The human brain is a master of deception

Emotions are created – literally created – by each human, each tribe and culture

Lisa Feldman Barrett’s startling, challenging, and fascinating book, How Emotions are Made, shares 20+ years of research across multiple disciplines with meta-analysis across thousands of studies.  In her book and subsequent findings, she posits that we are not born with built-in emotions but we create and can re-create them over time. Her overarching premise is that the main job of the brain is to budget resources as effectively as possible to keep the body alive through a highly accurate and adaptive predictive matrix.

Lisa Feldman Barrett – “You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions — your brain creates them”  TED – January 2018

“The human brain, it turns out, bootstraps a conceptual system into its wiring within the first year of life. This system is responsible for the wealth of emotion concepts that you now employ to experience and perceive emotions.” – Excerpt from How Emotions are Mad

She states that, as newborns, we are looking to our environment for clues on how to wire our brain to accurately predict what is going to happen and what the following results will be based on external (e.g., air pressure, light, chemicals, people) and internal (e.g., tightness, aches, shivers) stimuli to make the best use of an expensive resource – the human brain.  

Most profoundly, for me, is the belief that, since we are constantly constructing our view of the world including emotions, we are able to re-train our brain to predict differently.   No Jedi mind tricks but a systematic and deliberate process that re-trains our brain to predict differently in the future based on changing mental simulations.  She explains the entire process in TED and TEDx talks which are similar but have enough variation that I am including both.

When asked for a practical tip that one can employ to improve their use of emotions, she recommends creating a list of different types of emotions one could create.  The differences between the emotion nuances can create a richer pallet from which to choose.  Here is a link to an explanation of Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel (1980) applied to business.

The book is quite descriptive and a bit long but a great read for your inner geek.


Be exceptional!

Bill  – Certified Growth Coach, Foundations in NeuroLeadership certified, Predictive Index Certified Partner

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Published by Bill Flynn

Gazelles Member Advisor and early stage startup specialist with a proven track record with 16 Boston-based startups (9 to date with 5 successful outcomes, advisor to 7 others); SMB to Fortune 500 companies. 20+ years of Senior Sales, Marketing and GM experience in industries including mobile advertising, security, digital advertising, e-commerce and IT. Core Competencies: Player/Coach, Metrics-driven, Execution-based philosophy, Life-long learner

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