Where is emotional feeling felt in the body? An integrative review

Author: Steven Davey1, Jamin Halberstadt2, Elliot Bell3
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. <sup>2</sup> Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. <sup>3</sup> Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand.
Conference/Journal: PLoS One
Date published: 2021 Dec 22
Other: Volume ID: 16 , Issue ID: 12 , Pages: e0261685 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261685. , Word Count: 253

Contemporary research on "embodied emotion" emphasizes the role of the body in emotional feeling. The evidence base on interoception, arguably the most prominent strand of embodied emotion research, places emphasis on the cardiac, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. In turn, interoception has evidence-based links with improved emotion regulation. Despite the focus on separate bodily systems, it is unclear whether particular interoceptive locations play a greater role in emotional feeling and emotion regulation. Further, according to Gross' "process model", the sooner that regulation of an emotion occurs, the better; hence, it is additionally important to identify the first body areas to activate. These issues are investigated in a two-stage integrative review. The first stage was preliminary, giving an overview of the evidence base to highlight the distribution of measured body areas. This indicated that 86% of publications (n = 88) measured cardiac activity, 26% measured the respiratory system, and six percent the gastrointestinal system. Given the emphasis placed on all three systems in interoception theory and research on emotion, this suggests a dearth of comprehensive findings pertaining to feeling locations. The second stage investigated the core issues of where emotional feelings are felt in the body and time-related implications for regulation. This was based on ten texts, which together suggested that the head, throat and chest are the most consistently detected locations across and within numerous emotional contexts. Caution is required, however, since-among other reasons discussed-measurement was not time-restricted in these latter publications, and direct physiological measurement was found in only a minority of cases.

PMID: 34936672 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261685