Atlas of Emotions

Explore the “continents” and “states” of universal feelings with this new geography-inspired interactive.

Two years ago, the famed psychologist and emotions expert Paul Ekman sent a survey to nearly 250 researchers active in his discipline. The idea was to see what the fast-growing field actually agreed upon in interpreting the scientific evidence on the nature of emotion. The survey showed that at least one notion is solid: Universal emotions exist. Eighty-eight percent of the scientists who responded agreed that, no matter who you are, or where you were raised, you are bound to share certain feelings with the rest of mankind.

That finding, along with the five emotions that scientists rated as the most universal—anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment—are the basis of the Atlas of Emotions, a new interactive tool that Ekman developed with his daughter Eke Ekman, also an emotions researcher, and the San Francisco data-visualization firm Stamen Design.

(Atlas of Emotions)

The Atlas renders each of those five emotions into a series of abstract landscapes, which the reader can use to gain greater insight into the relationships between feelings, triggers, and their own behaviors. As Stamen puts it in a statement:

Each “continent” of the 5 primary emotions contains “states” that are mapped like mountain ranges, with peaks along a scale of intensity. From these states follow likely actions, which can be constructive or destructive.

The site’s graphics show colorful emotional continents expanding and contracting in a white sea. Knowledge of their cartography can enable an emotional navigator to avoid rocky shoals and reach a state of calm.

Sound enlightening? That’s because the project was actually initiated by the Dalai Lama, who asked Paul Ekman to carry out the project. “In order to get to a state of calm, we need a map of the emotions,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement about the project. Enjoy the atlas, and remember: Wherever you go, there you are.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  2. black children walking by a falling-down building
    Equity

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.

  3. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  4. People standing in line with empty water jugs.
    Environment

    Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ Water Crisis, One Year Later

    In spring 2018, news of the water crisis in South Africa ricocheted around the world—then the story disappeared. So what happened?

  5. The Afrofuturist design in Wakanda.
    Life

    The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City

    The designer behind Black Panther’s beloved city spent 10 months and 500 pages envisioning a futuristic urban space that puts people before technology.

×