Mapping human emotions

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When you’re angry, your face, head, and arms grow hot When you’re depressed, a cold numbness grips your head and arms. Love triggers a warm glow throughout your upper body, especially around your heart. Human emotions, a new study has found, are directly linked to sensations in specific body parts, and the map is largely the same across different cultures.

Finnish researchers reached that conclusion after showing 700 study participants in Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan words, videos, facial expressions, and stories designed to evoke 13 emotions, such as happiness, sadness, shame, disgust, envy, anxiety, and love. For each emotion, participants indicated where they felt increased and decreased sensation on computer-generated silhouettes of the human body. Individuals of different cultures and linguistic backgrounds drew very similar maps, indicating that emotions are hardwired to prepare the body for fighting, hugging, withdrawing, and other behaviors.


“Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation” Aalto University psyHow strong feelings are sensed in the body chologist Lauri Nummenmaa tells NPR .org. “It’s an automated system. We don’t have to think about it.”The information about how the body and feelings interact may help in diagnosing and even treating some emotional disorders.