The Topography of Emotion: New Study Maps Feelings in the Body / Hyperallergic

Bodily topography of emotions associated with words (via

Bodily topography of emotions associated with words (via

new study by a team of Finnish researchers recently published in the journalProceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS) analyzes where we feel emotions in our bodies. Through color-coded visualizations that show different emotions, the team discovered where we physically experience a total of 14 different sensations, including love, anxiety, depression, fear, sadness, and happiness.

The researchers worked with a group of 773 participants (including a control group of 72) from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan. Participants were shown various stimuli and asked to identify on body silhouettes where the accompanying emotions were felt. Interestingly but not surprisingly, most of those stimuli were art — short stories, which were all vignettes written by the scientists that described emotional events such as driving to the beach with friends (happy) and encountering a dying child at the hospital (sad), and 10 second movies clips sourced from a variety of feature films. The scientists also used photographs depicting facial expressions.

According to the data visualization, love, happiness, anger, pride, and anxiety are felt more strongly in the upper regions of the body — in the heart and head, mostly — whereas sadness, depression, and shame are more strongly concentrated in the limbs. Interestingly, surprise and envy circulate strongly in the upper chest and head, which may suggest a correlation between the two. Negative emotions often leave us feeling “cold,” whereas positive ones literally light up the body, making us feel as if we’re on fire.

Read the full post on Hyperallergic: