Seat of Emotions, Seat of the Mind

Cultures and languages equate different parts of the human body with the seat of the mind. Following is a theoretical framework that categorizes different approaches:

“[We] use the word ‘mind’ as a shorthand term for ‘ways of knowing, thinking, and feeling’ of which different cultures, or different periods of the same culture, may have different understandings. (…) Cultural models of the mind and more scientific approaches in philosophy and/or medicine have in various cultures invoked central parts of the human body as the locus of the mind. The major loci have been the abdomen region, the heart region and the head region or, more particularly, the brain region. These three types of conceptualizations can be labeled ‘abdominocentrism’, ‘cardiocentrism’, and ‘cerebrocentrism’ (or ‘cephalocentrism’), respectively. These three labels only intend to capture the idea that the region in question is the main centre, which does not exclude a similar role for body parts in other regions.”

(Source: Sharifian, Farzad et al. (eds.) Culture, Body, and Language: Conceptualizations of Internal Body Organs across Cultures and Languages. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 2008. p. 3f.)

Equally, and related to that, the seat of emotions is located in many different, culture-specific parts of the body. Bratcher / Nida (p. 78) say: “Though the heart is spoken of in the Bible as the center of intellectual and emotive elements of human experience, in other languages the heart may have no such value. In some languages the corresponding centers are the viscera (Western Kanjobal), the liver (Laka), the stomach (Uduk), the gall (Toraja-Sa’dan) and the head (Anuak), though in the neighboring Shilluk demons may be in one’s head, but the liver and heart are the center of most other psychological activities. Whether one is to use ‘heart’ or some other part or organ of the body depends entirely upon the manner in which in any language such psychological experiences are described.”

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