Lisa Feldman Barrett – Are Emotions Born Or Made?

Lisa Feldman Barrett

Emotions are biological responses to particular circumstances. Emotions are associated with the CNS (Central Nervous System). Emotions are actually neurophysiological changes expressed in the response of external stimulus and they are strongly associated with thoughts, feeling, and behavioral responses. Emotions are of two types, Positive Emotions, and Negative Emotions. Joy is an example of positive emotion while anxiety is an example of negative emotion. In this article, we will try to know the answer to the question “Are Emotions born or made?”.

Are we born with emotions? . It is a very hot topic of psychology nowadays that are we born with emotions? Well, according to the early and old psychologists, emotions are totally innate. Emotions are biologically driven reaction towards general circumstances or certain challenges/opportunities. But this theory is not completely true according to modern psychological science. The modern psychologist argues that not all emotions are innate. There are only some emotions we are born with and we learn all the remaining emotions with our experiences and challenges.

According to the modern theory of psychology, some emotions are completely innate such as facial expressions while some emotions are learned with time from experiences, opportunities, and challenges we face. Fear, anxiety is the best example of this type of emotions. We can make it easy to understand for you in the form of an example. When a child is born, the child only knows about smiling emotion and weeping emotion, that is why these emotions are totally innate (Child is born with these emotions). The child at this stage also expresses facial emotions which are also innate but the child cannot show angry emotion and anxiety emotion because both these emotions are learned with time and age. So, in simple words, we can say that some emotions are innate (we are born with these emotions) and some emotions are learned from experiences with the passing time and age.

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Are emotions born or made?

Lisa Feldman Barret is a neuroscientist at Northeastern University and she wrote her publication “How Emotions Are Made”. Lisa totally rejects both modern and old theories about emotions and argues that our key beliefs about the nature of emotions are completely wrong. Lisa further argues that all emotions are made and we are not born with any emotions. She also rejects the theory of common emotions according to which all people have the same type of emotions in a particular circumstance. Lisa further explains that classical assumption about emotions is totally wrong in which emotions are stated as the products of different parts of the brain.

According to Lisa Feldman Barret, emotions are made by our brain in response to particular and certain circumstances and it is the CNS (Central Nervous System) that gives bodily shape to the emotions. Emotions are actually bodily sensations according to past experiences. She argues that all the emotions are made including facial expressions. It means that a newly born child never smiles until he/she sees smiling someone around him/her.

If we want to summarize the main idea of the book of Lisa Feldman Barret, we can summarize it in these words,

“All the emotions are made, there are no emotions which are innate. Emotion is actually a bodily sensation of the past experiences, challenges, and circumstances which are saved in our mind for further use. When we encounter the same type of situation as the past one, we will show the previous emotion. For example. If you got angry about not getting any gifts on your birthday, you are actually showing an angry emotion. It will be saved in your brain and when you will face the same time as the situation in the future you will get angry again. It is very important to mention here that the way of angry emotion is totally different in different people.”

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Lisa Feldman Barret Career

Lisa Feldman Barret was born in 1963. She was a very distinguished psychology student and appointed as a professor of psychology at Northeastern University. Her focused area of work is affective science. Lisa Feldman Barret is credited for developing an open-source software to study human emotional experiences. She was an active member of IASL (Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory) Lab to study human emotions and their nature. She had also served as a Psychology professor at Boston College and The Pennsylvania State University.

Her research work was mainly focused on the Science of Emotions. The key areas of her research were,

  • What are the basic building blocks of human emotional life?
  • Reasons behind people quick emotions such as anger, sadness, and fear.
  • Effect of habits and environment on the development of emotions.

Lisa Feldman Barret had given her famous theory of constructed emotions. According to this theory, all emotions are constructed or made through experiences, challenges, and opportunities. According to Her, emotions are not triggered, it is actually you who create them.

Lisa Feldman Barret got many Honors and awards including Career Trajectory Award, NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, Arts in Academic Award, and Diener Award in Social Psychology.


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Lisa Feldman Barrett on gossip

Lisa Feldman Barrett Quotes

emotion words cause a perceptual shift in the way that emotional faces are seen. Lisa Feldman Barrett

Lisa Feldman Barrett Books

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