Lisa Feldman Barrett again

When I saw this title I had to read the blog: Baking Cakes and Building Brains. A Renowned Neuroscientist Explains the Shocking Truth of Emotional Intelligence.

In it Nick Hobson discusses the work and concepts of Lisa Feldman Barrett (LFB), professor of psychology at Northeastern University.

A key concept in LFB’s work is degeneracy, which means that the same outcome can be produced in multiple ways.  Each time you feel happy, for example, your brain could be creating that experience using different combinations of neurons. Even when two instances feel the same, they aren’t necessarily constructed in the same way. Variation is the norm.  Just as a skilled baker can create diverse confections from the same core ingredients, the brain crafts various emotions by blending core systems in different combinations.

LFB challenges the established belief that emotions are hardwired, uncontrollable reactions. In contrast, she asserts that emotions are dynamic constructs shaped by sensory inputs, past experiences, and cultural influences.

As Hobson says, “By realizing that emotions are not imposed upon us but constructed within us, we gain agency over managing and shaping our emotional experiences.”  If you agree with LFB’s views and I do, you become sceptical about popular beliefs about emotions, such as Amygdala Hijacks and the notion of separate brain regions governing emotions.

I have attended a lecture by Paul Ekman and did his course on micro-expressions, but still struggle to read facial emotions.  Again, I agree with Hobson, “The misguided pursuit of emotion-detection systems by tech companies underscores the misunderstanding of emotions as solely observable in facial expressions or physical movements.”

I have written two earlier blogs about LFB’s book.

Book Review: ‘How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain’

Book Review: ‘How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain’ Part II’

In summary, I do praise Barrett’s revolutionary ideas but I do  also expressing some disagreement with certain aspects of her theory.  You don’t find her book on many lists of EQ books to read but I would rate it after Daniel Goleman’s book as a must read.

This blog was first published on LinkedIn on 25 September 2023



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