How do people feel?

At first, the ques­tion seemed flaky,” said Orlagh O’Brien. But for the quiet, with­drawn graphic designer, it was an earnest search for con­nec­tion. She won­dered whether others also felt emo­tions as phys­ical sen­sa­tions — anger as a tight­ness in the gut, hap­pi­ness as a warm tingle. “We think we’re trapped with a whole world of indi­vid­u­ality inside of our­selves, and I had this sense that we have more in common than we realize.”

So O’Brien led a survey of about 250 people over the course of three months. After asking respon­dents to describe five emo­tions in draw­ings, colors and words, she cre­ated Emo­tion­ally Vague, an online data visu­al­iza­tion of the results. Sure enough, dis­tinct pat­terns emerged. One ques­tion, for example, asked respon­dents to draw lines on a human sil­hou­ette to illus­trate each emo­tion. The more plea­sur­able the emo­tion, the more the lines radi­ated out­ward; the more painful the emo­tion, the more they con­tracted inward.

Read the article at Ozy →