Bodily maps of emotions are culturally universal

Sofia Volynets, Enrico Glerean, Jari K Hietanen, Riitta Hari, Lauri Nummenmaa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
248 Downloads (Pure)


Emotions are often felt in the body, and interoceptive feedback is an important component of conscious emotional experiences. Here, we provide support for the cultural universality of bodily sensations associated with 13 emotions in a large international sample (3,954 individuals from 101 countries; age range = 18-90). Participants were presented with 2 silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words and asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while they experienced each given emotion. We tested the effects of various background factors (i.e., age, sex, education, body mass index, nationality, civilization, and language) on the bodily sensation maps. Bodily sensations associated with emotions were concordant across the tested cultures (rs > 0.82) and across the sexes (r > 0.80). Bodily sensations weakened during aging (M rs = 0.11 across emotions). We conclude that universality in experiencing emotions in the body is stronger than the differences due to culture or sex.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • emotion
  • subjective
  • self-reporting
  • cross-cultural
  • bodily feelings
  • Universalism
  • Body
  • Somatosensation
  • Culture

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