How Emotions Are Made

How Emotions Are Made

The Secret Life of the Brain

Book - 2017
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A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions that could revolutionize psychology, health care, law enforcement, and our understanding of the human mind

Emotions feel automatic, like uncontrollable reactions to things we think and experience. Scientists have long supported this assumption by claiming that emotions are hardwired in the body or the brain. Today, however, the science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology--ans this paradigm shift has far-reaching implications for us all.

Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and shedding new light on what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions are housed in different parts of the brain and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, she has shown that emotion is constructed in the moment, by core systems that interact across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning. This new theory means that you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. Its repercussions are already shaking the foundations not only of psychology but also of medicine, the legal system, child-rearing, meditation, and even airport security.

Why do emotions feel automatic? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent? How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©2017.
ISBN: 9780544133310
Characteristics: xv, 425 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


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Apr 10, 2019

Wowsers! I am only a layman but well read in serious-level psychology popularizations (the demesne of Oliver Sacks). This is by far and away the best book on emotion i've ever stumbled across.

It has been, sadly, studiously ignored by her fellow academics. It's the standard reaction of science- if you don't like what somebody has to say, and you can't find any obvious errors, just freeze 'em out, ignore them until they die. It happened to McLuhan (hell, they didn't even wait for him to die) and it's happening to her. Proof? The back cover testimonials are all by journalists and/or popularizers; good ones to be sure but... She's partly to blame- she adopted a breezy witty tone, a human voice, and everybody knows Real Scientists are all disembodied abstract intelligences, impersonal demi-gods, dare i say male ones?!

Her book is based on the idea that emotion is constructed, relatively arbitrary, distributed throughout the brain, not Essentialist. The latter means innate and localized - like fear is handled by the amyglada (only it's not, as she demonstrates). I'm not sure what the fuss is all about - so culture/environment affects it, and it's spread out thru brain and not just one part; so what? As other writers have asserted: emotion is the brains guess as to what sensation means. And gets it wrong sometimes (see her reference to having the flu, meeting a man, and wrongly interpreting the flu's symptoms as infatuation with the man).
"Emotions are not reactions *to* the world; they are your constructions *of* the world."

Re page 162. Fleiss'es biorhythms and Sheldrakes archetypal body types are examples of essentialism. (Hint: they don't exist. Fleiss and Sheldrake just chose points on scales randomly. Her remarks on color names (english vs. russian) are fascinating, as are her remarks on autism being a disorder of the brains prediction system.

It's often philosophical, but everybody having proceeded on false assumptions, it takes examination of groundwork to topple the edifice, to demonstrate that no matter however elaborate and universal the system is, GIGO (Garbage In....) still applies.

The chapter on emotion and the law is excellent and should be must-reading for every judge and lawyer.

A must-read for the understanding of the biggest tail-wagger of the human dog, emotion.

Oct 30, 2017

This book was positively life-changing for me! Its elucidation of the brain's mechanisms that result in thoughts and feelings finally gave me some of the final puzzle pieces in figuring out my own psychology. While Barrett occasionally veers off into speculation (especially in the chapter on animal emotions), her hypotheses are always firmly grounded in science. Overall, and excellent read!

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