What Emotion Scientists Agree On- A Blue Print for the Emotion Atlas

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 1.18.44 PMThis article just published in the Journal Perspectives in Psychological Science, covers the results of a survey of established emotion researchers which I helped my Dad administer in 2014. The survey is the scientific basis for the Atlas of Emotion,  a project funded by the Dalia Lama to help individuals develop their emotional awareness. My Dad and I have been working in collaboration with the cartographic mapping design company Stamen Design for almost two years. Our desire to help people navigate and understand their emotions requires that we create visual representations, maps, of how emotions feel, how they relate to each other and how they unfold over time.

VERY little of this is actually known with clear evidence in the field of Psychology.  We have developed the designs for the emotion atlas with our best hypothesis about how emotions work and how this will help people. Within the field of emotion science there is a great deal of debate about which emotions are universal in their expression, felt experience and their trigger and this article captures what the majority of scientists agree on – which emotions have been definitively established Anger, Disgust, Enjoyment, Fear and Sadness were all agreed on at a level of over 50%, whereas guilt, shame, contempt, love, awe and others did not receive over 50% of agreement among scientists. Other scientists believe that emotions do not have discrete categories and are all part and parcel of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ arousal. In this map we use the term ‘constructive’ and ‘destructive’ instead of positive and negative- to express that ANY emotion can be expressed in a contstructive, adaptive and functional way, or destructively causing harm. In this approach no emotion is intrinsically bad or good – they are responses to important events in the world which can be enacted in a constructive or destructive manner. Stay tuned for more updates on the Atlas of Emotions which will launch in March or April.

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