FOURTH ESTATE £15.99/£14.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

Emotional Rollercoaster, by Claudia Hammond

Are you really pleased to see me?

In the 1950s it was discovered that if you apply a weak electric current to the part of a rat's brain that produces dopamine the rat rather likes it. When provided with a lever by which they could control the current themselves, the rats pressed the lever about 2,000 times an hour, for hours on end. If the rats were given a choice between feeding or pressing the lever, they would starve to death rather than miss out on the current.

In the 1950s it was discovered that if you apply a weak electric current to the part of a rat's brain that produces dopamine the rat rather likes it. When provided with a lever by which they could control the current themselves, the rats pressed the lever about 2,000 times an hour, for hours on end. If the rats were given a choice between feeding or pressing the lever, they would starve to death rather than miss out on the current.

Apparently, if you ask people whether they would like to have the human equivalent of the rats' lever they almost always say "no". They think it wouldn't make them feel truly happy. Or maybe they're just worried about what kind of figure they would cut with bleeding electrodes in their skulls and wires trailing everywhere. Besides, there are the more socially acceptable dopamine levers available for humans, such as drugs, alcohol, eating and sex. Or reading books like Emotional Rollercoaster.

According to the jacket, Claudia Hammond's book "asks how the brain and body interact to produce emotions, and what, if anything, we can do to harness them". And so we go on a "journey" through nine chapters entitled Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, Fear, Jealousy, Love, Guilt and Hope. Sadly, this journey isn't quite as effective a dopamine lever as sex, drugs, alcohol, eating or electrodes, but it is quite interesting. And I've filleted some of the most interesting bits out for you.

Apparently, a smile is hard to fake, because most people can't voluntarily contract all the muscles used in spontaneous smiling. The way to check if someone is really happy to see you is note whether the cheeks move higher and the eyebrows tip down slightly.

Apparently, men and women from the US cried the most often, while Bulgarian men and Icelandic and Romanian women cried the least.

Apparently, people who sit in a quiet room in a comfortable old leather armchair for the same length of time as an exercise session, felt just as good afterwards. Hot baths have a similar effect. Experiments involving people exercising vigorously with their heads and shoulders under cold water have shown that they feel no better afterwards. Maybe it's because they found the experience rather unpleasant.

Apparently, people who express their anger suffer from more heart disease than those who hold back from shouting. Other studies however contradict these findings; some show no link, some that the suppression of anger correlates with high blood pressure. The man who gets angry occasionally, as opposed to the angry man and the bottler-upper, may be the healthiest.

Apparently, men's hearts beat almost five beats a minute faster when they imagine their partner's sexual infidelity compared with emotional infidelity. Women's heart rates were the same for both. It was thought that this experiment measured jealousy and proved men were more jealous about sexual infidelity than the emotional kind; it was later discovered that men were merely getting turned on by the thought of sex.

Apparently, when men believe they are talking to a beautiful woman on the phone, the women become more animated, confident and socially skilled. The women treated as unattractive become withdrawn and awkward.

Apparently, men tend to be jealous of rivals who possess the qualities they most desire for themselves. Women tend to be most jealous of characteristics they think their partner desires in a woman. These rivals are the same women they would most like to be their friends.

Apparently, people who have asymmetrical faces (ie they're ugly) tend to be more possessive.

Apparently, the perception that passionate love decreases over time and is replaced by companionate love which gets stronger is mistaken. Although passionate love does decrease, so, generally, does companionate love.

Apparently, when men were played slower or faster heartbeats than their own while being shown pictures of women, and told the sound was of their own heartbeat, those who believed their heart to have been beating faster rated the women as more attractive than those with a slower heartbeat.

While I was reading Emotional Rollercoaster in a comfortable old leather armchair, I didn't hear my heart beat, and I didn't check my pulse or my perspiration levels. I think that, for the most part, I enjoyed the experience, but without a control experiment it's difficult to be sure.

We don't really learn much that is useful for harnessing those pesky, fickle emotions either, but Hammond, in her enthusiastic, popularising way, does throw up some intriguing research, at the same time as revealing how little is known for sure in this rather immature area of scientific study. In the end, this rather tentative enquiry is probably best seen as a dinner party resource for conversational gambits of the kind which begin: "Apparently..."

Buy any book reviewed on this site at Independent Books Direct
- postage and packing are free in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker