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The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them
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The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--and How You Can Change Them

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,482 ratings  ·  241 reviews
This longawaited book by a pioneer in brain research offers a new model of our emotions- their origins, their power, and their malleability. For more than thirty years, Richard Davidson has been at the forefront of brain research. Now he gives us an entirely new model for understanding our emotions, as well as practical strategies we can use to change them.

Davidson has dis
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Hudson Street Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  2,482 ratings  ·  241 reviews

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Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is not "light" reading, but still truly fascinating. If you don't mind reading about the clinical and scientific aspects of how the brain functions and why we do what we do, this is a worthwhile read.

Davidson has narrowed down peoples' emotional styles to 6 dimensions:

-Resilience (how slowly or quickly you recover from adversity)
-Outlook (how long you're able to sustain positive emotion)
-Social Intuition (how adept you are at picking up social signals from people around you)
Simon West-Bulford
I bought this book because I find anything about neuroscience pretty interesting, and the emotional aspect doesn't seem to have been investigated in any rigorous way until recently. This book promises to satisfy that, and, to a large extent, I think it does.

I found myself constantly struggling with a sort of duality in this book. At some points I found the observations to be extremely obvious, such as the idea that our emotional styles aren't simply genetic, but a product of our environment and
Oct 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book is a snoooozefest. Unfortunately I had to read it for school, and thank god it’s over.
Jack Goodstein
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not much for self help mind over matter books, but this one seems to have a lot of research to back up what it says. I am bothered by the author's self congratulatory style.
May 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book could be retitled: “MY CAREER AS A GREAT PSYCHOLOGIST.” The book gets a lot of rave reviews, so I was expecting a lot. But it didn’t really deliver. It is less about a new unifying psychological concept (as the author would have us believe), and more of a self-congratulatory review of his career. But there was a sprinkling of worthwhile material. I was intrigued by Cognitive Behavior Therapy: regarding depressive thoughts as simple electrical events in the brain. But this kind of open ...more
May 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: counseling
If you've never read anything about the study of emotions/personality I am sure this books is a revelation. However, as someone who has read quite a bit about emotions, this book is just yet another author/researcher trotting out his "new" theory that looks pretty much like all the rest. Nothing new here. Another case of the emperor having no clothes.
Peter Clothier
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first heard of Dr. Richard Davidson’s work in the field of neuroscience a couple of months ago in an unlikely setting: the annual conference of the National Art Education Association in New York. Regular readers might remember my mention of the Compassion Project in Appleton, Wisconsin, which challenged teachers and students at all levels to give some thought to the nature of compassion, to some discussion, and then to join in a collaborative art project. The results, an amazing 10,000 tiny pa ...more
Dennis Deery
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely fascinating. Author Davidson is the founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. He's gotten a lot of attention with his work doing brain scans on Tibetan monks while they meditate.

This book is an introduction to the work he's been doing. He has come up with six different categorizations of types of mental/emotional styles that operate something like the Myers-Briggs type indicator. Each category places you on a spectrum between two extremes, whic
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-science
If you're looking for...

- a long-winded autobiography, written by a smug and slightly bitter hipster-neuroscientist
- a scale to gauge your 'emotional style', invented by said hipster-neuroscientist, that seems real simplistic
- excessively generalized concepts and definitions of emotion
- a lack of nuance when discussing how a person's global psychology creates an individual mind
- unnecessary rambling about going to meet the Dalai Lama
- vague descriptions of brain areas activated when aspects of y
Sep 01, 2012 added it
We are so fortunate to have Richard Davidson here at the University of Wisconsin, so those of us that know him can testify that his findings that regular meditation can change your brain patterns and make you calm and cheerful despite a busy life hold particularly true in his example. The other benefits of mindfulness training, as well as other approaches to altering our brain's responses to stimulus, are fascinating -- and are clearly described in this book, which also describes recent discover ...more
MY God this book was so amazingly interesting! It provided such insight into the way the mind works and how the patterns in our brain help shape us into the people we are. This took me quite a while to read because it is a heavy book; it requires a lot of focus (at least for me it did) and I found I had to really sit and think about what I was reading. It was like a step down from reading a textbook. There were plenty of facts and spatterings of humour.

It was good for me to read as I am studyin
Ray A.
Jul 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
The Emotional Brain: Character, Personality, and Temperament

Those of us committed to personal growth will find much that is rewarding in The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Davidson draws on an array of scientific experiments and studies to develop a set of ideas that can add to our understanding of how the “emotional brain” works, how its unique patterns affect the way we think, feel, and live, and how we can change them.

Three of these ideas are worth highlighting here. The first is that contrar
Kevin Kasowski
Nov 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didnt-finish
For someone who proclaims himself to be a longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, you'd think Davidson might have more modesty. But ultimately, his huge ego destroys this book, partly because he insists on giving us his own detailed personal story (which is not all that interesting), but even more so because the more substantive part of this book (recent neuroscience about the brain and its role in emotions) is seriously skewed to Davidson's own research while ignoring the work of other scientists wh ...more
Valuable read, if not a bit long winded in places. I appreciated the expansion on the emotional styles that make us unique and how the brain processes and interprets emotion. Much of the text is dedicated to the research and history of studying emotion and the brain, and also expounding upon the authors' experiences in researching this multidimensional topic. But I'll admit there were times the narrative lost my attention because it was so bogged down in the actual portrayal of these experiences ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
A unique look at the brain through the work of neuro-psycholgical researcher Richard Davidson, linking our emotions to significant circuits and activities in our brain. For those interested in the intricacies of the brain chemistry and circuitry this is the book for you. Davidson is a very good writer and explains complex scientific phenomena in laypersons' terms. Sometimes the detail has gotten a bit overwhelming to me and I skipped over that to the "so what does this mean" section. It has been ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have learned a lot about the brain, especially the impact of emotions on the brain. It's interesting to know the scientific analysis of meditation and its effect on the brain. The six emotional styles are helpful to know my usual emotional response to the good and the bad.
Dana Revnic
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Useful, practical, easy to read

The book explains in a popular accessible way the most important dimensions of our personality. It offers precious advice on how to train and increase the traits we need or desire.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neuroscience
I highly recommend to anyone interested in how #mindfulness affects the brain. Excellent!
Kim T
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
unique & persuasive insights into the correlates of emotion in the brain. wish he commented on neurofeedback's effect (if at all) on changing these patterns. ...more
Kristiina Lind
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book about neuroplasticity with very interesing overviews on research. The main focus however is on getting to know your own brain and learning ways to chage how it works.
Richard Davidson is an extraordinary neuroscientist. He has studied the brain for decades and focused his attention on development, not pathologes. At the same time he considers Dalai Lama to be one of his biggest influencers in life and nonetheless in work.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My husband related a story recently about how he proposed studying the intersection of psychology and computers when he was an undergraduate student in the 1970's. Specifically, he was interested in how computers would impact people and their relationships. His professors uniformly said that this was not a serious idea - no one would be interested in this topic. It's easy to dismiss my husband's professors as myopic, but during the 70's and 80's cross-disciplinary studies were not common and not ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I will say from the outset that this book was better than I thought it was going to be. That said, I didn’t have very high hopes to start. OK, that’s a bit unfair. "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" (TELoYB) is a decent read and does introduce some useful ideas I had not heard before. But, at the end of the day I didn’t feel all that smarter for reading it. TELoYB is one part professional autobiography, two parts popular psychology and one part self-help.

The professional autobiography parts foll
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This took me so long to read (considering it was only 252 pages) that it affected my opinion of the book as a whole. Though the subject was genuinely interesting, by the time I got to page 200, I wanted to be done with it so much that I started skimming. I was a psychology major, so I really enjoyed reading about Dr. Davidson's various research studies, as well as his amazing and illustrious career. For people who aren't very interested in psychology, though? I would think they'd have a difficul ...more
Apr 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Very comprehensive and research-based book on how modern western psychology has learned a lot over the past decades about the human condition, specifically through the shift in studying the brain (neuroscience), embracing emotions as a core part of cognitive decision-making as well as health, and understanding the role of meditation in cultivating many mental and physical health benefits.

Davidson bridges the gap between the scientific world that relies on research studies for knowledge retrieval
Apr 02, 2012 added it
Excellent book. After finishing Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, I read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. The Emotional Life of Your Brain was a great follow up. They all help with understanding how the brain works -- and more important, how you can actually change it with practice by meditation and other techniques.

Now on to a few others: two by Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence): Wo
Aug 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
Despite the author ranking himself as an 8/10 in both "Self-Awareness" and "Sensitivity to Context", this book comprises little more than absurdly exaggerated statements about the hurdles the author faced and his own contributions to the field. To hear him describe it, before he bravely came along and set them straight, all psychologists thought the brain was just a pile of mushy uselessness hanging out in the skull, and anyone who studied the brain literally did not believe in emotion.

Anyone w
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made me want to re-read The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul by Mario Beauregard.

It is amazing to me that emotions were so disregarded in academic circles as described in the beginning of the book.

As many of the "secular" meditation methods are based on Buddist practice, I kept trying to apply it to LDS beliefs. D&C 8:2 says "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost". I believe "mindfullness" meditation - where one non-judgementally
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this for research but it is fascinating. If you are into understanding how the brain affects how we feel and how it works can determine emotional traits, then check this out. It has a some fun and interesting tests to take to see what your baseline is and then goes on to offer up ways to alter our brain functioning so that we might "improve" areas in which we might feel we need to address. Davidson is a scientist who has done extensive research and also has a strong background in meditati ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book offers an interesting framework for assessing and adjusting your Emotional Style along 6 key dimensions: Outlook, Resilience, Social Intuition, Self-Awareness, Sensitivity to Context, and Attention. Apparently backed by science, and potentially useful.

However, for a self-help book, it's unnecessarily long, dense, and meandering. It reads like an under-edited cross between a "history of brain science" textbook and a "how I became a famous brain scientist who studies meditation" memoir.
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
An interesting book on how the brain processes emotion and what kind of help we can give ourselves if some part of how we act (i.e. are you shy, are you too impulsive, are you too scatters) causes us problems. The writers emphasizes that the brain is not as separate from the body as has been assumed in the past. I would recommend it for those who simply want to understand that "I feel therefore I am" is closely related to "I think therefore I am." And it's all in your head means that it really a ...more
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