So I’m kicking off the handful of reviews I have waiting with The Emotional Life of Your Brain because I have to return it to the library and I wanted to share it with you first.

This book has an interesting academic background. Essentially, it is a culmination and summation of Richard J Davidson‘s work in the psychology and neurology of emotions and what he calls the six emotional dimensions influenced by your brain’s function. Those are Resilience, Outlook, Social Intuition, Self Awareness, Sensitivity to Context, and Attention. How you score on these scales is determined not only by genetics and upbringing, but also in how your brain has formed and they are all plastic to some degree. You can nudge where you fall on the scale with some judicious and particular exercises.

I know you’re all wondering how I fall on the scales (and how you’d fall on the scales) so if you know me, this should give you some idea of how these scales work. I am Fast to Recover (Highly Resilient), I have a Positive Outlook, I am very Socially Intuitive, I am fairly Self Aware, I am extremely Sensitive to Context, and I am fairly Focused (Attention). Dr. Davidson includes a handy dandy questionnaire in the book that, though only a rough estimate, can start to give you some idea of where you fall on the scales. And, if you’re unhappy with a particular axis, he also provides tools to help you nudge your scores in one direction or the other.

But, this is only about 1/3 of the book. The rest is a pompous summary of his life and career as a psychologist. Frankly, by the time I got a third of the way into the book, I was completely skipping any of the sections about him and how he got to this point of his research because I was just fed up with his wanking about how he was good friends with this prime researcher or look how young he was when he gained a professorship. Good for you, Dr. Davidson. I don’t care. At least, not when you share it as though you are some psychological messiah.

Anyway, his research is interesting and it seems to be backed up by some fairly solid research, so if this sort of thing interests you, I’d say give it a read. And if you can stand to read the autobiographical sections, you have more patience than me. And if you can’t, I really don’t think you’re missing out on anything.

Cover of The Emotional Life of Your Brain