How Emotions Are Made

Lisa Feldman Barrett

How Emotions Are Made



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We are used to thinking that emotions are a universal language: that a smile shows happiness, and that if a person frowns, it means they are sad. In this book, psychologist and neuroscientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, turns this belief upside down, revealing the theory of constructed emotion: we do not simply react to external stimuli, but our emotions are also affected by our surrounding environment, and our past experiences. With the occasional touch of irony, and the help of lots of examples, the book How Emotions Are Made explains, in detail, that no matter the circumstances, whether it be in our role as a parent, in our attitude to the law, or our relationship with animals, the real architect of our own emotions is ourself.

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Analysis and key concepts


We have all grown up with a traditional (and misleading) view of emotions


Emotions are not universal, and they do not have a unique imprint


Simulations, concepts, category: the theory of constructed emotion


Body emotions and sensations originate, perhaps unexpectedly, from the same brain system


Emotions exist, but in a specific reality: social reality, that we ourselves construct, as humans


Language and words make the system of concepts and categories extremely efficient


We need a balanced body budget to be able to master our emotions


Emotional intelligence is essential for a healthier mind and body


The body and mind are interconnected, even when it comes to emotions and illnesses


Emotions and rationality are never divisible, even in the face of the law


Do animals feel emotions? Maybe only in our human social reality




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand the complexity and beauty of the functions of the human brain.
  • Realise that you are not at the mercy of your emotions, but that you yourself create them, as a result of your experiences.
  • Revolutionise the way you experience emotions in your interactions with children, animals, yourself, and even in relation to the law.

Originally from Canada, Lisa Feldman Barrett is a Boston-based psychologist and neuroscientist. With a PhD in Clinical Psychology, she is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Northeastern University, and also teaches at Harvard Medical School. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and has received several awards for her work on human emotions, such as the NIH Director's Pioneer Award and the Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a co-founder of the medical journal Emotion Review, and her TED Talk was one of the most viewed talks in 2018. Among her many publications, 7 1/2 lessons on the brainis of particular note. 

Publishing house:

Mariner Books