Study Maps Where Different Emotions Are Universally Felt on The Body

We all know the saying that rage makes your blood boil, but as it turns out, different emotions really are "felt" in different parts of your body. The whole "happiness from head to toe" thing? Accurate. At least, that's according to Finnish researchers who've made an "atlas" of human emotion, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Finnish researchers wanted to figure out where exactly emotion "comes" from. [If we knew any jokes about Finnish people, we'd insert one here.]

"We often think the emotions are something that happen only in the mind, but there's also lots of evidence suggesting that they also happen in our bodies," said Cognitive Neuroscience at the Aalto University School of Science in Finland professor and study author Lauri Nummenmaa. U.S. News reports:

Some scholars believe that a feeling of anger, for example, triggers changes in our body's responses and that when we become aware of these changes, that awareness actually helps us to construct conscious representations of a feeling, says Nummenmaa.

During five different experiments, 700 subjects in Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan looked at emotion-evoking material such as words, videos, and facial expressions. They were then asked to color in pictures of their body, marking areas that felt different after the emotional media exposure.

Researchers then grouped all the pretty pictures together, and made metamodels out of them. What resulted were statistically significant images showing where distinctly separate emotions ran through the body. The "neutral" image, in its black and purples, can be seen as a baseline, whereas colors get brighter as the emotion increases (yellow is where it was most strongly felt).

As the map shows, anger and fear were felt mostly in the chest — probably due to increased pulse. Happiness, however, spread across the body, while love gets us everywhere but our feet (guess cold feet is a real thing, then).

The research shows, significantly, that emotions are universally experienced in the body in a similar way across different cultures. Because of the commonality, researchers hope the research will be a gateway for a better understanding of emotional disorders.

Now if someone would just study this baby, we'd have it all figured out.

Alain Leroux on YouTube

(Image: Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen)