Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett on The Functions of the Brain

  • I just started reading Dr. Barrett's book How Emotions Are Made (2017) and find it fascinating. I just finished the first chapter, so, in looking for something to listen to on the treadmill this morning, found her TED talk.

    I see implications and applications to Epicurean philosophy (I think). She talks about the basic experiences all humans have from birth like pleasure and displeasure (I'm calling that pain). Overlaid on these basic sensations are the emotions our brains build from contextual clues and predictions from past experience.

    This seems to me to be akin to the pathē being foundational to how we should react to any given situation and how we should decide our choices and rejections.

    Her primary thesis, backed up by extensive research, is that our emotions are NOT hardwired. Those basic experiences are (pleasure, displeasure) but not what we call emotions (anger, fear, etc.) People experience the same physical reactions as different emotions in different contexts. This also speaks to me in light of my unease over talking about "feelings" as opposed to "reactions" of pleasure and pain.

    I'll be interested to read what anyone thinks if they watch this or read about her research.

  • I might be missing something but I don't see a link to the Ted talk. Is this it? talk? https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa…_creates_them?language=en


    Also there's this really short youtube video:

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    I haven't watched these yet but the subject sounds fascinating.

  • I might be missing something but I don't see a link to the Ted talk. Is this it? talk? https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa…_creates_them?language=en


    Also there's this really short youtube video:

    External Content www.youtube.com
    Content embedded from external sources will not be displayed without your consent.
    Through the activation of external content, you agree that personal data may be transferred to third party platforms. We have provided more information on this in our privacy policy.


    I haven't watched these yet but the subject sounds fascinating.

    LOL. A link would be helpful wouldn't it.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/lisa…rain_creates_them/up-next

  • Listening to the Ted talk, I noticed she spoke a lot about predictions. It seems like these may correspond to prolepses, and it's also interesting to note that these predictions respond not just to sensations but also to pleasure and pain. If I'm understanding this correctly Epicurean sensations are external stimuli, Epicurean feelings are internal stimuli, and predictions which she speaks of are how we process both external and internal stimuli. This processing then results in such things as emotions, thoughts, opinions, actions, etc. How we work with these emotions, thoughts, opinions, actions then adds to our experiential storehouse, which in turn affects our future predictions. Am I getting that right???

  • That's sort of my take as well. Honestly, I'm just learning myself, having literally just discovered her work when I couldn't get back to sleep last night :)

    I was listening to a podcast today with her that struck me as Epicurean as well.

    https://podcasts.google.com/?f…&ep=14&episode=NDM2MTA3Mw

    Episode #129 at about timestamp 31:36

    She's talking there about the importance of sense data etc.

  • In this one she's talking about being aware of your mood or 'affect' which is basically just pleasure/pain//calm/aroused and using that to make choices (and, I might add, rejections)

    https://www.tedxcambridge.com/…wisdom-the-power-of-mood/


    Just to be clear, I'm not saying Dr. Barrett is Epicurean. And I'm not saying Epicurus was prescient and knew this research. But I am saying I find it surprising that Epicurus seemed to intuit this line of inquiry, especially in the importance of understanding your pleasure and pain reactions or as Dr Barrett calls it, your affect.

  • I agree with your take Don. It seems similar to Epicurus' physics in that he seems to have been on the right track, although modern science is fine tuning the details. Once again, it would be nice to have his elaboration on the prolepses to really understand how his canon fits together.


    Of course this is the first I've heard of this modern line of inquiry, so it's premature to jump to conclusions. Lots to dig into!

  • Listening to the podcast in entry above RE: TED talk: Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett

    on way to work today.

    Around 1:19:00, she talks about the formation of concepts (a scientific term, not colloquially), and it struck me that her explanation could be describing prolepses.

    Interested to hear if anyone has a similar reaction.

  • I'm only listening in bits and haven't got that far, but her whole line of research is quite intriguing when compared to the Epicurean perspective. I think I might read her book so I can consider these ideas more fully.

  • 1:31:00 ~ 1:34:00ish in that episode sounds to me even more like the creation of prolepses in infants and small children! Dr Barrett even talks both about abstract concepts like emotions and concrete concepts. I'd say like justice and Socrates to use Epicurean examples. ;)

  • Looking for a place to out comments on Barrett's podcast at Ten Percent Happier. For now I'll put it here:


    54:15. "Scientists don't agree in how to define emotion."


    56:06 "You don't have a sensor for feeling uncomfortable ....or unpleasant.". These are constructed by the brain.


    5628 When you see red that's a feeling of redness. That comes from the brain modeling the state of your body.

  • I need to go back for the context but here's some initial reactions:

    54:15. I agree with her. Take a look at just the Wikipedia article on Emotion or Emotion classification. This again brings up my unease about using the word "feelings" to translate pathe in the sense of Pleasure/Pain

    56:06. I don't think "feeling uncomfortable... Or unpleasant" are the same as pain as your nociceptors reacting to stimuli. Including "feeling" in that automatically implies something constructed by your brain. More context needed here for me.

    56:28. I agree here too. Your cones intercepting electromagnetic radiation at a frequency of 625 to 740 nanometers doesn't mean RED. We give meaning to that wavelength within our culture. Other cultures may categorize that differently.

  • Don am I correct to think what we are developing here is detail on the relationship between feelings and emotions and that this thread needs to go under the Canonics category, probably under pleasure and pain? Let me know what you think and we can move it so more findable in the future.

  • Don am I correct to think what we are developing here is detail on the relationship between feelings and emotions and that this thread needs to go under the Canonics category, probably under pleasure and pain? Let me know what you think and we can move it so more findable in the future.

    Yes, I'd say Canonics definitely. I'm not sure about the "relationship between feelings and emotions" though. Hmmm. The thing that hit me first I think was the sensations and anticipations parallels. Maybe Godfrey has some insights.

  • OK moved it at least on an interim basis. Probably the TED talk had a title and we ought to change the title of the thread to reflect the title of the talk (?)