Book Review: Why Our Emotions Are So Powerful

Ive here. While Leonard Mlodinow’s book on emotions sounds plausible, the review may not be quite as impressive. We humans tend to think too much about our logical reasoning when I think one of our most important cognitive abilities is pattern recognition. The problem with overemphasis is that it is prone to sample bias. For example, witness how many people tend to have relationships similar to the bad relationships they grew up with.

However, when we have a fight-or-flight response, or a gnashing intuition, it does tend to be based not on logical reasoning, but on a process that we can’t pull into a rational process because we also have to react quickly, Or we haven’t (yet) determined why a certain situation or pending action is giving us heartburn.

By Elizabeth Svoboda, a science writer living in San Jose, California. Her most recent children’s book is Life Hero.Originally Posted in dark

In the fall of 1983, Soviet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was monitoring his country’s nuclear early warning system when the alarm bells suddenly went off. The word “LAUNCH” flashed on the screen in front of him. The alerts indicated a seemingly dire reality: the United States fired five ICBMs directly at the Soviet Union.

Petrov knew what he should do next: pick up his phone and report the launch to the Soviet High Command. However, fear gripped him, and he hesitated. He knew his report would mean the start of a third nuclear world war. Everything about him protested the possibility, his fear mixed with early suspicion that the alarm might be wrong. So he waited, ticking painfully for a few seconds, until it was confirmed that no missiles were fired. It turned out that sunlight reflections confused Soviet monitoring satellites and triggered an alarm system. Petrov’s emotional response saved the two world powers from mutually assured destruction.

book review“Emotions: How Emotions Shape Our Minds”, Leonard Mlodinow (Pantheon, p. 272).

exist “Emotions: How Feelings Shape Our Minds,”Physicist and science writer Leonard Mlodinow explores our sensibility to inspire such intelligent, subtle actions, even when the fate of the world isn’t hanging in the balance. Whether positive or negative, our emotions linger like a cloud of perfume, profoundly affecting the way we think – and in turn, our behavior. “[E]Movement shapes almost every thought we have,” Mlodinow wrote. “It contributes every moment to all our judgments and decisions…”

Just as Plato saw emotion as a horse and reason as its driver, Western thinkers have long distinguished rational thought from irrational thought. But Mlodino rejects this traditional divide. Since emotions determine the changing environment in which our brains function, he points out, reason and emotions are always intertwined like a loom. “Even if you think you’re exercising cold, logical reason,” he quoted brain researcher Ralph Adolf as saying, “it’s not.”

But most of the time, Mlodinow believes, that’s a good thing.Emotions often, as Charles Darwin came to believe Provides an evolutionary advantage. It helps us solve problems faster and sharper than rationality alone. The smell from a jug of spoiled milk can trigger disgust, setting you up for deciding what to do next (most likely pouring it straight down the drain).

Likewise, Stanislav Petrov’s understandable fear of sparking a third world war prevented him from reporting on the apparent US missile launch. If he could remove his emotions from the equation, he would immediately pass the alert to his commander, as his training had prepared him. A sensible combination of emotion and reason, Mlodinow writes, “provides a more efficient path to achieving actionable answers.”

From this starting point, Mlodinow takes readers on an all-encompassing journey through the emotional landscape, describing the key roles that emotions such as love, determination, fear and sadness play in our lives – for better and for worse. Along the way, must-see tourist stops are interspersed with oddly old cars.Some of Mlodino’s conclusions feel like old news: Most of us have heard of the theory that grief forces us to “rethink our beliefs and re-prioritize our goals.” been fighting for many years.

Other insights are more philosophically interesting, such as Mlodinow’s reflections on research showing that it is possible, at least in animals, to boost determination by sending lasers to certain brain regions. “By stimulating the right few neurons, we can really improve elasticity,” he wrote. Findings like these could upend the moral values ??we assign to certain emotional states. We’ve long seen determination as a touchstone of character, but if scientists could evoke something like grit with the flip of a switch, would that touchstone still work?

Throughout, Mlodino’s witty storytelling style helps smooth out some of the conceptual bumps on his tour. Describing a lovesick man who planned to have a friend shoot him so his ex would feel sorry for him, he observed that the man’s ex “didn’t seem to care”.

“Obviously,” he wrote, “she doesn’t feel that the bullet holes in Khadra make up for the shortcomings of their relationship.”

The final chapters of “Emotions” bring the biggest rewards, exploring research-tested ways to regulate emotions to produce better outcomes and a softer landing. Mlodinow points out that emotions leave more room for personal agency than instincts—for crafting tailored, thoughtful responses that align with your goals and well-being.

For example, if you’re stressed about being 10 minutes late for a meeting, you can tell yourself, “This won’t bother anyone because they know I’m usually on time,” and the reassessment will lessen the fear and guilt you might otherwise suffer. If a friend freaks you out, you can consider other life commitments that might prevent them from connecting, which may help you feel compassion rather than resentment. “If there are different ways of looking at things, it leads to different emotions,” Mlodino writes, “why not train yourself to think in a way that leads to the emotions you want?”

if this sounds like a riff cognitive behavioral approach Change destructive thoughts to fight depression, and that’s because in some ways it does. Yet Mlodinow’s prescription still feels fresh, as it’s not just designed to ease mental health issues, but to help more or less healthy people thrive in new ways.

Because thoughts and emotions are so intertwined, harnessing reason to control emotions seems like a losing proposition. Still, research confirms that taking a new perspective on how you feel—or at least trying to do so—when you threaten to steer you off course can pay off, both mentally and physically.

Research shows that the more people are able to regulate their emotions, the less likely they are to develop heart disease—perhaps because redirecting cranky emotions can calm the body’s stress response, thereby limiting the tissue damage that often accompanies it. “Once you are self-aware,” Mlodino writes, “you can manage your feelings so that they are always in your favor.”

An absolutist claim, perhaps, but Mlodino makes a strong case that this kind of emotional reframing is worth at least trying.

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