||The scientific study of emotion has been gripped in an “emotion paradox” for the last century: human perceivers are able to easily and effortlessly experience anger, sadness, and fear and to see these emotions in others as easily as they read words on a page. Perceiver-independent (objective) measurements, however, are unable to consistently and specifically distinguish between discrete emotion categories. In this talk, Dr. Barrett presents evidence for one resolution to this paradox: Emotions are complex psychological states that can be causally reduced to a set of more basic ingredients, that they are psychologically primitive and are more clearly respected by the brain, and that there are emotion categories like anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and happiness. Emotions may be the targets of explanation in science, but they are not, themselves, natural kinds.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, is currently Professor of Psychology and Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Boston College, with appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr.
Barrett’s research focuses on the nature of emotion from social-psychological, psychophysiological, cognitive science, and neuroscience perspectives, and takes inspiration from anthropology, philosophy, and linguistics.
This lecture is an installment of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Lecture Series sponsored by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and organized by the NIH Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee.
The Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Coordinating Committee (BSSR CC), with support from the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), convenes a series of guest lectures and symposia on selected topics in the behavioral and social sciences. These presentations by prominent behavioral and social scientists provide the NIH community with overviews of current research on topics of scientific and social interest. The lectures and symposia are approximately 50 minutes in length, with additional time for questions and discussion. All seminars are open to NIH staff and to the general public.