Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review of How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology
Intriguing Connections: Why do people think differently?

Elaborate Description

A paradigm shifting book. Barrett defines the paradigm which held for two thousand years and still holds dominance as the classical paradigm. The paradigm gaining more scientific favor and explains more of what emotions are is the constructed emotions paradigm. The classical paradigm asserts that emotions have essence. Each emotion has an identifiable pattern in body and brain. Evolutionary fixed so that the same patterns appear no matter where the individual is from. Barrett’s expresses that humans are not passive receivers of emotions but actively construct them, thereby introduces the constructed emotions paradigm. Emotions vary in response to the same factors based on past experiences which are defined by culture. Each culture has different explanations for a set response which form what are called emotions. Emotions vary from culture to culture as they are defined by human agreement.

An expression that looks like a particular emotion, can be seem vastly different based on the context. Each emotion depends on the information based on context, culture, internal and other surrounding influences. Emotion is a category of instances with tremendous variety. An emotion is the brain’s creation to explain bodily sensations according to the situation.

As Barrett points out, emotions are a social reality. Emotional concepts are learned from culture, social agreements. The same changes within the body, such as heart rate, can have different meanings in different cultures. Experience are constructed and requires a perceiver. They live in a social reality in the presence of human perceivers. Emotion are a social reality like many human civilization organizations from occupation to government. Emotion as a concept was invented in the seventeenth century.

The brain is a predicting how to respond to myriad of internal and environmental factors. Emotions are constructed meanings which enable the prescription of action to handle sensory input based on prior experience. Past experiences are represented by concepts which enable the extraction of meaning from inputs. Without concepts, inputs would be just noise. As the brain is continually predicting, the world people experience is of their own creation only to be reined in by sensory world. Real world is secondary as believing is seeing. Our senses are not actually reactions to the world, they are largely simulations of the world. Not passive receivers but active constructors of emotions.

The brain does not only make prediction due to external needs. Prediction regulate the body budget for how much energy will be needed to the tasks. There are claims that emotions and logic are separate, Barrett shows that emotions cannot be avoided as they help regulate the body budget. If the prediction about the information is correct, the brain does not need any more energy. More energy is needed to correct the wrong prediction. Prediction errors are normal and are not a problem. Too few prediction errors prevent learning. Too many prediction errors make everything appear as a hallucination.

The classical view has it that there is a brain area dedicated to every psychological function, to each emotion. Every time a brain area was found such as an area which controls fear via people who feel no fear due to that area being impaired, there are a variety of examples of people who have the same area impaired but do feel that emotion. Research is now showing that the brain contains core systems which shape a variety of mental states. Each core system has the ability to function for various brain function.

Society shapes the concepts of everyone emotions, but everyone also shapes how society recognizes the concepts. The way we treat and speak to people shapes the micro wiring of their brain. Each individual is responsible for the predictions their brain makes as the experiences which shape those predictions can be controlled. Misunderstanding how emotions are made and which emotion should apply to a situation can cause drastic health and legal issue. Understanding that the brain makes people see things and make prediction different than others is a lesson which everyone should learn to better interact with social groups.


Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780544129962
Pages to read:   338
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2016
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability     5
Content           5
Overall           5