Body Maps Show Where Emotions Hit Hardest

Body Maps Show Where Emotions Hit Hardest
Arts & Culture

Finnish researchers have developed a body map of human emotions that is universal across cultures.

Daniela Walker
  • 3 january 2014

In a moment of embarrassment we have all felt that flush of warmth on our cheeks as we blush and palpitations of the heart. We know that our body physically reacts to an emotional feeling, but now a study by Finnish researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal shows that there is a universal physiological reaction to certain emotions, regardless of culture.


The researchers presented over 700 participants from Taiwan, Sweden and Finland with emotional stimuli – words, videos, facial expressions and stories – and then asked them to identify on computer silhouettes where they felt changes in their bodies. The majority of the participants would color in the same areas when feeling the same emotions – for instance, feeling a change in their chest when they experience anger – despite being from different backgrounds.

The researchers admitted that some of the self-reporting may have been skewed, and that the research might “reflect a purely conceptual association between semantic knowledge of language-based stereotypes” – such as having a sensation of cold feet when nervous. But they believe that the overall results show that emotions result in a universal biological response across cultural and linguistic borders.

The researchers hope that further studies on the bodily sensations that are associated with emotions may help in the diagnosis and cure of mood disorders.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Source, Image: The Verge

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