Under the classical view of emotional expression, emotions are things that happen to you. Being angry or sad is an unbidden reaction. This school of thought posits that emotions are universal expressions, common to all humans and in all cultures.
Except, maybe they aren’t. When it comes to feeling emotion and reading the emotions of others, the latest science says that your mileage may vary.
In her new book How Emotions are Made, Lisa Feldman Barrett claims that emotions aren’t objective. Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in Boston, contends that emotions are learned behavior and are developed differently in each individual’s brain. An emotion, she says, is not your reaction to the world, it’s your brain’s interpretation of the world. And these interpretations vary widely from culture to culture.
If this theory is correct, emotions can’t be used as a cultural barometer because they are not universally shared. In an episode of the Invisibilia podcast, Barrett said, “For every emotion category that we have in the U.S. that we think is biologically basic and universal, there’s at least one culture in the world that doesn’t really possess a concept for that emotion and where people don’t really feel that emotion.”
Barrett says that emotions are just the brain’s way of processing inputs and predicting what they might mean. “If you think about it from a brain’s standpoint, it’s trapped in a dark, silent box called your skull, and has no access to the causes of the sensations it receives,” Barrett said to WIRED’s Emma Bryce. “I think the way emotions are made is not special: your brain makes an emotion by using prior experiences of emotion to predict and explain incoming sensory inputs and guide action,” Barrett said.
If applied to security, this activity is strikingly similar to the process of managing risk. Not only does risk vary from company to company, but security managers must evaluate inputs, apply past experiences, and predict future outcomes to protect people, property, and assets. One organization may be willing to accept a particular risk that another cannot tolerate.
This month’s cover story discusses the industry best practice for managing risk: enterprise security risk management (ESRM). By adopting ESRM, security managers can develop effective security programs to address all potential threats from cybercrime to theft to reputation management. Security professionals can also ensure that, as strategic corporate leaders, they have a seat at the table.
Learn more about your inputs at ASIS 2017 in Dallas, Texas, September 25-28. From ESRM education to risk mitigation strategies in the exhibit hall, the entire week is dedicated to helping security professionals process timely information and turn it into action.