Science

These heat maps reveal where we feel love, anger, shame & sadness on our bodies

Image Credit: Pnas.org

Scientists have conclusively proven that love gives you the warm fuzzies and sadness makes you feel blue.

A team of Finnish researchers have created heat maps of where and how emotions are experienced on the human body. The goal of the study was to find out if there is a consistent connection, across various demographic groups and geographical regions, between what we feel and the physical sensation of that feeling.

“Even though we are often consciously aware of our current emotional state, such as anger or happiness, the mechanisms giving rise to these subjective sensations have remained unresolved. Here we used a topographical self-report tool to reveal that different emotional states are associated with topographically distinct and culturally universal bodily sensations; these sensations could underlie our conscious emotional experiences,” the findings said.

The study asked 773 participants to color bodily regions where they felt activity increasing or decreasing while viewing stimulus, such as emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expression. They were prompted with six “basic” emotions and seven “complex” emotions, as well as a neutral state.

Yellow indicates the strongest amount of activity, followed by red, black, dark blue and light blue at the bottom, for a deadening of emotion.

Happiness shows yellow and red coloring all over, with the strongest feelings in the head and chest. Love is strongest of all the emotions, with yellow filling in the head, chest, and groin region. Unlike happiness, we apparently don’t feel love in our legs.

Depression is also experienced across the body, with the head and limbs showing up as various shades of blue. Interestingly the depressed stomach feels neutral. Sadness, in contrast, is dark blue on the arms and legs, but the head and chest show red.

Shame and anxiety are experienced all over the body as well, with warm colors in the head and chest, and blue colors in the legs. Surprise doesn’t look that different from shame, and envy — like surprise — shows up as red in the head and chest, and dark blue in the legs. Contempt and envy resemble each other, although contempt is strong in the head and only felt in the groin area on the bottom half.

Fear and disgust manifest as warm and hot colors in the head through the stomach. Fear is felt more in the chest, while disgust is stronger in our mouth and stomach. Interestingly, the pride body map resembles happiness, love, and anger in its yellow across the head and chest.

The study says that numerous studies before it established that emotions prepare us for external challenges by adjusting our bodies to respond. These assume that our bodies react, thus triggering emotional feelings that will affect our behavior. However, it is still uncertain whether “the bodily changes associated with different emotions are specific enough to serve as the basis for discrete emotional feelings.”

“We propose that consciously felt emotions are associated with culturally universal, topographically distinct bodily sensations that may support the categorical experience of different emotions,” the report said.

Beyond being interesting, this research could have significant implications for the psychology, serving as a “biomarker for emotional disorders.”

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