We would all like to feel we can identity emotions – in ourselves and others – fear, anger, shock, et al. But what actually are these emotions? Are they are hard wired if-this-then-that response in our brains, seemingly making the brain a complex computer, or are they something more nuanced, constructed based on experience?
This is a book about that very issue, the author taking a view that neuroscience has over simplified the processes by which we generate and recognise emotion. Neuroscience is of course a comparatively fast moving area, and there is much we don’t know, or are not sure about, so by its nature the authors writing is in part propositional; that’s no criticism, just an observation on the complexity of the topic.
The author proposes that the traditional view of hardwired emotions is not supported and that emotions are constructed from both environment and experience; underpinning this is a criticism of the theory “localisation” where specific brain regions are understood to have certain functions, in favour of “holism” where the brain works across regions. There is evidence for both; quite simply we are limited in our understanding.
Setting the science aside, this is a fascinating consideration of emotion and our understanding, and presented in a readable and approachable format.
I’d recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the cause and effect of emotion, whether from a professional basis or interested observer.