Applying bodily sensation maps to art-elicited emotions: An explorative study

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Art is known to give rise to a large range of emotions in people. These emotions are associated with bodily sensations felt in various regions of the body and subjective feelings. The current study applies bodily sensation maps (BSMs; Nummenmaa et al., 2014) as a tool to measure art-elicited emotions by charting bodily sensations onto a body map. Through a web survey, 90 participants viewed 36 new media visual artworks. After each artwork, they were asked (a) to point out the regions of their body in which they felt activity getting stronger or weaker; (b) to select, if appropriate, up to two primary emotion words being anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness or surprise; and (c) to rate the intensity of the subjective feeling on a continuous scale. By allowing two primary emotion words for each artwork, participants could report more complex emotions. Among complex emotions, bittersweetness, delight, despair, and repugnance occurred the most, and delight stands as the most frequently used. Results show that BSMs are a resourceful method to investigate simple and complex emotions elicited by art in terms of bodily sensations and subjective feelings. Interestingly, we found that art-elicited emotions were always characterized by increased activity in the head area. This study provides novel insights into the nature of art-elicited emotions and how they are experienced in the body, as well as how they are related to emotions in everyday life.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28-Oct-2021

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