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By Morgan Kelly for Princeton University News

So accustomed are we to metaphors related to taste that when we hear a kind smile described as “sweet,” or a resentful comment as “bitter,” we most likely don’t even think of those words as metaphors. But while it may seem to our ears that “sweet” by any other name means the same thing, new research shows that taste-related words actually engage the emotional centers of the brain more than literal words with the same meaning.

Researchers from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin report in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience the first study to experimentally show that the brain processes these everyday metaphors differently than literal language. In the study, participants read 37 sentences that included common metaphors based on taste while the researchers recorded their brain activity. Each taste-related word was then swapped with a literal counterpart so that, for instance, “She looked at him sweetly” became “She looked at him kindly.”

metaphor_illustration

Researchers from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin found that taste-related metaphors such as “sweet” actually engage the emotional centers of the brain more than literal words such as “kind” that have the same meaning. If metaphors in general elicit a similar emotional response, that could mean that figurative language presents a “rhetorical advantage” when communicating with others. (Photo illustration by Matilda Luk, Office of Communications)

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By  for the Buffer Blog

3810233454_10cbc36346Every day it seems like we feel hundreds of different emotions – each nuanced and specific to the physical and social situations we find ourselves in.

According to science, it’s not that complicated by a long shot. A new study says we’re really only capable of four “basic” emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

But much like the “mother sauces” of cooking allow you to make pretty much any kind of food under the sun, these four “mother emotions” meld together in myriad ways in our brains to create our layered emotional stews.

Robert Plutchik’s famous “wheel of emotions” shows just some of the well known emotional layers.

In this post we’ll take a close look at each of the four emotions, how they form in the brain and the way they can motivate us to surprising actions. Read More

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a website about neuroscience and art that peaked in 2009 but is still going