Emotions Colour Our Inner World

Posted on: September 15th, 2017 by admin 1 Comment
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Jenny Dalgliesh felt a lump in her left breast and visited the family doctor who in turn referred her to the local radiology practice. A mammogram was inconclusive and so the radiologist performed a biopsy and sent the tissue off to the pathologist for analysis. Adam, Jenny’s husband, was present when she received the pathologist’s report and he scrutinised her face, wondering if the result was serious or not. According to a long-held assumption in psychology, Jenny’s emotions should have fallen within one of just six categories: anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness or fear.

Two scientists from the University of California Berkeley have just published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in which they employed novel statistical methods to analyse the responses of 853 men and women to a selection of 2,185 emotionally evocative short videos. The senior author, Dachar Keltner, said: “We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video.”

As part of the study, the subjects – who were demographically diverse – viewed a selection of 5- to 10-second video clips that were intended to evoke a range of emotions. The silent videos included diverse topics such as death and suffering, spiders and snakes, sexual acts, natural disasters, risky stunts and babies. The participants were placed in three separate groups, where group one freely reported their emotional responses. Group two ranked each video according to how strongly it elicited emotions such as admiration, anxiety, envy, surprise and triumph.

The third group watched a dozen videos and rated their emotional responses to each video on a scale of 1 to 9 based on dichotomies such as excitement versus calmness, dominance versus submissiveness, and positive versus negative. Interestingly, the researchers found they could predict how the third group would rate the videos based on how groups one and two had assessed the emotions elicited by the videos. Using statistical modelling, they built a semantic atlas of human emotions, where each of the 27 distinct categories of emotion was mapped according to a particular colour (see above left, © PNAS). First author and PhD student Alan Cowen commented: “We sought to shed light on the full palette of emotions that colour our inner world.”

When Adam Dalgliesh studied his wife Jenny’s response to the pathologist’s report, he witnessed a range of emotions: anxiety, empathetic pain, interest and relief. The lesion was benign.

One Response

  1. No one who has ever been diagnosed with cancer can fully comprehend the range of emotions involved.

    At the age of 61, I was diagnosed with an invasive prostate cancer. It was 100th of a millimeter from the capsule, intent on killing me. Fortunately I am one of the lucky ones! Here I am in my 88th year prostate cancer free. I was a basket case, and my Texan front office manager told me to “chill out!” Excellent advice which I eventually did!

    When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, no one can fully comprehend what this devastating news does not only to her, but her loved ones.

    As far as breast cancers are concerned I have been on a crusade for the last 10 years to try and help women young and old find breast cancers early. This is quite a challenge, but as we speak, I’m hoping Prof. Kit Vaughan and Harvard Radiology Professor Daniel Kopans will liaise to produce a mammography machine that will ultimately be able to detect 95% of all breast cancers in women, with or without dense breast tissue.

    At the age of 87, the last item on my bucket list is to live long enough to see the day the 3D-ABUS mammography machine becomes a reality.

    Octogenarian Ian.