cover image Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking

Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking

Leonard Mlodinow. Pantheon, $28.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-524747-59-6

“We can’t make decisions, or even think, without being influenced by our emotions,” writes physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard’s Walk) in this moving deep dive into the role of feelings in everyday life. Contrary to long-held views that reason and emotion are opposites, Mlodinow shows that a new field called affective neuroscience has demonstrated that “emotion is a gift” which enables humans to “quickly and efficiently make sense of our circumstances so that we can react as necessary.” He makes a convincing case that, instead of detracting from intelligence, such responses allow for better decision-making and more effective communication. He offers plenty of colorful examples: Mlodinow’s parents, both Holocaust survivors, appear as case studies—each responded to their trauma differently—and illustrate that such responses are a result of “our shadowy unconscious mind” applying lessons from the past. Studies from nature appear, as well: readers will learn that male fruit flies experience sadness and respond to romantic disappointment by drinking alcohol. Mlodinow successfully shows how emotions can be assessed, regulated, and controlled, and powerfully concludes that understanding them is a lifelong project that’s “not just a science but an art.” This is a must-read for fans of Daniel Kahneman. (Jan.)