Where do you feel that emotion in your body?
When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.
People reported that happiness and love sparked activity across nearly the entire body, while depression had the opposite effect: It dampened feelings in the arms, legs and head. Danger and fear triggered strong sensations in the chest area, the volunteers said. And anger was one of the few emotions that activated the arms.
The team showed the volunteers two blank silhouettes of a person on a screen and then told the subjects to think about one of 14 emotions: love, disgust, anger, pride, etc. The volunteers then painted areas of the body that felt stimulated by that emotion. On the second silhouette, they painted areas of the body that get deactivated during that emotion.
The scientists hope these body emoticons may one day help psychologists diagnose or treat mood disorders.
“People look at emotions as something in relation to other people,” Damasio, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, says. “But emotions also have to do with how we deal with the environment
– threats and opportunities.” For those, Damasio says, you need your body as well as your mind.
Credit: Lauri Nummenmaa, the head of the lab that does this research.
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