09 March 2024

How to see clearly through deceptive emotions - Big Think with Kristen Lindquist

Neuroscientist Kristen Lindquist on how even on a biological level, emotions are entirely subjective. According to this neuroscientist, your emotions look different from those of someone who grew up on the other side of the world.

Kristen Lindquist, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the concept of 'affective realism,' where our emotional experiences dictate our true reality. Emotions, Lindquist explains, are cultural artifacts, passed down like art or language, and are distinct reflections of both our biological makeup and our societal norms.

Individualistic societies like the United States and collectivist cultures like Japan interpret emotions like anger differently, leading to varied physiological responses. These findings suggest that there are no “universal emotional expressions,” that even facial muscle movements we associate with certain feelings are not globally recognized, but are instead interpreted through a cultural lens.

Lindquist's work invites us to consider our own emotional responses, encouraging a more open-minded approach to interpreting the feelings of others. Through this understanding, we can appreciate the unique perspectives each individual brings, to eventually unlock better solutions for understanding the world around us.