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Researchers produce first topographical maps of human emotion

The repertoire of human emotion is culturally universal and can be represented topographically according to new research conducted by scientists from Finland at the Aalto University, the University of Turku, and the University of Tampere that was published in the Dec. 30, 2013, edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions.
Machine Elf 1735 This file is ineligible for copyright and therefore in the public domain.
Maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions. Hot colors show activated, cool colors deactivated regions.
Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

The researchers examined the emotional responses of 701 people that viewed emotion eliciting photographs and videos or heard words that elicited specific emotions. The participants recorded their perception of how their body felt when exposed to varying emotional states on an outline of the human body with a color code. The coded representations of emotional state were found to be the same as physiological and brain pattern responses that have been previously shown to exist in people.

The researchers compared the emotional reactions of Europeans to people from Asia and found no significant differences in the response of people from dramatically different cultures to emotion evoking situations. The result leads the researchers to conclude that emotion is felt in the same body regions in all humans.

The maps that the researchers have developed are planned to be used in defining emotional disease states like anxiety and depression and developing new methods of detection of these diseases.

Based on this new discovery, one might consider the use of different wavelengths of light that could produce a set of glasses (spectacles) that could read emotion based on the heat signatures of a person’s body.

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