From How Emotions Are Made
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(Reproduced from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain)

They say that it takes a village to raise a child; and this book, which my daughter took to calling her “baby brother,” was no exception. The sheer number of people who contributed their comments, criticism, science, and support over the past three-and-a-half years is a testament to both the richness of the subject area and the wonderful friends, family, and colleagues that I am so fortunate to know.

This book had a non-traditional family with more than the usual number of parents. It began life with the editors Courtney Young and Andrea Schulz at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and 18 months later, both had been wooed away by compelling job offers. For a few months, I was a single parent with support from Bruce Nichols, publisher at HMH and effectively the book’s great-great-grandfather. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt then hired Alex Littlefield as the new editor, who had a strikingly different vision of child-rearing from mine (leading to a stormy adolescence); but as is often the case, the best ideas come from vigorous debate, and I thank Alex for the way we ultimately shepherded a leaner and stronger book to its graduation day and released it into the world.

I’m extremely grateful to the book’s adopted uncle, Jamie Ryerson at the New York Times, who helped at the last minute to trim three chapters that had become too lengthy and overwhelmingly technical. I am in awe of Jamie’s skill to pare down material to the absolute essentials while retaining its style and voice. He may look like a mild-mannered editor, but when he stands in just the right light, you can see his knightly armor glinting in the sun.

Max Brockman, who is my agent and the village wizard, played an absolutely essential role in bringing this book to life. Not only did he navigate me through the ins and outs of the business, but each time we hit a hurdle during the long writing process, he was always ready with wise council. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yes, it takes a village to write a book, but my village is not the only one on the planet of emotion research. The other major village, which I’ve called “the classical view,” is home to many creative and accomplished scientists, some of whom are my close colleagues. Our villages share territory, so we necessarily have conflicts and rivalries, but at the end of the day, we continue the debates over drinks and dinner. For two decades of animated discussion and close friendship, I thank James Gross and George Bonanno. Likewise, I am grateful to Paula Niedenthal, who introduced me to embodied cognition in general, and to Larry Barsalou’s work in particular. For informative conversations, I also thank Andrea Scarantino, Disa Sauter (for details on her study of the Himba), Ralph Adolphs, and Steven Pinker. I’d also like to thank Jaak Panksepp who, a number of years ago, graciously accepted Jim Russell’s and my invitation to come to Boston and teach a month-long graduate seminar on his theoretical views.

In a similar vein, I owe a very special debt of gratitude to my distinguished colleagues Bob Levenson and Paul Ekman. It is a gift when someone with a different point of view engages you in honest conversation, and Bob truly embodies this spirit of scientific exploration every time we meet. His curiosity and insightful observations consistently challenge me, and I consider him one of my most valued colleagues. I also have a deep appreciation and respect for Paul Ekman, who helped to chart the course of research on emotion for the past five decades. We may not agree on the scientific details, but I admire his courageous path. When Paul began presenting his findings in the 1960s, he was shouted down at meetings, called a fascist and a racist, and generally disrespected due to prevailing attitudes of the time.[1]  He showed formidable tenacity to pursue his vision of the classical view, and ultimately he brought the science of emotion into the public eye.

Back in the village of constructed emotion, I offer my heartfelt thanks to the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University and Massachusetts General Hospital, which I direct with Karen Quigley. Our lab is one of the enduring pleasures and sources of pride in my career as a scientist. The community of hard-working, talented research assistants, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and research scientists contributed immeasurably to the body of knowledge that made this book possible. All the members (past and present) can be found at Those whose valuable contributions are specifically cited in this book include Kristen Lindquist, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, Maria Gendron, Alexandra Touroutoglou, Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, Ajay Satpute, Erika Siegel, Elizabeth Clark-Polner, Jennifer Fugate, Kevin Bickart, Mariann Weierich, Suzanne Oosterwijk, Yoshiya Moriguchi, Lorena Chanes, Eric Anderson, Jiahe Zhang, and Myeong-Gu Seo. In addition to their important scientific contributions, I am grateful to the lab members for their endless patience and encouragement. They never once complained about my periodic absences (at least when I was in earshot) and occasionally endured long delays in their own progress as I raced to complete this book.

I am especially grateful to my collaborators for their friendship, commitment, and rompingly insightful discussions as we pursued some of the research you’ve just read about. First and foremost, my deepest thanks to Larry Barsalou for his foundational work on concepts; Larry is one of the most creative, rigorous thinkers of his generation, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to work with him. Nothing can convey the gratitude that I feel towards Jim Russell, who, when I was a young Assistant Professor, took my ideas seriously when many of our colleagues thought I was nuts; his seminal work on the affective circumplex is so well-accepted in the field that people rarely cite him for it anymore! Larry and Jim maximize discovery and explanation in their scientific pursuits, rather than fame and fortune, and I find this particularly inspiring (because sometimes in science, the latter interferes with the former). In this way, they remind me of my dissertation advisors, Mike Ross and Eric Woody, to whom I will be forever grateful.

I also owe a very big thank you to Brad Dickerson for helping me to chip away at the false boundaries between emotion and cognition; to Moshe Bar for our work on how affect influences vision (and many other projects); to Tor Wager for our meta-analysis collaboration; and to Paula Pietromonaco for our longstanding collaboration on emotion in relationships. I am particularly grateful to Debi Roberson for making it possible, by our collaboration, for my lab to study the Himba of Namibia, and Alyssa Crittenden, for likewise making it possible to study emotion perception in the Hadza of Tanzania.

The influence of my newer collaborations can also be seen in this book, and so I send enthusiastic thanks to Kyle Simmons, who works with me on the architecture and function of the predictive brain; Martijn van den Heuvel, for listening to my far-out ideas about network connectivity and brain hubs that often turn out to be not so crazy; Wim Vanduffel and Dante Mantini for our work on brain networks in macaques; Talma Hendler for our collaboration on network dynamics while watching emotional films; Wei Gao for allowing me to join the adventure of studying the developing newborn brain; Tim Johnson, for his partnership in showing that pattern classification does not provide evidence for neural fingerprints; Stacy Marcella, for opening my eyes to the possibilities for studying simulation and prediction with computational models in virtual reality; and Dana Brooks, Deniz Erdogmus, Jennifer Dy, Sarah Brown, Jaume Coll-Font, and rest of the B/SPIRAL group at Northeastern University, for their patience and interest in immigrating to my village, and for crafting a computational framework to test the theory of constructed emotion.

This book would not have been possible without the support of the larger village of colleagues who generously shared their expertise on my journey from the land of clinical psychology to the land of neuroscience, with stops in social psychology, psychophysiology, and cognitive science along the way. My friends Jim Blascovich and Karen Quigley mentored me in the basics of the peripheral nervous system, and Karen taught me facial EMG. My neuroscience education began with the incomparable Michael Numan who was encouraging and constantly available for questions; and Richard Lane, who encouraged me when I was first interested in the brain basis of emotion and introduced me to Scott Rauch at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Scott enthusiastically gave me the opportunity to learn brain imaging, although I had no clue what I was doing at the time. I am also indebted to Chris Wright, who helped me conduct my first brain imaging study, and with whom I secured my first large imaging grant from the National Institute on Aging. And my heartfelt thanks go out to the generous and thoughtful colleagues who spent time answering my questions, including Howard Fields who was always available for enticing and enlightening discussions about the relation between nociception, reward, and interoceptive processing; Vijay Balasubramanian, who provided extremely useful explanations in response to my extensive questioning about the visual system; Thom Cleland, who enthusiastically shared his insights on the olfactory system; Moran Cerf, who gave me the inside scoop on intracranial electrical recording in live humans; and Karl Friston, who rewarded my out-of-the-blue email on predictive coding with an insightful email discussion wrapped in encouragement. Several others provided helpful answers to my questions via email or Skype, including Dayu Lin, who provided a detailed discussion of her research using optogenetics; Mark Bouton, who taught me the basics of contextual learning in mammals; Earl Miller, for explaining the implications of his single-cell recording research on category learning in macaques; and Matthew Rushworth, who offered additional details about his mapping of the anterior cingulate cortex.

I also offer my enduring thanks to some of my neuroanatomy colleagues who responded quickly, and in good cheer, to my incessant questions, no matter how arcane: Barb Finlay for knowing everything about everything, off the top of her head, and sharing generously; Helen Barbas for her model of information flow in the cortex, which is the cornerstone of my approach to the predictive brain; Miguel Ángel García Cabezas for his detailed explanations of neuroanatomy at the cellular level; Bud Craig who knows more about the insula than perhaps anyone else on the planet; Larry Swanson for his rapid and informative answers and for connecting me with other neuroscientists, such as Murray Sherman who answered my questions about the thalamus; and Georg Striedter for his expertise on brain evolution.

For sharing their expertise in developmental psychology, I offer warm thanks to Linda Camras and Harriet Oster who were my guides to the emotional capacities of infants and young children. I am also indebted to Fei Xu, Susan Gelman, and Sandy Waxman for reviewing Chapter 5, and for their willingness to trample the traditional scientific boundary between cognitive and emotional development, to help me explore the idea that words scaffold the development of emotion concepts in infancy. I am also grateful to Susan Carey for discussions of innate concepts.

Chapter 11 on emotion and the legal system would not have been possible without my dear friends Judy Edersheim and Amanda Pustilnik, for their insights and encouragement during our long discussions about psychology, neuroscience and the law; that chapter is best viewed as a collaboration between the three of us. I am grateful to former U.S. Federal Judge Nancy Gertner for inviting me to contribute to her course on the law and neuroscience at Harvard Law School. I’d also like to thank the many others from the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior at Harvard Medical School, for inviting me into their village. Thanks also to Nita Farahany for the DNA example in Chapter 11.

This book was also made possible by many generous colleagues across diverse fields who offered me their insights. On primate cognition: Eliza Bliss-Moreau, Herb Terrace, and Tetsuro Matsuzawa. On topics related to culture: Aneta Pavlenko, Batja Mesquita, Jeanne Tsai, Michele Gelfand, and Rick Shweder. On the history of smiling: Colin Jones and Mary Beard. On autism: Jillian Sullivan, Matthew Goodwin, and Oliver Wilde-Smith. On essentialism: Susan Gelman, John Coley and Marjorie Rhodes. On affective realism and economics: Marshall Sonenshine. On contemplative philosophy and practice: Christy Wilson Mendenhall, John Dunne, Larry Barsalou, Paul Condon, Wendy Hasenkamp, Arthur Zajonc, and Tony Back. More generally, an enthusiastic thank you goes to Jerry Clore for being consistently thoughtful, curious, and supportive, to Helen Mayberg for our multi-year conversation about the puzzle of depression, and to Joe LeDoux whom I greatly admire for many reasons, not least for his incredible open-mindedness. My discussions with other insightful colleagues also shaped this book, including, Dagmar Sternad, Dave DeSteno, David Borsook, Derek Isaacowitz, Elissa Epel, Emre Demiralp, Iris Berent, Jo-Anne Bachorowski, the late Michael Owren, Jordan Smoller, Philippe Schyns, Rachael Jack, Jose-Miguel Fernández-Dols, Kevin Ochsner, Kurt Gray, Linda Bartoshuk, Matt Lieberman, Maya Tamir, Naomi Eisenberger, Paul Bloom, Paul Whalen, Peggy Clark, Peter Salovey, Phil Rubin, Steve Cole, Tanya Singer, Wendy Mendes, and Will Cunningham.

I benefited greatly from valuable comments and criticisms offered by early readers: Aaron Scott (who is also the extraordinary graphic designer who created most of the figures), Ajay Satpute, Aleza Wallace, Amanda Pustilnik, Anita Nevyas-Wallace, Ann Kring, Anna Neumann, Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, Dana Brooks, Daniel Renfro, Deborah Barrett, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, Emil Moldovan, Eric Anderson, Erika Siegel, Fei Xu, Florin Luca, Gibb Backlund, Herbert Terrace, Ian Kleckner, Jiahe Zhang, Jolie Wormwood, Judy Edersheim, Karen Quigley, Kristen Lindquist, Larry Barsalou, Lorena Chanes, Nicole Betz, Paul Condon, Paul Gade, Sandy Waxman, Shir Atzil, Stephen Barrett, Susan Gelman, Tonya LeBel, Victor Danilchenko, and Zac Rodrigo.

I am also especially grateful to Joanne Miller, chair of the psychology department at Northeastern University, and to the rest of my colleagues in the department, for their support and patience as I completed this book.

I am indebted to the funding agencies and fellowships that made it feasible for me to write this book. These include fellowships from the American Philosophical Society and the James McKeen Cattell Fund from the Association for Psychological Science, as well as generous support from the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences; in particular, I am most grateful to Paul Gade, who was my program officer at ARI at the time, and who has continued to offer me encouragement and moral support. The research reported in this book also was funded by the generous support of granting agencies under the helpful guidance of their program officers. This includes the National Science Foundation, particularly Steve Breckler who gave me my first neuroscience grant; the National Institute of Mental Health, particularly Susan Brandon who oversaw my K02 Independent Scientist Award, Kevin Quinn, and Janine Simmons; the National Institute on Aging, particularly Lis Nielsen; the National Cancer Institute, particularly Paige Green and Becky Ferrer; the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award; the National Institute of Child Health and Development; the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, particularly Paul Gade, Jay Goodwin and Greg Ruark; and the Mind and Life Institute, particularly Wendy Hasenkamp and Arthur Zajonc.

I owe a very special debt of gratitude to the people who handled the legal, administrative, and logistical aspects of the book: Fred Polner (my attorney) and Michael Healy (attorney at Brockman, Inc.); Emma Hitchcock and Jiahe Zhang for creating some of the brain images contained in this book; Rosemary Marrow at Redux Pictures; Chris Martin and Elyna Anderson at the Paul Ekman Group; Beverly Ornstein, Rona Menashe, and Dick Guttman for permission to use Martin Landau’s photograph; Nicole Betz, Anna Neumann, Kirsten Ebanks, and Sam Lyons for ultra-fast search and retrieval of research papers on request; and Jeffrey Eugenides for his wonderful conceptual combinations for much-needed emotion concepts.

I’m also grateful to Ronda Heilig, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Peter DiDomenica, who developed the TSA’s Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program while Director of Security Policy at Boston Logan International Airport, for speaking with me about the ways that the classical view informed training at their respective agencies.

Thanks also to the rest of the team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Naomi Gibbs, Taryn Roeder, Ayesha Mirza, Leila Meglio, Lori Glazer, Pilar Garcia-Brown, Margaret Hogan, and Rachael DeShano.

I realize that it might sound odd, but I also want to acknowledge the Internet for playing an important part in the writing of this book, which required integrating and synthesizing copious material from diverse fields rapidly. When I had an idea, I was able to investigate it instantly by downloading relevant research papers in minutes, or buying virtually any book with overnight shipping. So a hearty thank you to the engineers who brought us Google, Amazon (though for the amount I spent, they should be thanking me), and the many scientific journal websites that make their papers available online. This book also was created in part with open source software, including Subversion and a suite of Linux-based tools.

And let’s not forget those who kept my body budget solvent during the writing of this book. I am truly, deeply grateful for their love and encouragement to Ann Kring, Batja Mesquita, Barb Fredrickson, James Gross, Judy Edersheim, Karen Quigley, Angie Hawk and Jeanne Tsai. They provided both intellectual challenge and comfort during the long months of writing, not to mention the continual influx of chocolates, coffee, and other treats to keep me going. Special thanks for vital social support also goes to Florin and Magdalena Luca, and Carmen Valencia. I am also deeply thankful for my extended family’s support. This includes my sisters-in-law, Louise Greenspan and Deborah Barrett, my god-daughter Olivia Allison and my nephew Zac Rodrigo, and of course the incomparable (Uncle) Kevin Allison whom you met virtually in Chapters 6 and 7. And my deepest thanks to Mike Alves, trainer extraordinaire, to Barry Meklir, my miracle working physical therapist who kept me walking and typing after sitting for 16 hours a day, and to Victoria Krutan, who embodies the best of what massage therapy has to offer.

My daughter, Sophia, with grace and forbearance beyond her years, tolerated three years of my late-night, early-morning and weekend preoccupations with her “little brother.” (Not to mention my occasional bouts of bad temper.) If there was ever a justified case for sibling rivalry, this is it. Sophia, you are my girl. I wrote this book for you. I want you to understand the power of your own mind. When you were little, you would sometimes wake from a nightmare. We’d position your stuffed animals in a protective circle around your bed, and I would sprinkle some “fairy dust” and you’d get back to sleep. What’s remarkable is not that you believed in magic, but that you didn’t. We both knew it was pretend, and yet it worked. Your exuberant little four-year-old self had the superpower to create social reality with me, just as your courageous, funny, and insightful teenage self does now. You are an architect of your experience, even in times when you feel buffeted by the world.

If Sophia was the reason that I began this book, then my husband, Dan, is the reason I completed it. Dan is often the calm behind my storm. For as long as I have known him, he has had an unshakeable belief in my ability to do the extraordinary. Dan read every word of every book draft, often several times, and made this book better than anything I could have managed on my own. My brain will never be free from his oft-asked question, “Is this for the 1%?” (by which he meant my scientific colleagues, as opposed to a general audience), although now I am more likely to smile when my brain is simulating it. Among his many superpowers is the ability to simultaneously edit this book, soothe my worries, rub my back, cook dinner, suspend our entire social life without a trace of bitterness, and collect enough takeout menus to sustain us during my final months of writing. He never flinched, not once, even after it became clear that I had gotten us into something much more challenging than either of us knew at the outset. Dan other superpower (other than his uncanny ability to choose the right sized Tupperware every time) is he can make me laugh when no one else can, because he knows me in a way that no one else does. I awaken every day of my life filled with gratitude and awe that is he beside me.


  1. As related by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate.