Emotional Words Such as “Love” Mean Different Things in Different Languages

To explore the question of common emotions, Joshua Jackson, Kristen Lindquist, and their colleagues teamed up with researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, in one of the largest studies of cross-cultural emotional expression to date. Their work, which was published today in Science, drew on vocabulary from 2,474 languages. It revealed a great deal of variability in the way emotions are verbally expressed—as well as some underlying commonalities. “Psychologists have been debating whether emotions are universal or variable across cultures for a long time,” Jackson says. “I think what this paper shows is that both sides have some merit.”

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