Inside Out is a Great Movie But . . .

Lisa Feldman Barrett's new book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain is psychologically groundbreaking-- it upends intuition, debunks, assumptions, and overturns the classic way psychologists and laypeople alike view emotions-- you should read it, but if you don't feel like wading through (and I had trouble, I often had to read paragraphs over and over again) here are a few highlights:

1) your brain makes a model of the world through prediction and correction, and if things don't work then the brain tries to construct a new prediction to resolve errors;

2) therefore you don't have set emotional circuitry, that you share with all other people . . . so Inside Out isn't all that accurate;

3) your upbringing, your culture, your genetics, all your experiences and stimulus and all sorts of other things influence these models and predictions, so no emotion is the same;

4) some cultures and people lack emotions that other cultures and people possess . . . and knowledge of these emotions and granular analysis of common emotions can cause people to experience emotions differently . . . just knowing the word for a particular emotion, such as schadenfreude, can cause someone to have that emotion;

5) emotions aren't triggered, they are constructed;

6) there is no battle between the logical, conscious brain and the emotional "side" of the brain-- the brain isn't cerebral rationality wrapped around primitive emotional response circuitry;

7) we are neither blank slates nor hardwired circuitry, though this is the caricature of each position;

8) our "body budget" has a profound impact on how we view the world, so sometimes emotions are the result of lack of sleep, lack of food, or lack of exercise;

9) your memories are "highly vulnerable to reshaping by your current circumstances";

10) mental inferences about emotion are often wrong, and facial expressions are not hard-wired or indicative of much . . . behaviorism is not a great predictor of emotion;

11) at the core we feel valence and affect . . . we feel aroused or calm, and we feel pleasant or unpleasant . . . the rest can be determined by a number of factors;

12) we have more control over our emotions that previously thought-- which appeals to the conservatives: you are responsible for your actions, but-- and this appeals to the liberals-- culture and experience literally create our prediction models, so emotions are more relative than universal;

13) "the dividing line between culture and biology is porous";

14) this revision from essentialist emotions to a more interoceptive model will probably be considered equally primitive in 100 years;

anyway, if you read this book and The Nurture Assumption by Judith Harris, you'll have a whole new view of psychology, which might make you feel liberated or ignorant or empowered or pedantic or-- if you're reading this stuff on a couch in a supine position-- sleepy.


zman said...

That's probably more than one sentence.

Dave said...


rob said...

dave has freed the language from the tyranny of rules, zed.

A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.