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The Bodily Maps of

A collection inspired by the idea of how different emotions affect different parts of the human body.


Pablo A. Padilla Jargstorf

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The Bodily Maps of Emotions

Has someone ever warmed your cockles? Has love raised your pulse and your temperature? The cold feeling of sadness or depression? Getting cold feet? The warming of your head fueled by anger or pride? The warm fluttering of your chest triggered by anxiety?

Some of these expressions are truly universal, and one way or another we can all recall how emotions can be felt in different parts of our bodies.

But how much is this a personal experience or something shared across humanity, and that science can help elucidate


Through the use of a unique tool called emBODY, scientists at Aalto and Tampere Universities in Finland have recently developed maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions (1). In their experiments, these emotions have been clustered in two categories, encompassing six ‘basic’ (Anger, Fear, Disgust, Happiness, Sadness, Surprise), and seven ‘non-basic” or complex emotions (Anxiety, Love, Depression, Contempt, Pride, Shame, Envy), as well as a neutral state.


The team developed a self-reporting method, called emBODY, with the aim to associate different emotions with sensations in different parts of the human body. In these maps, the so-called ‘activated regions’ are represented in warm colours (reds, oranges, yellows), and those parts that experience ‘decreased activation’ are shown in cool colours (blue range)- i.e. following what we generally associate with a heat-related charter of colours.


In some cases, these sensations are shared or overlap between different emotions. The consistency of these maps (ie. shared between different cultures across the globe, specifically in their research being consistent across West Europeans and East Asian samples, all speaking their respective languages) supports the theory that these body sensations or regional activations of the body play a critical role in the processing of emotions.


As well as granting us a deeper understanding of how humans experience emotions, the ability to map topographically changes in emotion-triggered sensations could become a valuable tool for the identification and diagnosis of emotional/mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.


Inspired by the emBODY project, Unplucked brings you our own Bodily Maps of Emotion, a collaboration with international designer and illustrator Pablo Andres Padilla Jargstorf ( ).


We hope you enjoy navigating these bodily landscapes as much as we do.


About the Artwork

1 Nummenmaa L et al. (2012). Bodily maps of emotions. PNAS 111(2): 646-651;

Topographical distribution of the emotion-related sensation on the body.

Somatosensory feedback (Nummenmaa L et al. (2012). Bodily maps of emotions. PNAS 111(2): 646-651; )


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