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The History of Human Emotions


Tiffany Watt Smith




The words we use to describe our emotions affect how we feel, says historian Tiffany Watt Smith, and they've often changed (sometimes very dramatically) in response to new cultural expectations and ideas. Take nostalgia, for instance: first defined in 1688 as an illness and considered deadly, today it's seen as a much less serious affliction. In this fascinating talk about the history of emotions, learn more about how the language we use to describe how we feel continues to evolve -- and pick up some new words used in different cultures to capture those fleeting feelings in words.


I would like to begin with a little experiment. In a moment, I'm gonna ask if you would close your eyes and see if you can work out what emotions you're feeling right now. Uh, now you're not gonna tell anyone or anything. Uh, the idea is to see how easy or. Hard you find it

to pinpoint exactly what you're feeling.

And I, um, I thought I'd give you 10 seconds to do this. Okay. Right. Let's start. Okay. That's it. Time's up. How did it. You were probably feeling a little bit under pressure, maybe suspicious of the person next to you. Did they definitely have their eyes closed? Uh, perhaps you felt some strange distant worry about that email you sent this morning or excitement about something you've got planned for this evening.

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