Always Just Guessing

Lisa Feldman Barrett on our efforts to guess what other people are thinking and feeling, from the Slate Gist podcast (Aug. 1, 2017): 

"A lot of times, a microaggression is one person constructing an aggressive meaning out of a set of facial movements or words or actions from another person who didn't intend any aggression at all.

You are guessing.

When you are making sense of somebody else's actions or words, when you are creating a perception, when your brain is doing this in a very automatic way, it's guessing. 

It's guessing at the intention of the other person. It's guessing at the meaning of those actions.

No matter how confident you are about your ability to read other people, your brain is always just guessing, and then it's checking those guesses against what's going on in the world and either correcting them or not.

So microaggressions are this really tricky area.

Can people be aggressive to each other in really veiled ways? Absolutely.

But is the concept probably overused? Yeah. I think so." 

See also: 

Barrett, L. F. (2017). How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (author, library, Kindle, Audible

"Emotions: Part One," Invisibilia, June 1, 2017