1. Study maps monogamy, jealousy in the monkey mind

    October 19, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Davis press release:

    It’s perhaps one of the most common emotions to feel in a relationship, but one that’s virtually untouched when it comes to studying relationships in monogamous primate species. What scientists have recently discovered about jealousy in pair-bonded titi monkeys at the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC) offers insight into human emotions and their consequences.

    Coppery titi monkeys are among the world’s three-to-five percent of animals that form lifelong, monogamous pair bonds. Much like humans, the titi monkeys form an attachment with their partner, exhibit mate-guarding behavior and become distressed when they are separated from each other.

    “They have behavior and emotions that we recognize as close to how we feel,” said Dr. Karen Bales, the CNPRC Core Scientist who conducted the study, along with Dr. Nicole Maninger, a post-doctoral associate at the CNPRC. “The idea behind all of this is we have to first understand the way that the neurobiology of social bonding works normally before we can understand what happens in situations where social bonding, social behavior or social communication is impaired. For instance, in disorders like autism or schizophrenia.”

    Bales and her colleagues simulated a “jealousy condition,” in male monkeys by separating them from their pair-bonded female partners. The females were placed with a stranger male monkey in full view of their partner while the researchers filmed the behavior of the male partner for 30 minutes. The control condition consisted of the male subject viewing a stranger male and a stranger female next to each other.

    When a titi monkey is feeling jealous it typically arches its back, lashing its tail back and forth and is generally more emotionally aroused, explains Bales. Male titi monkeys have also been known to physically hold their partner back from interacting with another male. While female titi monkeys exhibit jealous behaviors much like their male counterparts, they do so in a less intense manner making male titi monkeys ideal for the study, Bales said. While the monkeys involved in the CNPRC jealousy study did not exhibit many of these behaviors, possibly due to the strange surroundings, there were endocrine signs of social stress.

    The monkeys exhibited hormonal changes, specifically a rise in testosterone and cortisol levels. The rise of cortisol is an indication of social stress and in this study, it correlated directly with the amount of time that the male monkeys watched their partners with the stranger male. The rise of testosterone is associated with mating-related aggression and completion, Bales said.

    Brain scans performed on the monkeys revealed heightened activity in the cingulate cortex, an area of the brain that is associated with social exclusion in humans. The researchers also noticed heightened activity in the lateral septum, an area of the brain that has been associated with aggressive behavior. The jealousy exhibited by the male monkeys, however, is not necessarily entirely negative.

    “Trying to keep your mate away from your opponent is evolutionary geared toward preserving the relationship,” Dr. Bales said.

    The results of the study give important clues that we can use to approach health and welfare problems such as addiction, autism and domestic violence, Bales said. The full jealousy study is available online in the open-access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.


  2. Study suggests exercise can help with depression prevention

    October 13, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of New South Wales press release:

    A landmark study led by the Black Dog Institute has revealed that regular exercise of any intensity can prevent future depression — and just one hour can help.

    Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the results show even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.

    In the largest and most extensive study of its kind, the analysis involved 33,908 Norwegian adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.

    The international research team found that 12 percent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

    “We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from Black Dog Institute and UNSW.

    “These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise — from one hour per week — can deliver significant protection against depression.

    “We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity.

    “These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.”

    The findings follow the Black Dog Institute’s recent Exercise Your Mood campaign, which ran throughout September and encouraged Australians to improve their physical and mental wellbeing through exercise.

    Researchers used data from the Health Study of Nord-Trøndelag County (HUNT study) — one of the largest and most comprehensive population-based health surveys ever undertaken — which was conducted between January 1984 and June 1997.

    A healthy cohort of participants was asked at baseline to report the frequency of exercise they participated in and at what intensity: without becoming breathless or sweating, becoming breathless and sweating, or exhausting themselves. At follow-up stage, they completed a self-report questionnaire (the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) to indicate any emerging anxiety or depression.

    The research team also accounted for variables which might impact the association between exercise and common mental illness. These include socio-economic and demographic factors, substance use, body mass index, new onset physical illness and perceived social support.

    Results showed that people who reported doing no exercise at all at baseline had a 44% increased chance of developing depression compared to those who were exercising one to two hours a week.

    However, these benefits did not carry through to protecting against anxiety, with no association identified between level and intensity of exercise and the chances of developing the disorder.

    According to the Australian Health Survey, 20 percent of Australian adults do not undertake any regular physical activity, and more than a third spend less than 1.5 hours per week being physically active. At the same time, around 1 million Australians have depression, with one in five Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness in any year.

    “Most of the mental health benefits of exercise are realised within the first hour undertaken each week,” said Associate Professor Harvey.

    “With sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results are particularly pertinent as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits.”


  3. Appetizing imagery puts visual perception on fast forward

    October 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Association for Psychological Science press release:

    People rated images containing positive content as fading more smoothly compared with neutral and negative images, even when they faded at the same rate, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

    “Our research shows that emotionally-charged stimuli, specifically positive and negative images, may influence the speed, or the temporal resolution, of visual perception,” says psychological scientist Kevin H. Roberts of the University of British Columbia.

    The idea that things in our environment, or even our own emotional states, can affect how we experience time is a common one. We say that time “drags” when we’re bored and it “flies” when we’re having fun. But how might this happen? Roberts and colleagues hypothesized that the emotional content of stimuli or experiences could impact the speed of our internal pacemaker.

    Specifically, they hypothesized that our motivation to approach positive stimuli or experiences would make us less sensitive to temporal details. Change in these stimuli or experiences would, therefore, seem relatively smooth, similar to what happens when you press ‘fast forward’ on a video. Our desire to avoid negative stimuli or experiences, on the other hand, would enhance our sensitivity to temporal details and would make changes seem more discrete and choppy, similar to a slow-motion video.

    To test this hypothesis, Roberts and colleagues used an approach common in psychophysics experiments — estimating relative magnitudes — to gauge how people’s moment-to-moment experiences vary when they view different types of stimuli.

    In one experiment, 23 participants looked at a total of 225 image pairs. In each pair, they first saw a standard stimulus that faded to black over 2 seconds and then saw a target stimulus that also faded to black over 2 seconds. The frame rate of the target stimulus varied, displaying at 16, 24, or 48 frames per second.

    Participants were generally sensitive to the differences in frame rate, as the researchers expected. Participants rated the smoothness of the target image relative to the standard image using a 21-point scale: The higher the frame rate of the target image, the smoother they rated it relative to the standard image.

    The emotional content of the images also made a difference in perceptions of smoothness. Regardless of the frame rate, participants rated negative images — which depicted things we generally want to avoid, including imagery related to confrontation and death — as the least smooth. They rated positive stimuli — depicting appetizing desserts — as the smoothest, overall.

    Most importantly, the researchers found that people perceived images that faded at the same rate differently depending on their content. Positive target images that faded at 16 fps seemed smoother than neutral target images that faded at the same rate. Positive images that faded at 24 fps seemed smoother than both negative and neutral images with the same frame rate. And positive images that faded at 48 fps seemed smoother than negative images at the same rate.

    Further analyses suggest that this effect occurred primarily because positive images elicited higher approach motivation.

    Because the words “smooth” and “choppy” could themselves come with positive or negative connotations, the researchers replaced them with “continuous” and “discrete” in a second experiment. Once again, they found that the emotional content of the images swayed how participants perceived the frame rate of the fade.

    Brain-activity data gathered in a third experiment indicated that the blurring of perceptual experience associated with positive images was accompanied by changes in high-level visual processing.

    “Even when we made adjustments to the instructions and the task structure, the overall effect remained — people subjectively reported seeing less fine-grained temporal changes in positive images, and they reported seeing more fine-grained temporal changes in negative images,” says Roberts.

    Together, these findings suggest that the emotional content of the images affected how participants experienced what they were seeing.

    “What remains to be seen is whether emotional stimuli impact objective measures of temporal processing,” says Roberts. “In other words, do individuals actually perceive less temporal information when they view positive images, or do they just believe they perceive less?”


  4. Anxious moms may give clues about how anxiety develops

    October 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Moms may be notorious worriers, but babies of anxious mothers may also spend more time focusing on threats in their environment, according to a team of researchers.

    In a study, researchers used eye-tracking technology to measure how long babies spent looking at happy, neutral and angry faces. They found that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time looking away from an angry face — which they could view as a threat — than babies whose moms were not anxious.

    Koraly Pérez-Edgar, professor of psychology at Penn State, said the findings — recently published in the journal Emotion — could help give clues about which children are at risk for developing anxiety later in life.

    “Once we learn more about the pathways to anxiety, we can better predict who’s at risk and hopefully help prevent them from needing treatment later on,” Pérez-Edgar said. “Treatment is difficult for the child and parent, it’s expensive and it doesn’t always work. If we can prevent anxiety from developing, that’s a whole lot better. Let’s find out which kids are at the highest risk and intervene.”

    Previous research has found that focusing too much on threat could potentially increase anxiety, and some forms of therapy focus on turning attention away from threat as a way to lower anxiety.

    “Paying too much attention to threat, even as infants, could possibly set up this cycle. The more you fixate on threat, the more opportunity you have to see the world as a threatening place, which could help lead to more anxiety,” Pérez-Edgar said. “Additionally, we think that risk factors in biology and potentially mom’s anxiety could also make that more likely.”

    To examine the relationship between a mother’s anxiety and her baby’s attention to threat, a research team led by Pérez-Edgar; Kristin Buss, professor of psychology at Penn State; and Vanessa Lobue, assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University, recruited 98 babies between the ages of 4 and 24 months.

    The babies’ mothers answered questions about their anxiety levels, and the babies were placed in front of a screen that was equipped with an eye tracker — a strip that ran along the bottom of the monitor and followed the movement of the babies’ irises using infrared.

    As each baby focused on the screen, their gaze was measured while happy, neutral and angry faces appeared one at a time. Once the baby was focused on a face, a second image was flashed in their peripheral vision to distract them.

    “By the time you’re a few months old, a reflex develops where you’ll automatically turn and look if something pops up in your peripheral vision,” Pérez-Edgar said. “This became a conflict for the babies, because they were focused on the face but then had this reflex to turn and look.”

    The researchers found that the more anxious a baby’s mother was, the more time her baby spent looking at the angry faces before turning to look at the image in their peripheral vision. This suggests that the babies with anxious moms had a harder time disengaging from a potential threat in their environment.

    Additionally, the researchers found that the age of the baby did not matter. The babies with anxious moms spent a longer time looking at the angry face whether they were four or 24 months old, suggesting a potential genetic element.

    “It doesn’t seem like the babies are learning to pay more attention to threat from their anxious moms. If that were true, the older babies might have more trouble turning away because they’ve been around their moms longer than the younger babies,” Pérez-Edgar said. “This seems to suggest that there may be a shared genetic or biological component.”

    Pérez-Edgar said the results give powerful clues about where to keep looking to learn more about how anxiety develops in children. In a future study, Pérez-Edgar, Buss and Lobue will take a closer look at how mother’s anxiety affects babies over time, instead of at one instance.


  5. Study looks at psychological impacts of natural disasters on youth

    October 4, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Miami press release:

    Children’s mental state plays an important factor in their developmental growth. After recent storms devastated parts of the U.S. — Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — all contributing to massive evacuations of children and families, which children need more attention or support services in the aftermath of these storms and the related stressors that come with surviving and witnessing the destructive power of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane?

    Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Miami, Annette M. La Greca, is fully aware of children’s reaction to trauma. Her research focuses on the impact of disasters on youth since Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992.

    La Greca, in collaboration with her UM graduate student, BreAnne Danzi, has been evaluating how best to define post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. This line of research will help to quickly identify the children who need support services post-disaster. La Greca’s research has also identified key aspects of the post-disaster environment that facilitate children’s recovery.

    “The good news is that most children are resilient, even after a very devastating storm,” said La Greca. However, children have different ways of expressing distress than adults.

    In a paper entitled, “Optimizing clinical thresholds for PTSD: Extending the DSM-5 preschool criteria to school-age children,” recently published in the International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, La Greca and Danzi examined how well the “preschool” definition of PTSD identifies school-aged children with significant distress after a major hurricane.

    According to the study, 327 children (ages 7-11) from six elementary schools in Galveston, Texas, which were directly in the path of Hurricane Ike, a Category 2 storm that made landfall in September 2008, participated. They found that the preschool definition of PTSD identifies more distressed children than the typical “adult-based” definition. Thus, the preschool definition may be useful when screening elementary school-age children (ages 7-11) for PTSD-risk.

    Additional research by La Greca and colleagues also found that two-thirds of children who are initially distressed after a disaster recover naturally over the course of the school year. Children who recover report having more social support from friends and family, fewer life stressors in the disaster’s aftermath and more positive coping skills than those who remain chronically distressed.

    “We now know from research that some children who endured a stressful evacuation or experienced scary or life-threatening events during the storm are at risk for a poor recovery over time,” she said. “Children who need extra support include those who report feeling anxious or depressed, as well as stressed, and who lack social support from friends and family. They also have multiple stressors to deal with after the storm. All of those factors contribute to poor recovery and less resilience.”

    Based on these findings, La Greca and colleagues developed a workbook, After the Storm, for parents to help their children cope after a hurricane (available for a free download at http://www.7-dippity.com/other/op_storm.html

    ). The guide has been widely used after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.The workbook addresses ways to help most children recover, such as having a normal routine, staying connected to friends and family, eating healthy, exercising, resuming leisure activities, proper sleep and avoiding media or online coverage of aftermath damage and distress. La Greca added that helping others in need and identifying things to be grateful for can also help to maintain a positive perspective.

    “There is no doubt that hurricanes and other extreme weather events can be stressful for children and for adults,” said La Greca. “But as with many stressful experiences, a little extra support can go a long way.”


  6. Study suggests that being in a good mood for your flu jab may boost its effectiveness

    October 3, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Nottingham press release:

    New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

    Flu vaccination is estimated to only be effective in 17-53% of older adults compared to 70-90% of younger people. With the onset of winter and so-called ‘flu season’, the research is likely to be of interest to everyone having their autumn flu jab.

    This new Nottingham-based study is the first to examine several psychological and behavioural factors that have been shown to affect how well vaccinations work. The researchers set out to understand which factor, or combination of factors has the greatest impact on the ability of vaccinations to protect against disease.

    The team measured negative mood, positive mood, physical activity, diet and sleep three times a week over a 6 week period in a group of 138 older people due to have their flu jab. Then they examined how well the jab was working by measuring the amount of influenza antibody in the blood at 4 weeks and 16 weeks after the vaccination.

    The results showed that of all of the factors measured, only positive mood over the 6 week observational period predicted how well the jab worked – with good mood associated with higher levels of antibody. In fact, when the researchers looked at influences on the day of vaccination itself, they found an even greater effect on how well it worked, accounting for between 8 and 14% of the variability in antibody levels.

    Professor Kavita Vedhara, from the University’s Division of Primary Care, said: “Vaccinations are an incredibly effective way of reducing the likelihood of catching infectious diseases. But their Achilles heel is that their ability to protect against disease is affected by how well an individual’s immune system works. So people with less effective immune systems, such as the elderly, may find vaccines don’t work as well for them as they do in the young.

    “We have known for many years that a number of psychological and behavioural factors such as stress, physical activity and diet influence how well the immune system works and these factors have also been shown to influence how well vaccines protect against disease.”

    The study, published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, was unusual in that, by chance, the vaccination that participants received was identical to the one they had received in the previous year. This has happened only once before since the turn of the century. As a result, the researchers found that participants had very high levels of antibody – and therefore protection – for two out of three of the viruses present in the vaccination, even before they were vaccinated.

    This so-called ‘ceiling effect’ meant that this study was unlikely to see further large increases in antibody levels for these two viruses and therefore was unlikely to reveal an effect of psychological and behavioural factors. As a result the team focused its analyses on the one strain which was the least ‘immunogenic’ i.e. the strain with low levels of antibody prior to vaccination.

    The researchers say the approach of focusing on individual viral strains is not uncommon, but recommend that future research is best conducted in the context of a vaccination with more novel viral strains to further confirm the positive mood effect on vaccination.

    The project was funded by National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).


  7. Study suggests abusive bosses may feel good – but only for a while

    by Ashley

    From the Michigan State University press release:

    Being a jerk to your employees may actually improve your well-being, but only for a short while, suggests new research on abusive bosses co-authored by a Michigan State University business scholar.

    Bullying and belittling employees starts to take its toll on a supervisor’s mental state after about a week, according to the study, which is published in the Academy of Management Journal.

    “The moral of the story is that although abuse may be helpful and even mentally restorative for supervisors in the short-term, over the long haul it will come back to haunt them,” said Russell Johnson, MSU associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology.

    While numerous studies have documented the negative effects of abusive supervision, some bosses nevertheless still act like jerks, meaning there must be some sort of benefit or reinforcement for them, Johnson said.

    Indeed, the researchers found that supervisors who were abusive felt a sense of recovery because their boorish behavior helped replenish their mental energy and resources. Johnson said it requires mental effort to suppress abusive behavior — which can lead to mental fatigue — but supervisors who act on that impulse “save” the mental energy that would otherwise have been depleted by refraining from abuse.

    Johnson and colleagues conducted multiple field and experiments on abusive bosses in the United States and China, verifying the results were not culture-specific. They collected daily survey data over a four-week period and studied workers and supervisors in a variety of industries including manufacturing, service and education.

    The benefits of abusive supervision appeared to be short-lived, lasting a week or less. After that, abusive supervisors started to experience decreased trust, support and productivity from employees — and these are critical resources for the bosses’ recovery and engagement.

    According to the study, although workers may not immediately confront their bosses following abusive behavior, over time they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors and even quitting.

    To prevent abusive behavior, the researchers suggest supervisors take well-timed breaks, reduce their workloads and communicate more with their employees. Communicating with workers may help supervisors by releasing negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.

    Co-authors are Xin Qin from Sun Yat-sen University, Mingpeng Huang from the University of International Business and Economics, Qiongjing Hu from Peking University and Dong Ju from Communication University of China.


  8. Managing negative emotions can help pregnant smokers quit

    September 28, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University at Buffalo press release:

    A new study by scientists in the University at Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions has shown that pregnant smokers are more likely to quit if they can learn to manage negative emotions that lead to smoking.

    Smoking during pregnancy is a matter of serious concern, says Clara Bradizza, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA.

    “It’s well-documented that smoking cigarettes while pregnant leads to a range of negative health effects on fetuses, including increased risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery, and greater rates of asthma and learning disabilities,” she says.

    The research involved 70 pregnant women who wanted to quit smoking and reported smoking in response to stress, anger and anxiety. “These women use smoking as a way to manage their negative feelings,” Bradizza says. “Many experience poverty, insecure housing and unemployment, along with the stress of pregnancy, which increases negative emotions. All these factors make it more difficult to quit.”

    Half of the women took part in a smoking cessation program consisting of emotion regulation treatment (ERT) combined with standard cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), while the others received CBT and a control treatment consisting of health and lifestyle education.

    “ERT is an exposure-based therapy where counselors help participants imagine stressful situations that elicit strong urges or cravings to smoke, and then allow them to experience these feelings in session, without smoking. The women were also taught mindfulness skills and effective ways to cope with urges to smoke,” Bradizza says.

    The women who took part in the ERT program showed significantly higher rates of smoking cessation, with 23 percent remaining smoke-free two months after beginning ERT treatment, compared to none in the control group. They also reported feeling more confident they could remain abstinent from smoking. In addition, the women in the ERT program who did not quit smoking showed improvement, as they smoked less than half the number of cigarettes daily as those in the control group.

    Because smoking cessation medications such as Chantix (varenicline) are not recommended for use in pregnancy, there is a greater reliance on behavioral treatments to help pregnant smokers quit. Bradizza plans a larger trial of the ERT program to help further develop a new approach that is critically needed to help pregnant women quit.


  9. Study examines gap between feelings and content on Twitter

    September 24, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Warwick press release:

    Twitter is an unreliable witness to the world’s emotions, according to University of Warwick sociology expert Dr Eric Jensen.

    In a new paper, Dr Jensen, Associate Professor in the University of Warwick’s Department of Sociology, highlights the risks of assuming that Twitter accurately reflects real life.

    With over 300 million monthly active users around the globe sharing their thoughts in 140 characters or less, Dr Jensen acknowledges that studies based on Twitter data are “particularly alluring” to researchers and the media. However, he cautions against this “big data gold rush,” pointing out that there is no evidence that social media content shared on Twitter is a truthful reflection of how its users feel.

    Twitter users have developed their own unique cultural behaviour, conversations and identities, which shape the ways in which they present their views online. Social convention, power relationships and identity influence online conversation just as much as off-line interactions, but in ways that are not yet fully understood.

    Dr Jensen also highlights the problems of drawing broader conclusions from a sample of Twitter users. It has been proven in several studies that Twitter users are not representative of the general population. In just one example, men are much more likely to use Twitter than women. Prolific users who tweet many times a day may be over-represented in any sample dataset.

    Commenting on his findings, Dr Jensen said: “Twitter users present only one side of themselves on social media, shielding their true feelings for good reasons, such as professional reputation. There is clearly a large gap between what people post on social media and how they really feel, but how exactly people manage the relationship between their offline and social media identities is still being uncovered.

    He continued: “When researchers find themselves with easily accessible data, there is a temptation to apply those data to interesting research questions and populations — even when there are limitations in the representativeness of the sample.

    Dr Jensen added: “Enthusiasm for accessing digital data should not outpace sound research methodology.”

    The paper, Putting the methodological brakes on claims to measure national happiness through Twitter: methodological limitations in social media analytics, is published in PLOS ONE today.


  10. Scientists pinpoint 27 states of emotion

    September 20, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of California – Berkeley press release:

    The Emoji Movie, in which the protagonist can’t help but express a wide variety of emotions instead of the one assigned to him, may have gotten something right.

    A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, challenges a long-held assumption in psychology that most human emotions fall within the universal categories of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust.

    Using novel statistical models to analyze the responses of more than 800 men and women to over 2,000 emotionally evocative video clips, UC Berkeley researchers identified 27 distinct categories of emotion and created a multidimensional, interactive map to show how they’re connected.

    Their findings are published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

    “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,” said study senior author Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and expert on the science of emotions.

    Moreover, in contrast to the notion that each emotional state is an island, the study found that “there are smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration,” Keltner said.

    “We don’t get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected,” said study lead author Alan Cowen, a doctoral student in neuroscience at UC Berkeley. “Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought.”

    “Our hope is that our findings will help other scientists and engineers more precisely capture the emotional states that underlie moods, brain activity and expressive signals, leading to improved psychiatric treatments, an understanding of the brain basis of emotion and technology responsive to our emotional needs,” he added.

    For the study, a demographically diverse group of 853 men and women went online to view a random sampling of silent 5- to-10-second videos intended to evoke a broad range of emotions.

    Themes from the 2,185 video clips — collected from various online sources for the study — included births and babies, weddings and proposals, death and suffering, spiders and snakes, physical pratfalls and risky stunts, sexual acts, natural disasters, wondrous nature and awkward handshakes.

    Three separate groups of study participants watched sequences of videos, and, after viewing each clip, completed a reporting task. The first group freely reported their emotional responses to each of 30 video clips.

    “Their responses reflected a rich and nuanced array of emotional states, ranging from nostalgia to feeling ‘grossed out,'” Cowen said.

    The second group ranked each video according to how strongly it made them feel admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, contempt, craving, disappointment, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, envy, excitement, fear, guilt, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, pride, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, surprise, sympathy and triumph.

    Here, the experimenters found that participants converged on similar responses, with more than half of the viewers reporting the same category of emotion for each video.

    The final cohort rated their emotional responses on a scale of 1 to 9 to each of a dozen videos based on such dichotomies as positive versus negative, excitement versus calmness, and dominance versus submissiveness. Researchers were able to predict how participants would score the videos based on how previous participants had assessed the emotions the videos elicited.

    Overall, the results showed that study participants generally shared the same or similar emotional responses to each of the videos, providing a wealth of data that allowed researchers to identify 27 distinct categories of emotion.

    Through statistical modeling and visualization techniques, the researchers organized the emotional responses to each video into a semantic atlas of human emotions. On the map, each of the 27 distinct categories of emotion corresponds to a particular color.

    “We wanted to shed light on the full palette of emotions that color our inner world,” Cowen said.