huberman lisa feldman barrett

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett is a distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where she focuses on the study of emotion, neuroscience, and psychology. With a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Barrett has extensively researched the nature of emotions and how they are constructed in the brain, challenging traditional theories and introducing new concepts in the field. She is particularly known for her theory of constructed emotion, which posits that emotions are not universally expressed or recognized but are instead constructed by the brain in the moment from a variety of sensory inputs and past experiences. Barrett is also the author of several influential books, including "How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain," which has garnered widespread acclaim for its insightful exploration of emotions and the brain. Her work has not only advanced academic understanding but also has significant implications for practical applications in psychology, health, law, and artificial intelligence. A highly respected figure in her field, Barrett's research continues to shape the way we understand the human mind and emotions.

Understanding Emotions: A Neuroscientific Perspective

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a distinguished psychologist and neuroscientist, shares her extensive knowledge on emotions. Her research emphasizes that emotions aren’t universally expressed or experienced. The traditional view of associating specific facial expressions with particular emotions is challenged, suggesting a more nuanced understanding where cultural and contextual factors play a significant role.

The Myth of Universal Facial Expressions

The podcast challenges the long-held belief that certain facial expressions are universally indicative of specific emotions. Dr. Barrett explains that emotions and their expressions are highly context-dependent and culturally varied. What might be considered a facial expression of fear in one culture could signify aggression in another.

The Brain’s Role in Emotion

The brain constantly interprets and predicts emotional states based on past experiences and cultural learning. Dr. Barrett describes the brain as a “guessing machine,” continually processing sensory information to construct emotional experiences. This process is influenced by an individual’s past, making emotional experiences highly subjective and unique.

The Importance of Emotional Granularity

Dr. Barrett introduces the concept of “emotional granularity,” the ability to differentiate between a wide range of emotional states. This concept is crucial for understanding and describing our emotions accurately. Cultivating emotional granularity can lead to better emotional regulation and understanding.

Implications for Society and Legal Systems

The discussion highlights the significant implications of misunderstanding emotions. For instance, the belief that one can accurately read another’s emotions from their facial expressions has serious consequences in legal contexts, where misinterpretation can lead to wrongful convictions.

The Intricacies of Emotions: Exploring the Brain’s Role

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett and Dr. Andrew Huberman continue their deep dive into the complexities of emotions in the second part of their podcast. This segment explores the intricate dance between the brain, body, and external world in shaping our emotional experiences.

The Brain’s Guessing Game

Dr. Barrett elaborates on the concept of the brain as a “guessing machine,” constantly interpreting sensory inputs to predict and respond to the world. She underscores that emotions are not simply triggered and then identified but are constructed from a vast library of past experiences. The brain creates categories of possible actions and feelings, drawing from this repertoire to make sense of the current situation.

Emotional Granularity and Cultural Nuance

The discussion highlights the importance of “emotional granularity,” the ability to differentiate and label a wide array of emotional states. This granularity is not just a personal skill but is also deeply influenced by cultural context. Different cultures have unique words for specific emotions, broadening or narrowing our emotional vocabulary and understanding. For instance, certain German or Japanese words encapsulate specific feelings that might not have direct equivalents in English.

The Dangers of Oversimplification

Dr. Barrett warns against the oversimplification of emotions, a trend seen in the legal system and societal norms, where people believe they can accurately read emotions based on facial expressions or other superficial cues. She emphasizes that this misconception can have serious consequences, leading to misunderstandings and injustices.

The Role of Language in Emotions

The conversation also delves into the sufficiency of language in capturing the complexity of emotions. While language helps label and communicate our feelings, it often falls short of encapsulating the full spectrum of emotional experiences. The discussion suggests that a richer emotional vocabulary, possibly borrowing from various cultures, could enhance our understanding and communication of emotions.


This segment of the podcast underscores the complexity and variability of emotions, challenging many conventional beliefs. It invites listeners to appreciate the nuanced interplay between the brain, body, culture, and language in shaping our emotional world. As we continue to explore this fascinating topic, the final part of the transcript promises to offer even more insights into the nature of emotions and how we can navigate them more effectively.