A new study in Finland revealed that people across cultures and boundaries react similarly to different emotions.
Researchers from Aalto University School of Science, led by assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience Lauri Nummenmaa, recruited 700 participants with different cultural backgrounds such as Swedish, Finnish, and Taiwanese. The researchers used two silhouettes of the body and showed it to the participants. They showed different stories, clips, and words to trigger different emotions to the participants, After being shown a particular media to illicit an emotion, the participants were then asked to color the body part of the silhouette with which they connected the emotion to.
The results of the experiment did not have much variation and the answers were similar. The participants connected the feeling of being angry to the chest, arms and hands, and head while pride was connected to the upper body. The feeling of love was associated to the whole body but the legs while anxiety was linked to the mid-chest.
Nummenmaa told Philly.com, “The most surprising thing was the consistency of the ratings, both across individuals and across all the tested language groups and cultures.”
However, the chair of Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California, Paul Zak, told Philly.com that the study was unimpressive and that it has a weak research design.
According to Zak, it would have made more sense if the study measured activity on the body, such as temperature or perspiration and then link these to certain emotions. This way, the participants, as well as the researchers, will have a data set which is empirical and can be linked directly to the reality.
Despite Zak’s reaction to the study, Nummenmaa is positive that his study has important implications.
"Many mental disorders are associated with altered functioning of the emotional system, so unraveling how emotions coordinate with the minds and bodies of healthy individuals is important for developing treatments for such disorders," Nummenmaa told Philly.com.
The study was published in the December 30 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.