This address integrates evolutionary, biological, psychological and cultural perspectives to suggest that (1) the brain’s most important job is efficiently regulating the body; (2) the brain achieves this regulation by predicting (not reacting); and, (3) predictive regulation creates every action you take and every experience you have, including every instance of emotion. Understanding how the brain achieves predictive regulation sheds light on why an emotion, such as fear, is not a singular, innate event, but rather is a flexible, biological grouping of diverse, instances that are constructed to fit specific situations.
Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, is a University Distinguished Professor of psychology at Northeastern University with appointments at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Barrett is among the top 1% most-cited scientists worldwide for her research in psychology and neuroscience, having published over 270 peer-reviewed scientific papers. She has received numerous awards, including a Director’s Pioneer Award for transformative research from the US National Institutes of Health, a Guggenheim Fellowship in neuroscience, Mentor Awards from the Association for Psychological Science (APS) and the Society for Affect Science (SAS), and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Barrett is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Canada, and a number of other honorific societies. She has testified before the US Congress, is the Chief Science Officer for the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at MGH, has served as president of the Association for Psychological Science, co-founded the Society for Affective Science, and actively engages in informal science education for the public via popular books, articles and public lectures. She has authored two best-selling popular science books, How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. Her TED talk has been viewed more than 6.5 million times to date. Colleagues have called Dr. Barrett "the most important affective scientist of our time" and “the deepest thinker on [the nature of emotion] since Darwin.”