Summary of The History of Human Emotions

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The History of Human Emotions summary


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Today, you’re unlikely to perish from nostalgia, but in your great-grandparents’ time, people attributed some deaths to the sentiment. In the same vein, your great-grandparents probably never worried about their emotional intelligence, at least not in the sophisticated vocabulary of modern day. Now emotional intelligence is critical to well-being and an advantage in business. getAbstract suggests historian Tiffany Watt Smith’s assumption-challenging talk to people looking for an innovative way to heighten their emotional intelligence.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How conceptions of an emotion can change across cultural contexts and time, and 
  • How to boost your emotional intelligence by understanding the history and culture of words.

About the Speaker

Historian Tiffany Watt Smith wrote The Book of Human Emotions. She is a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, at Queen Mary University of London.



Emotional intelligence, the ability to identify emotions in yourself and others, is so significant that businesses and schools alike teach it. Yet many people’s understanding of emotion is clouded. Some evolutionary psychologists posit that emotion is simply a physiological reflex to external triggers. According to their thinking, all cultures identically express the basic emotions of “happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger” and “surprise.” However, history and modern science indicate that this theory oversimplifies matters. Physiology doesn’t fully explain emotion

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