Discovering the ecology of the mind
Science 2034 - 11/05/2014
The forthcoming movie “Inside Out” from Disney-Pixar explores the life of a young girl through characters who each represent an emotion like joy, fear, anger or disgust. While boiling each emotion down to a distinct personality with specific duties makes for an entertaining movie, science is beginning to reveal the flaws in this traditional essentialist view of how our emotions work.
Indeed, research in my Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University reveals that emotions such as anger and sadness are not fixed mental categories, each with its own universal biological fingerprint. Instead each emotion word refers to a highly variable collection of experiences that arise from complex interactions among more fundamental systems distributed throughout the brain and body.