How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

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The prevailing, classical view of emotions envisages them as hardwired into our brains.

How hard is it to control your emotions? The consensus is that you may try to, but you simply can’t.The notion of emotions as reflexes – sometimes artifacts of evolution existing in a realm beyond the rational – has been around for millennia. It’s called the classical view, and it’s been espoused by everyone from Aristotle, Buddha, Darwin, Descartes and Freud, right through to modern-day thinkers such as Steven Pinker, Paul Ekman, and the Dalai Lama.

2 November, 2017 20:11 Share

Scientific evidence doesn’t support the classical view of emotion and money is being wasted researching it.

just because someone smiles, it doesn’t mean she’s necessarily happy.In spite of this, scienc

2 November, 2017 20:11 Share

Emotions are created spontaneously and concurrently and are based on individual experiences.

It might seem counterintuitive to imagine emotions as responses that are not natural, innate, or involuntarily triggered, but that’s what the author advocates. She has no truck with the classical view and much prefers what’s been called the theory of constructed emotion.This theory states that emotions are created spontaneously and concurrently in several areas in the brain.Each emotion, so the theory goes, is grounded in a given individual’s experience. Every response is predicated on anticipated sensory inputs, whether it’s for vision, hearing or taste. The brain uses each input to either affirm or alter its predictions.The author argues that all emotional responses are created similarly. Prior experience and sensory inputs guide action.

2 November, 2017 20:19 Share

We have a predictive system for all the body’s goings-on, including our emotions.

interoception. It’s the way the brain keeps your body – with its hormones, immune system and nervous system – running smoothly. It’s managing an ongoing and predictive system so that you don’t have to be conscious of what’s going on at all times.Interoception is one of the core components involved in emotion creation. The brain’s interoception system is continuously processing internal and external sensations. This raw data is repurposed as emotion by the process of interoception.

2 November, 2017 20:35 Share

The first spectrum covers the affects of pleasure and displeasure. The second covers agitation and calmness.

2 November, 2017 20:36 Share

Our interoception system regulates our body budget, determining how our bodies’ resources are spent.

Several parts of the brain operate in tandem to implement interoception.

2 November, 2017 20:37 Share

It’s then that your brain tries to explain the imbalance; by firing off emotions.

2 November, 2017 20:38 Share

Emotion concepts are culturally constructed beliefs about emotions.

It shows that our reality is organized by the concepts we use for understanding our environment. In turn, these concepts depend on culture.

2 November, 2017 20:41 Share

We learn culturally laden emotion concepts from birth, but we have the power to learn more.

Sad, happy, angry, disappointed, depressed: these aren’t universal emotions. They are, the author claims, concepts that we start learning from the moment we’re born, from our parents and from society.

2 November, 2017 20:41 Share

On the other hand, emotion concepts are taught, and often explicitly.

2 November, 2017 20:41 Share

So, emotions are constructed from experience. When we invest in cultivating new experiences, these will, in turn, become the emotional seeds of our future.

2 November, 2017 20:42 Share

Final summary

The key message in this book:The brain creates emotions through a complex system that also regulates the body’s energy levels and expenditure. What we often think of as an inborn “emotion" is, in reality, a construction made by the relationship between culture, the brain, and our interpretations of our bodily sensations.

2 November, 2017 20:42 Share

About the book:

How Emotions Are Made (2017) challenges everything you think you know about emotions. From learning how our brain registers anger, fear and joy to how we think about these emotions culturally, you’ll come away with a new understanding of the ways in which emotions are created and how their scope is determined by society at large.

About the author:

Lisa Feldman Barrett is University Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University. She had also holds appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Barrett received the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for her research on emotions in the brain and has published over 200 peer-reviewed, scientific papers that have appeared in Science, Nature, Neuroscience and other top psychology and cognitive neuroscience journals.