How Emotions are Made

Lisa Feldman Barrett

The Secret Life of the Brain

A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions — one that could revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.

Why do emotions feel automatic and uncontrollable? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent? How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain.

Today, the science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology — and this paradigm shift has immense implications for us all. Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose theory of emotion is driving a deeper understanding of the mind and brain, and shedding new light on what it means to be human. Her research overturns the widely held belief that emotions live in distinct parts of the brain and are universally expressed and recognized. Instead, she has shown that emotion is constructed in the moment, by core systems that interact across the whole brain, aided by a lifetime of learning.

This new theory means that you play a much greater role in your emotional life than you ever thought. Its repercussions are already shaking the foundations not only of psychology but also of medicine, the legal system, child-rearing, meditation, and even airport security.

Excerpt from How Emotions are Made:

“The human brain is a master of deception. It creates experiences and directs actions with a magician’s skill, never revealing how it does so, all the while giving us a false sense of confidence that its products — our day-to-day experiences — reveal its inner workings. Joy, sadness, surprise, fear, and other emotions seem so distinct and feel so built-in that we assume they have separate causes inside us. [So] it’s easy to come up with a wrong theory of the mind. We are, after all, a bunch of brains trying to figure out how brains work.”