Read about the latest research published in Psychological Science:
Ajay B. Satpute, Erik C. Nook, Sandhya Narayanan, Jocelyn Shu, Jochen Weber, and Kevin N. Ochsner
Emotions are often thought about in a categorical manner (e.g., feeling “good” or bad”). In reality, emotional expression is constantly changing, creating a variety of gradations. It is unclear whether thinking about emotions in a categorical manner affects emotion perception. Participants were placed in an MRI scanner while they judged photographs of facial expressions (Study 1) or judged their own emotional responses to graphic images (Study 2). In both studies, participants were instructed to either rate the images categorically (“calm” or “fearful” in Study 1, and “good,” “bad,” or “neutral” in Study 2) or to rate them along a continuum of emotions. Rating emotions on a continuum shifted subjective emotion thresholds, and these shifts corresponded to changes in activity in brain areas associated with affective responding. These findings indicate that the way we think about emotions shapes neural representations of emotion and our perceptions of them.
Matthew Q. Hill, Stephan Streuber, Carina A. Hahn, Michael J. Black, and Alice O’Toole
Descriptions of a woman as “athletic” or a man as “portly” bring to mind vivid mental images of those body types. The researchers explored the relationship between body shapes and the words we use to describe them by having participants view an image of a person standing and midstride and asking them to rate the extent to which each of 27 descriptor words applied to the image. The authors created 3-D models of bodies based on the descriptor words chosen by the participants. These models were then compared to the original image of the person. The original images of the bodies and the 3-D generated models based on the descriptor words matched closely. These findings suggest that language provides a concise code that captures salient body features.