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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 5 June 2012
This is a really good read in that it shows scientific evidence for things which until now you could only hope were true.

The book explains you can change your brain and I was encouraged to know there are things you can do to alter the way you approach things.

However, the big problem with it is, it's all about the research with just the last chapter telling you how to work on your brain.

We know the author is a scientist and I for one would trust his research to be robust but I didn't need to know all the ups and downs along the way.

I wanted to know more about how to use what he has uncovered.

Most advice of this kind is from gurus and people who appoint themselves as experts, when in reality they are just out to make money from books, talks, therapies and health spas. If a scientist was to offer really worthwhile help, it would top anything already out there.

If Richard Davidson produced a follow up in which the balance of research to self-help advice was the other way round it would be a must read.
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on 2 May 2012
Early in my life, I was very comfortable with the more esoteric end of studying emotion and intuitively, have known for many years that the practices of meditation, mindfulness and positive thinking just 'feel' good. However, in the last decade or so, I have become increasingly interested in to what extent so-called 'hard' scientific research could shed light on my instincts and either disprove or prove any.

Contrary to one of the reviews below, I believe this author compellingly demonstrates how the very structures of the brain have a proven linkage to our experienced emotions and hence; how we behave emotionally. This would be exciting enough, but he goes further, to discuss how we can choose to influence our neural structures and thereby develop emotional choicefulness and flexibility.

Surely unless we enjoy being restricted by an accident of biology, this has to be beneficial for fulfilling our potential, optimizing our relationships and more broadly, for understanding humankind and our future as a species.
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2015
I read this following Matthieu Ricard's "Art of Meditation" and wanted to know more about the origins of the scientific exploration of mindfulness.mi got that and more. This is an utterly inspiring walk through the origins of this whole new branch of neuroscience, and it's framed Ian way that makes it accessible and personal for those of us unlikely to be able to manage ten thousand hours of meditation. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 12 August 2012
This was shaping up to be an interesting read but I'm afraid I had to give up.

The text of the Kindle edition is liberaly peppered by hyphens to the extent that it is all but unreadable.

For example at 1154 you will find the following:

Having seen this left--equals--positive--emotions and right--equals--negative--emotions patterin in ten--month--month--olds, etc

or at 1151

When they watched a clip of an actress sobbing, we imme-diately had sullen babies etc.

This continues on every page throughout the book.

If you can take it, you will find and interesting topic explored but you will have to be tolerant of a very poor reading experinece if you buy the Kindle "edition".
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on 24 December 2012
Excellent new insights to the emotions in the brain, Very easy to read considering it is scientific and so well researched. Every page is interesting and offers ways to change your outlook as well as building on the natural you. I found this book extremely useful for my work as a psychotherapist.
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on 22 June 2013
I really enjoyed this book, a mix of the authors journey regarding the topic and the extensive amount of research showing how incredible is the brain/mind. It is also encouraging to know that we can change our emotional styles so we are not stuck. This book gives hope but shows that it does work to change your emotional life.
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on 9 October 2013
This book does the following things:
- lets you assess your emotional style profile;
- provides compelling evidence of the possibility of changing your emotional style through psychological exercises that change your brain anatomy and physiology;
- provides a chapter of neurally inspired exercises to change your own emotional style.
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on 10 March 2014
I am a great fan of the author's work regarding the role of frontal alpha asymmetry in approach vs. avoidance behaviour and have employed many of his formulations in my own lab. Had this been a descriptive review, the book would have received five stars. There are a host of interesting studies referred to within the texts which I would recommend the interested reader to pursue.

That being said, the remainder of the book is replete with new age narratives and incessant reiterations of Emotional Style (always beginning with capitals, a thoroughly irritating ploy). Davidson's underlying concepts explaining his findings are highly outdated and reek of the social constructionist movement that dominated psychological thinking in the late 80's. The functional analysis of human cognition and emotion had already realized the plasticity inherent in humans almost three decades ago, with contemporary evolution science only realizing the necessity of assessing the activity of an organism as a whole.

I suggest Dr. Davidson read the attached link to appreciate how far a field has come conceptually and empricially
[...]
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on 31 July 2013
This is a,great little book and is helpful in disentangling different aspects of emotional responses. It is also an easy read and not too repetitive as some similar books are.
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