Color Me Emotional


New research based on interviews and surveys including participants from diverse nationalities lends support to the theory that humans experience emotions within our bodies in universal ways. In other words, a chest swelling with pride or a head-to-toe romantic tingling are bodily experiences common across cultures. The scientists involved have creatively demonstrated their findings through “heat maps” of human figures and thereby created a sort of “atlas” of the Body Emotional. Their study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Finnish researchers surveyed nearly 800 men and women from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan. Participants were shown text and visuals depicting emotionally charged states and were directed to respond by coloring on human silhouettes the areas of their own body that they felt decreasing or increasing activity—using a spectrum from red for intensity to blue for dullness. The words, stories, movie clips, images of facial expressions, and so on were selected for being representative of various emotions, such as shame, disgust, depression, anxiety, love, or fear. The actual measurable influences on our physiology, such as a rise in skin temperature or heart rate, that are exerted by emotions are minimal; however, the sensations are, according to this new research, consistent regardless of one’s cultural or geographical background. One conclusion of this research is that there are biological, rather than a cultural or linguistic, explanations for the responses we feel physically when we experience specific emotions.

Image credit: © Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Related Links

  • “Body Atlas” Shows Where Emotions Hit the Hardest
    This article, which explains the new study on bodily sensation and emotions, displays a variety of human “heat maps.”
    (Source: The Verge, December 31, 2013)
  • Body Atlas Reveals Where We Feel Happiness and Shame
    This article reviews the new findings about how our bodies process emotions.
    (Source: Discovery Magazine, December 30, 2013)
  • Emotion, Cognition, Social Context
    This website of the Arvid Kappas working group presents basic psychological perspectives on our current understanding of emotions; includes pages on psychophysiology, which encompasses bodily changes related to emotions.
    (Source: Jacobs University, Bremen; accessed January 3, 2014)



  1. Anonymous says:


  2. Rosey says:

    This was really interesting. I used it for my “current event” school project. 🙂

  3. Anna says:

    What does the black signify? Is it neutral, or just unrecorded?

  4. Anonymous says:


  5. Milkman says:

    This is weird……………………………..

  6. simmons says:

    I like this story

    • Sarp says:

      Here’s the answer key. Shield your eyes if you haven’t done the quiz yet.1. Trading Places2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory3. Dick Tracy4. Wayne’s World5. Top Secret6. Batman Forever7. Austin Powers in Goldmember8. An Officer and a Gentleman9. Footloose10.Stand By Me11. Notting Hill12. About a Boy13. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas14. Attack of the Clones15. The Usual Suspects16. Signs17. X-Men18. The Sixth Sense19. Dirty Dancing20. Titanic21. Singin’ in the Rain22. Back to the Future23. The Big Lebowski24. The Fifth Element25. Speed26. Big27. Jumanji28. The Color of Money29. Pushing Tin30. The Flintstones31. Pulp Fiction32. Ransom33. Full Metal Jacket34. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back35. Hellraiser36. Independece Day37. E.T.38. Men in Black39. Swingers40. Porky’s41. Shrek42. The Matrix43. Grease44. First Blood45. The Fast and the Furious46. The Wedding Singer47. The Blues Brothers48. Purple Rain49. The Waterboy50. White Men Can’t Jump51. The Full Monty52. Jackie Brown53. Zoolander54. Fellowship of the Ring55. Sleepy Hollow56. Godzilla57. Bridget Jones’s Diary58. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon59. Kingpin60. Evolution

  7. simmons says: