); nevertheless, these relationships should be reflected in psychological and psychiatric taxonomies.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Diverse perspectives on diversity: multi-disciplinary approaches to taxonomies of individual differences’.