EMBODIED EMOTIONS

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An mildly interesting study has gained some publicity.  Here is a link to its EarthSky.org version: http://earthsky.org/human-world/where-we-experience-emotions-in-our-body.  Their post caught my eye by its pictures showing different emotions color coded on bodies because I thought someone had imaged bodily processes.  Alas, it was not to be.  The images are colored   more figuratively than concretely.  The study sampled some 700 subjects over the internet, asking them to respond to emotional scenes and suggestions by saying how they felt and where in their bodies they felt that; then the researchers compiled this information and used it to produce the colored images of embodied emotions. Part of the interest lies in how consistent the results were across some different cultures, including samples from Scandinavia and Taiwan.  Of course the subjects all partook of the internet culture.  These results are limited in their implication in many ways but for me, most importantly because the emotions are simulated and the bodily phenomena based upon self report.  I chose a picture of the chakras to lead into this story.  The research is based upon a recent scientific tradition and the chakras upon a long spiritual one.  Is one more valid empirically? If anything, the one with over a thousand years of practice and exploration would seem to have a stronger empirical basis stemming from self-report and observation of bodily responses.  The conceptualization of chakras may not integrate easily into our reductionistic science but, as President Kennedy said about going to the moon, we do it “not because it is easy but because it is hard”.  Understanding our biological roots requires many perspectives but most of all that we keep in mind the object whole.

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