'Body maps' reveal what anger looks like
New research reveals there's truth behind common sayings like feeling hotheaded or experiencing happiness from your head to your toes.
Wed, Jan 08, 2014 at 04:17 PM
Humans describe emotions in a variety of ways.
Love makes our hearts swell, shame burns our faces, and depression makes us quite literally feel nothing.
Now science has proved that there's some truth to how the human body experiences emotions.
Finnish researchers at Aalto University surveyed more than 700 people to determine how emotionally charged stimuli made their bodies react.
Participants read stories, watched movies and viewed faces that were selected to elicit an emotional response.
People were given blank figurines and asked to color the bodily regions where sensations were strongest (red and yellow) and weakest (black and blue) while viewing each stimulus.
Scientists compiled the participants’ responses — bodily sensations that aren’t related to blood flow or anything that can be objectively measured — to create a "body maps" that could help us understand and treat emotional disorders in the future.
The maps reveal that most the emotions led to sensations in the head, suggesting a link between how emotion is felt and how it's displayed facially.
Feelings like love, happiness and anger saw more brightly colored limbs — perhaps because such emotions can elicit physical actions like hugging or punching.
However, "sensations in the digestive system and around the throat region were mainly found in disgust," the authors wrote.
Although study participants spoke a variety of languages — including Taiwanese, Swedish and Finnish — they drew similar body maps and the correlations between their maps were strong for each of the stimuli.
This suggests that emotional responses and physical sensations are universal and aren’t influenced by culture or language.
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