Lisa Feldman Barrett is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory (IASL) at Boston College, with appointments at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Lisa led the second session of day 1 titled: A New Model for Emotion and Cognition.

Lisa challenged some of the most deeply held ideas about how the mind works in her session. She stated that Daniel Goldman’s theory on emotional intelligence is largely incorrect. Studies show there are no specific anatomical brain regions pinpointed for any of the emotions. The brain is a more integrated system than previously imagined, with thinking, emotions, mind and body all contributing to our experience in a holistic way.

We are used to thinking that emotions are generated and we then regulate them after the fact. A common metaphor is to think of the brain as a machine, with emotions as wild animals that we need to control. However, Lisa’s model suggests a more accurate analogy is that we are chef’s, with a set of ingredients, used for both emotional generation and regulation. As with ingredients in a pantry, we can use them to make different kinds of ‘meals’ or emotional experiences.

We are the agents of our own experience and we can change our experiences in simple ways, including:
* Sleeping and eating well
* Putting ourselves in certain contexts and not other contexts
* Widening our emotional vocabulary to help us label experiences in a more empowering way
* Learning how to wield that knowledge in a very fluid, contextually appropriate way

Lisa suggests the importance of discerning when your physical state needs to be made meaningful in a psychological sense, perhaps by connecting to what is going on around you, and when it is just a physical sensation like being hungry or tired.

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