For comedian Lewis Black, anger is a job.
Black is famous for his rants about stuff he finds annoying or unfair or just plain infuriating.
Onstage, he often looks ready for a fight. He leans forward. He shouts. He stabs the air with an index finger, or a middle finger.
To a scientist, Black looks a lot like a belligerent dog, or an irritated gerbil.
“Practically every sexually reproducing, multicellular animal shows aggressive behavior,” says David Anderson, a professor of biology at Caltech and co-author of the book The Neuroscience of Emotion.”Fruit flies show aggression.”
When I relay that last bit to Black, he’s skeptical. “Really?” he says. “Come on.”
There’s an ongoing debate among scientists about whether that’s true. Psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University is among the researchers who contend that human emotions including anger are “constructed” rather than hard-wired in the brain.
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