Summary: A new study reports conscious feelings stem from bodily feedback. Researchers have mapped the organization of conscious feelings, reporting they cluster into five categories: positive emotions, negative emotions, cognitive function, somatic state and illness.
Source: University of Turku.
Humans constantly experience an ever-changing stream of subjective feelings that is only interrupted during sleep and deep unconsciousness. Finnish researches show how the subjective feelings map into five major categories: positive emotions, negative emotions, cognitive functions, somatic states, and illnesses. All these feelings were imbued with strong bodily sensations.
“These results show that conscious feelings stem from bodily feedback. Although consciousness emerges due to brain function and we experience our consciousness to be “housed” in the brain, bodily feedback contributes significantly to a wide variety of subjective feelings,” reports Associate Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Turku PET Centre.
According to the researchers, emotions vividly colour all our feelings as pleasant or unpleasant. It is possible that during evolution, consciousness has originally emerged to inform the organisms and others around about tissue damage and well-being. This development may have paved for the emergence of language, thinking and reasoning.
“Subjective well-being is an important determinant of our prosperity, and pain and negative emotions are intimately linked with multiple somatic and psychological illnesses. Our findings help to understand how illnesses and bodily states in general influence our subjective well-being. Importantly, they also demonstrate the strong embodiment of cognitive and emotional states,” says Nummenmaa.
The study was conducted in the form of an online questionnaire in which more than 1,000 people participated. The participants first evaluated a total of 100 feeling states in terms of how much they are experienced in the body and mind, and how emotional and controllable they are. Next, they also evaluated how similar the feelings are with respect to each other, and whereabouts in the body they are felt.
Funding: The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and the Academy of Finland.
Source: University of Turku
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to University of Turku.
Original Research: Open access research for “Maps of subjective feelings” by Lauri Nummenmaa, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen, and Enrico Glerean in PNAS. Published August 28 2018.
Maps of subjective feelings
Subjective feelings are a central feature of human life. We defined the organization and determinants of a feeling space involving 100 core feelings that ranged from cognitive and affective processes to somatic sensations and common illnesses. The feeling space was determined by a combination of basic dimension rating, similarity mapping, bodily sensation mapping, and neuroimaging meta-analysis. A total of 1,026 participants took part in online surveys where we assessed (i) for each feeling, the intensity of four hypothesized basic dimensions (mental experience, bodily sensation, emotion, and controllability), (ii) subjectively experienced similarity of the 100 feelings, and (iii) topography of bodily sensations associated with each feeling. Neural similarity between a subset of the feeling states was derived from the NeuroSynth meta-analysis database based on the data from 9,821 brain-imaging studies. All feelings were emotionally valenced and the saliency of bodily sensations correlated with the saliency of mental experiences associated with each feeling. Nonlinear dimensionality reduction revealed five feeling clusters: positive emotions, negative emotions, cognitive processes, somatic states and illnesses, and homeostatic states. Organization of the feeling space was best explained by basic dimensions of emotional valence, mental experiences, and bodily sensations. Subjectively felt similarity of feelings was associated with basic feeling dimensions and the topography of the corresponding bodily sensations. These findings reveal a map of subjective feelings that are categorical, emotional, and embodied.