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You aren't at the mercy of your emotions - your brain creates them

Lisa Feldman Barrett | 18:31


 My research lab sits about a mile from where several bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon. In 2013, the surviving bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of Chechnya, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to. Now when a jury has to make the decision between life in prison and the death penalty, they base their decision largely on whether or not the defendant feels remorseful for his actions.


Sarnia spoke words of apology, but when jurors looked at his face, all they saw was a stone-faced stare. Now, Sarnia is guilty. There's no doubt about. He murdered and maimed innocent people. And I'm not here to debate that My heart goes out to all the people who suffered. But as a scientist, I have to tell you that jurors do not and cannot detect remorse or any other emotion in anybody ever.


Neither can I and neither can you. And that's because emotions are not what we think they are. They are not universally expressed and recognized. They are not hardwired brain reactions that are uncontrollable. We have misunderstood the nature of emotion for a very long time, and understanding what emotions really are, have important consequences for all of us.


I have studied emotions as a scientist for the past 25 years, and in my lab we have probed human faces by measuring electrical signals that cause your facial muscles to contract, to make facial expressions. We have scrutinized the human body in emotion. We have analyzed hundreds of physiology studies involving thousands of test subject.


We've scanned hundreds of brains and examined every brain imaging study on a motion that has been published in the past 20 years. And the results of these of all of this research is overwhelmingly consistent. It may feel to you like your emotions are hardwired and they just trigger and happen to you, but they don’t.


You might believe that your brain is prewired for with emotion circuits. You know that you're born with emotion circuits, but you're not. In fact, none of us in this room have emotion circuits in our brain. In fact, no brain on this planet contains emotion circuits. So what are emotions really well strap on.

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