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The History of Human Emotions

Tiffany Watt Smith | 14:22


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.

Maybe you felt that exhilaration that comes when we get together in big groups of people like this, the Welsh call it, well from the word for boat sales, or maybe you felt all of these. There are some emotions which wash the world in a single color, like the terror felt as a car skids. But more often our emotions crowd and jostle together until it is actually quite hard to tell them apart.

Some slide past so quickly you'd hardly even notice them. Like the nostalgia that will make you reach out to grab a familiar brand in the supermarket. And then there are others that we hurry away from fearing that they'll burst. Like the jealousy that causes you to search a loved one's pockets. And of course there are some emotions which are so peculiar, you might not even know what to call them.

Perhaps. Sitting there, you had a little tingle of a desire for an emotion. One eminent French sociologist called ix, the delirium that comes with minor acts of chaos. So for example, if you stood up right now and emptied the contents of your bag all over the floor, . Perhaps you experienced one of those odd untranslatable emotions for which there's no obvious English equivalent.

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