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  • In the last episode of Down the Rabbit Hole, we discussed what would happen if we had no

  • emotions.

  • In this episode, I'd like to talk about the surprising truth about how emotions are

  • made.

  • There are many theories of emotion, but I'm just going to be discussing one: the theory

  • of constructed emotion which was coined by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett.

  • I think you'll find that this theory is interesting, unintuitive, and important; you'll

  • never look at emotion the same way again.

  • Without further hesitation, let's just keep on jumping into it.

  • Perhaps, the best place to start is with the brain.

  • The brain evolved to serve the body.

  • You body is full of resources that need to be balanced and kept in a healthy range.

  • Dr. Barrett coins a useful term here: body-budget.

  • Your body needs to maintain a healthy budget of these resources, so you can survive and

  • thrive.

  • Anytime there is change in your body budget, some basic feelings will arise within you

  • called affect.

  • Affect is different from emotion.

  • It only has two-dimensions: valence and arousal.

  • You can feel pleasant or unpleasant.

  • Aroused or unaroused; in other words, calm or agitated.

  • Things that impact your body budget in a positive way make you feel good.

  • Things that impact your body budget in a negative way make you feel bad.

  • Again, this is affect and not emotion.

  • Affect is a part of being conscious, and the reason we feel it is still a scientific mystery.

  • You're not born with the knowledge of how to control your body budget.

  • You begin learning this as a baby.

  • Our brains construct models of the world, based on our past experiences, that help us

  • regulate ourselves.

  • Now, here's a very important point: our models of the world are predictivenot

  • reactive.

  • Your brain is governed by prediction -> correction, not stimulus -> response.

  • According to Barrett and other scientists, prediction is a lot more efficient and adaptive

  • than reaction.

  • Your brain doesn't just predict what's happening in the external worldit also

  • predicts what's going on inside of you.

  • A brain should make you feel thirsty before you're completely dehydrated; it should

  • make you feel afraid at the ledge of the cliff, and not when you've already fallen off.

  • Your past experiences make up your model.

  • Your model is made to regulate your body budget.

  • Your model predicts what's going to happen in the world at every moment.

  • Ideally, if the prediction is wrong, then your brain will update its model.

  • Based on its prediction, it will modify your body budget and make you feel some affect.

  • Where does emotion come into this?

  • Your model of the world is made up of concepts or categories.

  • This conceptual model is incredibly flexible.

  • You can combine old concepts to make new concepts.

  • Even though I've never seen one, I can combine an alligator, with a snake, with a large bird,

  • with fire to imagine a new creature: a dragon.

  • Concepts come together based on our goals as individuals.

  • They are not static things.

  • For example, let's say that my goal was to hold down a stack of papers.

  • Now, I have to look for things that can be a paperweight.

  • Literally anything with a sufficient amount of weight can serve as a paperweight: a rock,

  • a vase, a computer, a person, so on and so forth.

  • Dr. Barrett says that emotions are goal-based concepts that we construct based on our past

  • experiences.

  • Let's say that someone cuts you off in traffic.

  • The emotion you construct will depend on what your brain predicts is happening outside of

  • you, inside of you, and what your goal is.

  • If you predict that someone tried to hurt you or didn't value your life, your body

  • budget will change, you'll feel an agitated affect, and you will honk the horn with the

  • goal of saying, “I MATTER!”.

  • You've constructed the emotion of anger.

  • However, if you predict that the person is on their way to the hospital, your body budget

  • will change, you'll stay calm, and you'll slow down with the goal of letting the person

  • who cut you off travel effectively.

  • You've constructed the emotion of sympathy or empathy.

  • In Dr. Barrett's words, “[emotions] are a prescription for action”.

  • Emotions are predictions about how we should act in order to achieve a goal.

  • These predictions are based on past experiences, and they are concepts that we construct.

  • There is a lot of variation in the types of emotions we can feel and how they are expressed.

  • Ultimately, this means that we are responsible for how we construct our conceptual model

  • of the world because this will control our predictions.

  • We'll talk about this in a future video.

  • You might find this idea hard to grasp at first.

  • It's pretty new and unintuitive.

  • But, this is a scientific theory with a lot of evidence to support it.

  • It also has important implications for society.

  • If you really want a more accurate and detailed understanding of the theory, I highly recommend

  • reading Dr. Barrett's book on the topic: How Emotions Are Made.

  • I've put a link in the description.

  • As always, thanks for watching, and I'll see you next time!

In the last episode of Down the Rabbit Hole, we discussed what would happen if we had no

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B1 budget emotion barrett body construct affect

This is why you feel the way you feel

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    Summer posted on 2020/07/30
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