Lisa Feldman Barrett’s talk on emotions is well worth your time (even more so if you use Ted’s acceleration options at the bottom of the video – I listened at 1.5 times the speed very comfortably).
Here are some of my highlights:
- emotions are not built-in, we build them
- we have a quick and efficient system for predicting future experiences based on past experiences (we don’t react based on the past, we predict based on the past)
- any emotions we perceive in others come out of our head, we’re not “reading” them on their faces**. This is also true for our own emotions: we’re predicting them based on our past experience
- we ARE having sensations (calm, agitated, etc – Submodalities in NLP terms), and we interpret those sensations as feelings and then as emotions – e.g. a churning stomach has different meanings when you’re walking past a bakery (Yum, I’m hungry) than it does when you’re awaiting test results (oh no, i’m nervous / anxious)
- While emotions seem to happen to us, they are in fact “made” by us – and we can change the ingredients and teach our brains to predict differently, becoming the architect of our own experience
- what if those nerves before a test or a talk are us preparing to go into battle?
- when your mind is racing, it’s prediction
- Always worth checking if intense distress could be a physical distress
- we have way more control over emotions than we imagine, and this is also a responsibility
- The actions and experiences you make today are important because you’re teaching your brain to make predictions tomorrow
** This made me think of some Dan Ariely research looking at how guilt is assigned / predicted in police interviews. Where juries are shown video with the interviewee only in frame they think people are “more” guilty / less reliable than when the interviewer and the interviewee are in the same frame. I think it’s in the Honest Truth about Dishonesty.