The realness of emotions has been a topic of debate among many psychologists for centuries. The idea of the discussion started with an article named ‘Emotions are real’ written by Lisa Feldma, a professor of Psychology at Northeastern University.
There always has been an argument regarding the portrayal of physiological factors corresponding to the feelings experienced by a person. There can be various examples such as blood pressure and facial expressions. There are contradictory opinions where some agree to this and others say that ‘emotions are simply illusions’. They call it illusions because pleasure, displeasure, and arousal can be objectively measured.
Barrett’s argument regarding this subject sets forth the reality of emotions. Barrett says that scientists are actually asking the wrong question. Instead of asking ‘Are emotions real?, they should ask ‘How do they become real?’. This question will lead to a clearer path forward.
To understand the process further, she explains the perception between plants and flowers. What we feel and see ‘real’ is what happens and exists in front of our eyes. It consists of a physically robust matter. A plant, whether or not humans are around to perceive it, is real. However, in the case of flowers and weeds, we think of them coming into existence from a plant. Therefore, the human brain creates a flower or a weed because without the perceiver there will only remain a plant.
Therefore, we understand that emotions are real when we categorise them. It is the amalgamation of the sensory inputs from the outside world and sensations from the body that produce perceptions. Hence, Barrett calls emotions ‘constructed’ and according to her, the science of emotions should explicitly theorise the integration of physical, mental, and social levels of construction.