When you feel anxious; angry; happy; or surprised; what's really going on inside of you?
Many scientists believe that emotions come from a specific part of the brain; triggered by the world around us. The thrill of seeing an old friend; the fear of losing someone we love - each of these sensations seems to arise automatically and uncontrollably from within us; finding expression on our faces and in our behaviour; carrying us away with the experience.
This understanding of emotion has been around since Plato. But what if it is wrong? In How Emotions Are Made; pioneering psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett draws on the latest scientific evidence to reveal that our common-sense ideas about emotions are dramatically; even dangerously; out of date - and that we have been paying the price. Emotions aren't universally pre-programmed in our brains and bodies; rather they are psychological experiences that each of us constructs based on our unique personal history; physiology and environment.
This new view of emotions has serious implications: when judges issue lesser sentences for crimes of passion; when police officers fire at threatening suspects; or when doctors choose between one diagnosis and another; they're all; in some way; relying on the ancient assumption that emotions are hardwired into our brains and bodies. Revising that conception of emotion isn't just good science; Barrett shows; it's vital to our well-being and the health of society itself.
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