Bodily Maps of Emotions

Lauri Nummenmaa,a,b,c,1Enrico Glerean,aRiitta Hari,b,1 and Jari K. Hietanend

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 14; 111(2): 646–651. Published online 2013 Dec 30. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111PMCID: PMC3896150PMID: 24379370Psychological and Cognitive Sciences

Source: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 14; 111(2): 646–651. Published online 2013 Dec 30.

An innovative study titled “Bodily Maps of Emotions” (2013) which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) gives us a glimpse into how our bodies hold and express emotions. In this study, the researchers asked 701 people from either Western Europe or Eastern Asia to view emotionally evocative photos, movies, and words. Then they asked them to draw before and after snapshots of how their bodies felt using a unique multicolored topographical method. Basically, the study subjects were asked to use different colors drawn on different areas of their bodies to make body maps that describe what they were feeling emotionally while viewing the photos, movies and words. The researchers then sorted the body maps and found that regardless of cultural background, the body consistently communicated an emotional response for each kind of emotion such as fear, anger, happiness… etc. The resulting body maps showed what each emotional response looked like in the body.

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This is the first study of it’s kind that gives us such clear insights into how the body reacts to emotional states. Many systems of healing, including Somatic Therapy, Energy Healing, and many forms of bodywork/massage, have techniques designed to release emotional blocks from the body. Science is beginning to validate these modalities.