Thinking Clearly Requires Feeling Deeply

In How Emotions Are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett described how our brains use the raw material of affect to construct particular emotions. For example, depending on various factors, including our biological differences or even the cultures we grew up in, if you and I have the same physical sensations of arousal, I might interpret them as nervousness while for you they amount to excitement. In Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, Barrett builds on this idea to show that all of our thoughts, not just our emotions, are infused with affect. “We say, ‘This meal is delicious’ or ‘This painting is beautiful,’” says Barrett. “We mislabel our own affective reaction as the property of something ‘out there’ in the world.”

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