Lisa Feldman Barrett

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Lisa Feldman Barrett
Born1963 (age 56–57)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Toronto, University of Waterloo
Known forTheory of constructed emotion
Spouse(s)Daniel J. Barrett
AwardsGuggenheim Fellowship, NIH Director's Pioneer Award
Scientific career
FieldsCognitive neuroscience, psychology, psychophysiology, affective neuroscience
InstitutionsNortheastern University, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston College, Pennsylvania State University
ThesisOn the failure to differentiate anxiety and depression in self-report (1992)
Doctoral advisorMike Ross,

Lisa Feldman Barrett (born c. 1963) 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. Along with James Russell, she is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Emotion Review.[3]


Dr. Barrett was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to a working poor family and was the first member of her extended family to attend university.[4] 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,[5] 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.[6] The resulting research direction became her life's work: understanding the nature of emotion in the brain.[7] 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.[8] Barrett, who is most inspired by William James, Wilhelm Wundt, and Charles Darwin,[9] received the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowship in neuroscience,[8] and a 2007 NIH Director's Pioneer Award to study how the brain creates emotion.[10] In 2019–2020, she served as president of the Association for Psychological Science.[11] 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 for 2018.[12]

Professional history[edit]

Study of human emotions[edit]

At the beginning of her career, Dr. Barrett's research focused on the structure of affect, having developed experience-sampling methods[13] and open-source software to study emotional experience. Dr. Barrett and members at the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory (IASL) 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 1996, she joined the Psychology Faculty at Boston College. Before that she was an assistant professor of clinical psychology at The Pennsylvania State University.

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]

During her graduate training, Dr. Barrett developed the initial insights for her current theory of constructed emotion.

She highlights differences in emotions between different cultures (see Emotions and culture), and 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."[14][15]

Presentations and lectures[edit]

Honors and awards[edit]

Selected publications[edit]


  • Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020 (in press). ISBN 0358157145.
  • How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. ISBN 0544133315.

Selected academic papers[edit]

  • Barrett, L. F., Adolphs, R., Martinez, A., Marsella, S., & Pollak, S. (2019). Emotional expressions reconsidered: Challenges to inferring emotion in human facial movements. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 20, 1–68.
  • Barrett, L. F. (2017). The theory of constructed emotion: An active inference account of interoception and categorization. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw154.
  • Barrett, L. F., & Bar, M. (2009). See it with feeling: Affective predictions in the human brain. Royal Society Phil Trans B, 364, 1325–1334.
  • Barrett, L. F., & Bliss-Moreau, E. (2009). Affect as a psychological primitive. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 167–218.
  • Barrett, L. F., Lindquist, K., Bliss-Moreau, E., Duncan, S., Gendron, M., Mize, J., & Brennan, L. (2007). Of mice and men: Natural kinds of emotion in the mammalian brain? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 297–312
  • Barrett, L. F., Lindquist, K., & Gendron, M. (2007). Language as a context for emotion perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 11, 327–332.
  • Barrett, L. F. (2006). Emotions as natural kinds? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 28–58.
  • Barrett, L. F. (2006). Solving the emotion paradox: Categorization and the experience of emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 20–46.
  • Barrett, L. F., & Barrett, D. J. (2001). Computerized experience-sampling: How technology facilitates the study of conscious experience. Social Science Computer Review, 19, 175–185.
  • Feldman, L. A. (1995b). Valence focus and arousal focus: Individual differences in the structure of affective experience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 153–166

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. ^ Emotion Review
  4. ^ Scarantino, Andrea (November 2014). "Lisa Feldman Barrett: Why Emotions Are Situated Conceptualizations". Emotion Researcher.
  5. ^ Fischer, Shannon (June 25, 2013). "About Face: Emotions and Facial Expressions May Not Be Related". Boston Magazine: 68–73.
  6. ^ Barrett, Lisa Feldman (2017). How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0544133315.
  7. ^ Vander Woude, Megan (May 28, 2019). "Mind Boggling". University of Waterloo.
  8. ^ a b "Lisa Feldman Barrett". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2019.
  9. ^ Sutton, Jon (April 2017). "Many fairy tales about the brain still propagate through our field". The Psychologist.
  10. ^ "NIH Director's Pioneer Award Recipients 2007 Awardees". National Institutes of Health. 2007.
  11. ^ Nicodemo, Allie (May 11, 2018). "Northeastern Professor Named President-Elect for the Association of Psychological Science". News@Northeastern.
  12. ^ "The most popular TED Talks of 2018". TED. 2018.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ How Emotions Are Made, 2017, Introduction
  15. ^ Joseph LeDoux has taken a similar view.
  16. ^ "Association for Psychological Science: APS Fellows".
  17. ^ "2006 Career Trajectory Award".
  18. ^ Pioneer award announcement Archived 2007-10-02 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Home – Arts". January 15, 2013.
  20. ^ "Academic Honors Convocation – Northeastern University". Academic Honors Convocation.
  21. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett and Frederick Leong receive APA Distinguished Service Awards". January 2014.
  22. ^ "Home – SPSP".
  23. ^ "Heritage Fund Initiative".
  24. ^ "APS Mentor Award".
  25. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences". April 2018.
  26. ^ "Northeastern Professor Named President-Elect for the Association of Psychological Science". May 2018.
  27. ^ "Lisa Feldman Barrett". April 2019.
  28. ^ "John P. McGovern Award Lecture in the Behavioral Sciences". February 2020.

External links[edit]