Emotional by Leonard Mlodinow review – the new thinking about feelings squib

Far from being stumbling blocks to reason, our emotions are important and adaptive, argues this summary of the latest science

Emotions are as messy as they are fascinating, not just personally but scientifically, too. Although we are sure we know them when we feel them, it’s hard to even say what counts as an emotion. Anger, sadness and disgust, sure. But determination? Lust? Awe?

As Leonard Mlodinow shows in his new book, emotions are evolutionarily ancient, rooted in genes and brain structures we share with insects. And at the same time they are embedded in complex and sophisticated cultural scripts and schemas. Fago is a term the Ifaluk of Micronesia use to describe a mix of love, sadness, pity and an urge to feed someone. And how about ambivalence or schadenfreude?

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