Study Maps Emotions by Body Part

Emotions and body locations
Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have produced a set of images showing where in their bodies people experience different emotions. Their news release states,

For example, anxiety may be experienced as pain in the chest, whereas falling in love may trigger warm, pleasurable sensations all over the body…

The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis [and may] help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis.

The scientists point out that these interactions are a two-way street. A sensation in the body may trigger the corresponding emotion in the individual.

This is indeed interesting work, and the sample size was over 700 subjects. The main limitation, in my opinion, is that the data is based on self-reporting by the subjects, who interacted remotely via the internet. The subjects were shown emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions and asked to identify which parts of their body changed as a result of the emotional triggers. The locations were marked on silhouettes of the human body and aggregated by the researchers.

Direct measurement of physical changes would seem to be preferable, but this study does provide us with a starting point in connecting emotions to areas of the body. Full study: Bodily maps of emotions

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Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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