How Emotions Are Made | Lisa Feldman Barrett

Summary of: How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain
By: Lisa Feldman Barrett


Dive into the fascinating world of emotions with Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book ‘How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain’. This summary challenges the classical view of emotions as reflexes, hardwired and universal. Instead, it unravels the complex and constantly changing nature of emotions, guided by the theory of constructed emotion. Discover how the brain creates emotions spontaneously in various areas, and how factors such as interoception, affects, and cultural influences shape our emotional reality. Prepare to question everything you know about emotions and embark on an enlightening journey into the human mind.

The Classical View on Emotions

Emotions have long been viewed as reflexes beyond rational control in the classical view shared by Aristotle, Freud, and modern thinkers. This perspective assumes that emotions are universal, pre-wired in the brain, and triggered automatically. Each emotion is considered to have its own essence and physical fingerprint. However, recent studies suggest that emotions are more complex and controllable than previously thought. While emotions have a biological basis, they are also shaped by social and cultural factors. Emotion regulation skills can be learned through mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal, and other techniques. Emotions are not always a hindrance but can improve decision-making and social interactions when managed effectively. Thus, emotions are not just passive reflexes but active responses that can be shaped by conscious efforts to regulate them.

Emotions are More Complex Than You Think

Emotion isn’t determined by a specific facial expression alone. Expressions vary according to situations, and no single region of the brain is dedicated to a specific emotion. A recent study found that while there are societal expressive patterns to emotions, there is no definite response. Emotions can’t be identified simply through physical signs like facial muscle movements, body changes and brain signals. Science and tech companies throw millions of dollars into this field alone trying to study this misleading phenomenon.

Built Emotions

According to the theory of constructed emotion, emotions are not natural or involuntary but created spontaneously in different parts of the brain, based on our prior experiences and sensory inputs. The brain uses these inputs to guide our emotional responses, which can vary widely depending on the situation. The author likens this theory to Charles Darwin’s concept of species: just as species are populations of individuals that vary subtly depending on their environment, our emotions are also constructed by us as architects of our own experiences. The theory of constructed emotion challenges the classical view of emotions as innate and fixed, instead positioning them as diverse and fluid.

The Science Behind Interoception

Interoception is an autopilot system that allows the brain to manage internal sensations and create emotions without conscious effort. It is a core component in emotion creation and involves two spectrums covering pleasure/displeasure and agitation/calmness. Affects, which are innate, play a role in the creation of emotions, thoughts, and perceptions. Babies perceive affects from birth, leading to crying and wailing.

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