Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Emotional Life of Your Brain

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Emotional Life of Your Brain

How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live – and How You Can Change Them


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Is your “Emotional Style” helping or hindering you?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


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.


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...

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.

Comment on this summary

  • Avatar
  • Avatar
    A. J. 5 months ago
    Perfect Summary.
  • Avatar
    F. M. 9 years ago
    Good summary, I am searching for more about this (I just took the facebook test)
  • Avatar
    J. C. 1 decade ago
    This is just a really good book