Does everyone feel more or less the same emotions all their lives? Yes. Does everyone react to these emotions in the exact same way? No, not exactly. People experience emotions in a way that varies from others. Most of the time, it also depends on the situation. Research at Northeastern University has taken a leap in this field.
Psychologists have, till now, believed that any emotion has its own unique physiological fingerprint. Your blood pressure, for instance, would increase when you are experiencing anger. Your increased heart rate would be an indicator of when you are afraid. According to the new research by Lisa Feldman Barrett, this is not true. There’s no research backing it up. Erika Siegel, a former Northeastern student, was on board on this research too, along with Karen Quigley. She is also a professor at the University.
A meta-analysis of more than 200 studies took place to measure the emotions. This analysis also studied and the associated body changes in the subjects. The count went up to a whopping 8400 people. The results showed variation in the physical response during experiencing the emotions. Paul Condon, Yale Chang, Molly Sands, as well as Jennifer Dy, were co-authors of the study.
“We show across hundreds of studies that this common-sense belief—that each emotion has its own bodily fingerprint—is just false,” Barrett said. She has already worked a lot in this field, but with facial expressions. She concluded that “Variation, again, is the norm.”
Now that the cat is out of the bag, it can make lives of technology companies a tad difficult. Especially those companies that build emotion-reading apps. These companies are quick to assume that there exists a usual pattern of physiological measures. According to Quigley, they think they can tell you how a person feels. Quigley said, “This work shows that it is just not that simple.”
Barrett explains how this research would be best for the companies who develop AI platforms to read emotions. Neil Harrison was very interested in this study. He is already studying the body changes and its relation with the brain to regulate emotions. He talked about how this research has solved a lot of mysteries. It also did answer the question that stumped the scientists “dating back at least to the time of Darwin”.
Harrison agrees that this impressive study by Barrett and colleagues. What’s more, it represents the most successful attempt yet to address the age-old question. “The findings suggest that rather than adopting a classical approach, there is a more fundamental need to reappraise the whole concept of emotion-specific patterning of automatic nervous system responses.”