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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love: What Neuroscience Can--and Can't--Tell Us About How We Feel

Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love: What Neuroscience Can--and Can't--Tell Us About How We Feel by Giovanni Frazzetto.

Humans are complicated creatures, full of emotion and thought that is sometimes beyond our everyday grasp. What is the science behind emotion and therefore who we are as a species and as individuals? Sometimes we don't understand where our emotions are even coming from, yet they own us at times and shape who we are and become. Not just the emotions of the title, but also anxiety, grief, and empathy are a part of our makeup and shape our daily lives, our art, our history, and our relationships. This expertly written treatise dives into what makes us who we are through stories, research, and plain old explanation.

It is hard to find a science book that is written for the masses yet represents research honestly and with all of its warts, for better or for worse, and I found it in this book. I was blown away by Frazzetto's ability to discuss on a deep and sincere level what it means to be human from a neuroscientific perspective while still being on the level with the remotely intelligent everyman. It's not easy to write as an academic for the masses, so I was incredibly impressed with Frazzetto's writing style. In fact, I have strongly recommended it to all of my students.

I have been wrestling in my own work as of late how to understand emotions from a cognitive perspective, as they are viewed differently in fields throughout both hard and social science. Trying to integrate my own understanding of these processes into what I do and what I research has been a struggle, and this book has come at the very right time for me. It allowed me to better access my thoughts on the subject and to view them from a new perspective, that of neuroscience. While I often take into account a neuroscientific perspective, it has been difficult with the topic of emotions (and affect, but that is getting way too into my work life on this blog right now) as I have just been trying to grasp where they fit into my cognitive paradigm. This book was beyond helpful for me with my "research hat" on.

Putting my research hat aside for now and donning the fun fedora I love (do you love my metaphors as much as I love making them?), I found this book to be fascinating from a casual reader perspective. We are a strange, strange species, us humans, and any insight I can get into why we do what we do allows me to be just a smidge more empathetic toward my fellow humans. I want to become a better person every day, and having insight into what makes us tick, and how that is built into our wiring from the day we are born yet is so strongly affected by our environment, gives me that opportunity for betterment.

Happy exploring! Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

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