Summary of The Emotional Life of Your Brain

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Neurologist Richard Davidson and science writer Sharon Begley explain the fascinating, paradigm-shifting theory of “Emotional Style” that Davidson developed over 35 years of meticulous research. They reduce a welter of psychological profiles into a rubric of six dimensions that make up each individual’s emotional profile. They base these dimensions on neurological behaviors – specific brain patterns that individuals can change with mental training. If you’re tired of being pessimistic, for example, mental training can help you deliberately nudge your “outlook” closer to the “positive” end of the spectrum. Several self-tests help you figure out your emotional style and decide what – if anything – you want to do about it. getAbstract recommends this readable account of how to understand the brain-based factors affecting your emotional makeup and personality.

About the Authors

Richard J. Davidson teaches psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founded the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds. He directs the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. Sharon Begley is Reuters’ senior health and science correspondent and the author of the book Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain.



The Brain Basis for Emotion

Every person’s “Emotional Style” is unique, like fingerprints or snowflakes. Your style determines how you react to what life throws at you.

Developing areas of expertise by repetition – such as playing the piano or navigating city streets as a taxi driver – increases activity and patterns in corresponding areas of the brain. A similar increase occurs when you practice skills virtually, because the brain responds to input from the external and internal world. You can think your way to virtuosity and change your emotional style through intentional effort.

Scientists now recognize that emotions form an important aspect of the mind. Six basic emotions – “happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust” and “surprise” – each generate the same corresponding facial expressions worldwide. Negative emotions correlate to increased activity in the right frontal area of the brain while positive emotions correlate to activity in the left frontal area.

The “Six Dimensions”

Emotional style has six dimensions. Individual behavior falls within these dimensions, forming each person’s unique style. Neurologists trace the dimensions to specific...

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    F. M. 5 years ago
    Good summary, I am searching for more about this (I just took the facebook test)
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    J. C. 8 years ago
    This is just a really good book
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    P. B. 8 years ago
    If nothing else, the brain is the one to be emotional. Great summary, and add on for book.