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Understand Emotional Style, and how it can be changed
on 29 March 2012
This book is different to many others on the subject of human emotion. Books on this subject tend to be either motivational self-help, or purely sedate scientific affairs. This book succeeds in combining many of these elements, while remaining an enjoyable read.
The book pulls off this feat by combining the efforts of a popular-science writer, Sharon Begley, with those of a leading pioneer of neuroscience, Richard Davidson. This gives the book both its irresistibly lucid style of writing, while maintaining impeccable scientific credibility. At the same time, the book reads as if it were written by a single author, frequently referring to himself in first-person narratives: "My thirty years of research in effective neuroscience has produced hundreds of findings..." This simplifies matters greatly, making it easy to relate to Davidson, and maintains the momentum and thrust of his ideas.
The book steers away from any hint of affected suspense, and sets out early on the six dimensions of what it calls "Emotional Style" and relates them to other established classification systems, such as the "Big Five" personality traits (openness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) and commonly perceived personality traits (impulsive, patient, shy, anxious, grumpy)
After a brief overview, Davidson sets off by telling the story of how the scientific landscape looked back in the 70s, leading to the period when he first embarked on the academic study of emotions. Davidson then progresses on to how he went about his investigations, based on observations ranging from monitoring the subjects' heart rates, to fMRI brain scans. This helps to establish the book's scientific authority, and reassures the reader of the merits of the contents which follow.
As most readers will not have access to brain electrodes - let alone MRI scanning equipment - Davidson offers the next best thing in the form of simple questionnaires which the reader can use to self-evaluate each dimension of "Emotional Style" by answering True or False to a set of 10 questions in each questionnaire. These are simple and fun to do, and the scoring system is straightforward too.
Whether the outcome this evaluation merely confirms what you had always suspected, or come as a complete surprise, the good news is Davidson is convinced that it is possible for you to change your emotional style if you wished to do so. Davidson makes a point of saying very clearly that there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to emotional style, nor is there a pinnacle or an ideal as such. Nevertheless, if you feel you would benefit from altering your style along one or more of the individual six dimensions, Davidson offers practical methods and exercises which you can follow to bring about, in time, the changes you desire.