Different Emotional States Manifest in Different Spots in the Human Body

Humans are emotional creatures, but whether emotions produced the same physical responses in people across varying cultures remained unknown until now

Bodily maps of emotion developed by the researchers.
Bodily maps of emotion developed by the researchers. Nummenmaaa et al., PNAS

Emotions produce physical responses—racing hearts, burning cheeks, trembling hands or tightness in the chest. And according to new research, the way those emotions make us feel is the same regardless of a person's culture, background or origins—humans share some universal emotional experiences.

Researchers from Finland recruited 700 people from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan, Discover reports. They elicited emotional responses from the participants using a variety of means ranging from single word to videos to written stories, and then asked the participants to describe the areas of their body they felt any sort of response in. This could be a loss or an increase of sensation based upon their normal state of feeling.

Across the three groups, they found that the participants, on average, described the same sensations in response to the various emotional encounters. The team created body images, which they call "bodily emotion maps," that work almost like mood rings. The maps depict the universal emotional reaction for a variety of feelings. "Happiness was the only emotion tested that increased sensation all over the body," Discover notes.

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