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312 Lisa Feldman Barrett: How Emotions Are Made

Emotions are not universal or hardwired but constructed by our brains, challenging traditional views on emotion and its impact.



In "How Emotions Are Made," Lisa Feldman Barrett presents a groundbreaking theory that challenges traditional views on emotions. She argues that emotions are not preexisting categories but are constructed by our brains based on our experiences and interpretations of the world. Barrett delves into the science behind emotions, discussing concepts such as interoception, prediction, and the role of culture in shaping our emotional experiences. By understanding the process of emotion construction, we can gain better control over our emotional lives and foster healthier well-being.


Title: How Emotions Are Made

Author: Lisa Feldman Barrett

Publishing year: 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Length in hours: 14 hours and 32 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Emotions are not universal and hardwired, but rather constructed by our brains based on predictions and interpretations.
  2. The brain uses past experiences and knowledge to generate emotions in the moment.
  3. Interoception, the perception of internal bodily signals, plays a crucial role in emotion construction.
  4. Culture and context significantly influence how we perceive and express emotions.
  5. Understanding the process of emotion construction empowers us to reshape our emotional experiences and enhance our well-being.

5 funny quotes

  1. "Your brain is like a master chef, creating a delicious emotional stew out of the ingredients of your experiences."
  2. "Emotions are the spice of life, adding flavor and zest to our everyday experiences."
  3. "Your brain is the ultimate emotion artist, painting a vibrant canvas of feelings in your mind."
  4. "Emotions are like a rollercoaster ride for your brain, with twists and turns that keep you on your toes."
  5. "Just as a magician creates illusions, your brain conjures up emotions to make sense of the world around you."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Your brain is not a passive recorder of emotion; it actively constructs it based on your past experiences and current context."
  2. "Emotions are not fixed categories, but dynamic and context-dependent experiences created by your brain."
  3. "Your emotions are not reactions to the world; they are predictions your brain makes about the world."
  4. "Culture plays a crucial role in shaping how we interpret and express emotions, leading to variations across different societies."
  5. "The traditional view of emotions as universal and hardwired is outdated; we need to embrace the idea that emotions are constructed by our brains."

5 dilemmas

  1. Idea: Emotions are not fixed and universal, but rather context-dependent and shaped by our individual experiences.
  2. Idea: Our brains actively construct emotions based on predictions, using past knowledge to interpret and respond to the world.
  3. Idea: The concept of emotional granularity emphasizes the importance of recognizing and labeling specific emotional states.
  4. Idea: The theory of constructed emotion challenges the traditional view of emotions as innate and pre-determined responses.
  5. Idea: Cultural factors significantly influence how we interpret, express, and regulate emotions, leading to variations across societies.

5 examples

  1. Example: The study conducted at Harvard University demonstrated how cultural norms shape emotional experiences.
  2. Example: The research conducted by Lisa Feldman Barrett and her team at Northeastern University examined the neural basis of emotional construction.
  3. Example: The case study of John, a patient with a rare brain disorder, showcased the impact of brain circuitry on emotional experiences.
  4. Example: The experiments conducted at Stanford University shed light on how social interactions influence emotional responses.
  5. Example: The study involving participants from various cultural backgrounds, including Japan, India, and the United States, revealed cultural differences in emotional expression.

Referenced books

  1. "The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness" by Antonio Damasio
  2. "Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology" by Robert C. Roberts
  3. "The Nature of Emotion: Fundamental Questions" edited by Paul Ekman and Richard J. Davidson
  4. "The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life" by Joseph Ledoux
  5. "The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust" by Tiffany Watt Smith

Share a quote

"Your emotions are not reactions to the world; they are predictions your brain makes about the world."

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