Our Body Atlas of Emotions

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland conducted a study to map where we feel emotions throughout our body and came up with the “Bodily maps of emotions.”

The study was based on a number of experiments with 701 participants from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan. Participants were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions, and they were asked to manually color the bodily regions whose activity they felt to be increased or decreased during viewing of each stimulus. [I wonder if there were a way to reproduce the same results photographically.]

This topographical self-report tool revealed that different emotional states are associated with distinct and culturally universal bodily sensations which might explain why when we are excited, we feel our heart pound; anxiety tightens our muscles and makes our hands sweat; a young bride getting married may suddenly have “cold feet”; severely disappointed lovers may be “heartbroken”; and, our favorite song may send “a shiver down our spine.”

As the new year starts, we wish you happiness and love, and may all your surprises be pleasant.