Lisa Feldman Barrett

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Lisa Feldman Barrett
Born1963 (age 60–61)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
CitizenshipUnited States, Canada
Alma mater
Known forTheory of constructed emotion
SpouseDaniel J. Barrett
Scientific career
ThesisOn the failure to differentiate anxiety and depression in self-report (1992)
Doctoral advisorMike Ross
Doctoral studentsTamlin Conner,

Lisa Feldman Barrett is a University Distinguished Professor of psychology at Northeastern University,[1] where she focuses on affective science.[2] She is a director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory.[3] Along with James Russell, she is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Emotion Review.[4] Along with James Gross, she founded the Society for Affective Science.


Barrett was born in 1963 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to a working poor family and was the first member of her extended family to attend university.[5] After graduating from the University of Toronto with honors, she pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo with the goal of becoming a therapist,[6] until a frustrating puzzle sidetracked her from a clinical career. As a graduate student, she failed eight times to replicate a simple experiment, finally realizing that her seeming failed attempts were, in fact, successfully replicating a previously undiscovered phenomenon.[7] The resulting research direction became her life's work: understanding the nature of emotion in the brain.[8] Following a clinical internship at the University of Manitoba Medical School, she held professorships in psychology at Penn State University, Boston College, and Northeastern University. Over two decades, she transitioned from clinical psychology into social psychology, psychophysiology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience.[9]

Barrett is most inspired by William James, Wilhelm Wundt, and Charles Darwin.[10] In 2019–2020, she served as president of the Association for Psychological Science.[11] From 2018–2021, she was ranked in the top one percent of the most-cited scientists in the world over a ten-year period.[12]

In addition to academic work, Barrett has written two science books for the public, How Emotions are Made (2017) and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain (2020), and her TED talk was among the 25 most popular worldwide in 2018.[13]

Professional history[edit]

Study of human emotions[edit]

At the beginning of her career, Barrett's research focused on the structure of affect, having developed experience-sampling methods[14] and open-source software to study emotional experience. Barrett and members at the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory study the nature of emotion broadly from social-psychological, psychophysiological, cognitive science, and neuroscience perspectives, and take inspiration from anthropology, philosophy, and linguistics. They also explore the role of emotion in vision and other psychological phenomena.

In 2010, she joined the psychology faculty at Northeastern University. Before that, she held academic positions at Boston College (1996-2010) and was an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Pennsylvania State University. Notable doctoral students of Barrett's include Tamlin Conner.[15]

Her research has focused on the main issues in the science of emotions such as:

  • What are the basic building blocks of emotional life?
  • Why is it that people quickly and effortlessly perceive anger, sadness, fear in themselves and others, yet scientists have been unable to specify a set of clear criteria for empirically identifying these emotional events?
  • What roles do language and conceptual knowledge play in emotion perception
  • Are there really differences between the emotional lives of men and women (see Sex differences in psychology § Emotion)

Theory of constructed emotion[edit]

Barrett developed her current theory of constructed emotion originally during her graduate training.

According to Barrett, emotions are "not universal, but vary from culture to culture" (see Emotions and culture). She says that emotions "are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment."[16]

Honors and awards[edit]


  • Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. ISBN 0358157145.
  • How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. ISBN 0544133315.
  • Handbook of Emotions, Fourth Edition. Guilford Fubn, 2018
  • The Psychological Construction of Emotion. Guilford Fubn, 2014

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Northeastern University Psychology Department". Archived from the original on 2017-09-26. Retrieved 2010-09-13.
  2. ^ "The Faces and Minds of Psychological Science".
  3. ^ "People - Lisa Feldman Barrett - Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory - Northeastern University". Retrieved 2021-07-18.
  4. ^ Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2019-01-17). "CURRICULUM VITAE" (PDF). Northeastern University. p. 30. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-09-10.
  5. ^ Scarantino, Andrea (November 2014). "Lisa Feldman Barrett: Why Emotions Are Situated Conceptualizations". Emotion Researcher.
  6. ^ Fischer, Shannon (June 25, 2013). "About Face: Emotions and Facial Expressions May Not Be Related". Boston Magazine: 68–73.
  7. ^ Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2017). How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544133310.
  8. ^ Vander Woude, Megan (May 28, 2019). "Mind Boggling". University of Waterloo.
  9. ^ a b "Lisa Feldman Barrett". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2019.
  10. ^ Sutton, Jon (April 2017). "Many fairy tales about the brain still propagate through our field". The Psychologist.
  11. ^ Nicodemo, Allie (May 11, 2018). "Northeastern Professor Named President-Elect for the Association of Psychological Science". News@Northeastern.
  12. ^ "Six Northeastern Professors Named to 2019 List of 'Highly Cited Researchers' Around the Globe". Northeastern University College of Science. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  13. ^ "The most popular TED Talks of 2018". TED. 2018.
  14. ^ Hektner, Joel M.; Jennifer A. Schmidt; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (September 2006). Experience Sampling Method: Measuring the Quality of Everyday Life.. SAGE Publications. p. 37 et al. ISBN 1-4129-4923-8.
  15. ^ Otago, University of (2024-01-09). "A quest for happiness". Retrieved 2024-04-21.
  16. ^ How Emotions Are Made, 2017, Introduction
  17. ^ Boston College (2007-09-18). "BC psychologist wins $2.5 million NIH Pioneer Award for groundbreaking study of emotion in the brain". EurekAlert. Archived from the original on 2021-09-23. Retrieved 2021-09-22. In 2002, [Lisa Feldman Barrett] was awarded an Independent Scientist Research (K02) Award from the National Institute of Mental Health.
  18. ^ "APS Fellows". Association for Psychological Science. Archived from the original on 2003-12-20.
  19. ^ a b "Lisa Feldman Barrett". SPSP. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  20. ^ "2006 Career Trajectory Award".
  21. ^ "James McKeen Cattell Fund Fellowship Recipients". Fund. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  22. ^ "NIH Director's Pioneer Award Recipients 2007 Awardees". National Institutes of Health. 2007.
  23. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2021-06-14.
  24. ^ "Elected Fellows | American Association for the Advancement of Science". Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  25. ^ "Home – Arts". January 15, 2013.
  26. ^ "Academic Honors Convocation – Northeastern University". Academic Honors Convocation.
  27. ^ "Prof. Lisa Feldman Barrett Elected to Royal Society of Canada". Northeastern University College of Science. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  28. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett and Frederick Leong receive APA Distinguished Service Awards". January 2014.
  29. ^ "List of Fellows, The Society of Experimental Psychologists". Archived from the original on 2013-06-14. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  30. ^ "Home". Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
  31. ^ "Heritage Fund Initiative".
  32. ^ "APS Mentor Award".
  33. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences". April 2018.
  34. ^ "Northeastern Professor Named President-Elect for the Association of Psychological Science". May 2018.
  35. ^ "John P. McGovern Award Lecture in the Behavioral Sciences". February 2020.
  36. ^ "APA Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions". Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  37. ^ "Awards – The Society for Affective Science". Retrieved 2022-05-09.
  38. ^ "Gefühle neu denken, erforschen und verstehen". (in German). Retrieved 2024-03-06.
  39. ^ "Paul D. MacLean Award for Outstanding Neuroscience Research in Psychosomatic Medicine". Retrieved 2024-03-16.

External links[edit]