How we embody emotions from head to toe

Color-coded human figures map the bodily sensations associated with particular emotions.

We human beings embody our feelings in a remarkably consistent way, it seems. Pride does indeed go to your head. Sadness denervates the limbs but burns in the heart. And oh baby, love and happiness, look at how they go together.

In a series of experiments, people watched movie scenes or read stories or words conveying specific emotions. While viewing each stimulus, they were instructed to color on a body map the parts where they felt activity or sensation to be increasing (hot colors) or decreasing (cool colors). The 700 volunteers consistently linked emotions to the same body regions regardless of cultural background (Finnish, Swedish or Taiwanese).  In a paper published Monday, the researchers concluded that:

… emotional feelings are associated with discrete, yet partially overlapping maps of bodily sensations, which could be at the core of the emotional experience. These results thus support models assuming that somatosensation and embodiment play critical roles in emotional processing. Unraveling the subjective bodily sensations associated with human emotions may help us to better understand mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which are accompanied by altered emotional processing, ANS activity, and somatosensation…

Source: Bodily maps of emotions by Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari K. Hietanen, PNAS (2013)

[Originally posted on my Tumblr]

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