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The Atlas of Emotions

The Atlas of Emotions

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, August 30, 2018/Categories: sustainability, art and design

Self-reported body maps showing areas where subjects felt sensations increased (warm colors) or decreased (cool colors) for a given emotion. (credit: Finnish research, 2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Our Journal typically addreses environmental, conservation, and related matters but sometimes an important development isn't so easily catagoried. Such is the new initiative, the Atlas of Emotions, pioneered by a "simple Buddhist monk", the Dalai Lama. The famous teacher has maintained a life-long interest in science and technology especially relating to the brain. Almost single-handedly he helped develop an academic discipline now known as "happiness studies" after speaking with a group of western university psychologists. His Holiness asked the researchers why they studied only the basis of mental illness and depression while not investigating makes people to lead happy lifes as well.

The Dalai Lama began his new project in collaboration with Paul Ekman, a psychologist who pioneered research that showed the universality of facial emotions by mapping the muscle groups involved in an expression. Ekman's daughter Eve, a post-doctural researcher at University of California's Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, was enlisted as well. Her research focused on reducing stress to sustain empathy and meaning in work. Their combined visualization efforts became applied to both law enforcement matters by training people to identify deception in suspects as well as developing the new atlas. The Dalai Lama said he wanted a map of the emotions, hoping that such a tool would enable people to have more constructive and compassionate emotional experiences, saying: 

"when we want to get to a new world, we needed a map to get there. If we want to get to a calm state of mind we need a map of the emotion."

The new Atlas is based on the scientific consensus on what emotions are and explores the underpinning of eastern and western approaches to managing them. Ekman, who was enlisted to help define the visualized emotions expressed in the award-winning animated film Inside Out, offers a perspective here:

How this new atlas will be used effectively requires good trials by individuals in specific situations. However, finding a new world always requires a map to get started.


           His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Happy Lady in Phoenix, Arizona  (credit: SWP Media)



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