Tiffany Watt Smith: The history of human emotions
Tiffany Watt Smith investigates the hidden cultural forces which shape our emotions. Full bio
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with a little experiment.
if you would close your eyes
to tell anyone or anything.
or perhaps hard you find it
10 seconds to do this.
a little bit under pressure,
of the person next to you.
have their eyes closed?
strange, distant worry
you've got planned for this evening.
that comes when we get together
which wash the world in a single color,
crowd and jostle together
to tell them apart.
you'd hardly even notice them,
that will make you reach out
in the supermarket.
that we hurry away from,
to search a loved one's pockets.
which are so peculiar,
a little tingle of a desire
French sociologist called "ilinx,"
with minor acts of chaos.
and emptied the contents of your bag
the Dutch called "gezelligheid,"
when it's cold and damp outside.
is an extremely important commodity,
to explain many things,
of being able to recognize and name
and those of other people,
is taught in our schools and businesses
is becoming impoverished.
what an emotion even is.
can be boiled down
about 2,000 years old,
have suggested that these six emotions --
disgust, anger, surprise --
in exactly the same way,
the building blocks
your heart rate quickens,
you run very, very fast.
what an emotion is.
is extremely important,
why we feel the way we do
that in the 12th century,
or boredom like we do today,
of the deepest love?
brave men -- knights --
who lived in the desert
who mainly came out at lunchtime
they called "accidie,"
that was sometimes so intense
as we know and love it today,
by the Victorians,
about leisure time and self-improvement?
untranslatable words for emotions
might feel an emotion more intensely
to name and talk about it,
in cognitive science show
that we've inherited
but by our thoughts,
has become very interested
between words and emotions.
a new word for an emotion,
that as language changes,
to see that emotions have changed,
and religious beliefs,
and economic ideologies.
starting to understand.
to learn new words for emotions,
where those words have come from,
we ought to live and behave
in the late 17th century,
living some 60 miles away from home.
and they find him dejected and feverish,
that prayers are said for him
to return this young man home
onto the stretcher,
to the gates of his hometown,
from a very powerful form of homesickness.
that it might have killed him.
in medical circles around Europe.
they were probably immune
in the empire and so on.
cropping up in Britain, too.
during the First World War in France.
that you could die from nostalgia
mean something different --
rather than a lost place --
is seen as less serious,
you could die from
your kid might be suffering from
in the early 20th century.
or the expansion of the railways?
and travel and progress
transformation in values,
feel homesickness today
influence our emotions
how we feel about how we feel.
to make us better workers
most of those things.
self-help books from that period
to be disappointed.
you could cultivate sadness as a skill,
would make you more resilient
as invariably it would.
impatient, even a little ashamed.
and you might feel a little bit smug.
don't just change across time,
speak of "awumbuk,"
when a houseguest finally leaves.
to shed a sort of heaviness
and causes this awumbuk.
a bowl of water out overnight
they wake up and have a ceremony
and geographical realities combining
is a Japanese word, "amae."
hard to translate.
the pleasure that you get
hand over responsibility for your life
might have been named and celebrated
traditionally collectivist culture,
amongst English speakers,
self-sufficiency and individualism.
tell us not just about what we feel,
to pay attention to our well-being
of naming our emotions.
values and expectations,
about who we think we are.
for emotions will help attune us
aspects of our inner lives.
words are worth caring about,
how powerful the connection is
requires that we understand
the cultural forces
to believe about our emotions
or hatred or love or anger
tell us how important they are,
truly speak to us now.
that you feel in an unfamiliar place.
of being a historian
I've completely taken for granted,
just a little glimpse of it right now.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERTiffany Watt Smith - Cultural historian
Tiffany Watt Smith investigates the hidden cultural forces which shape our emotions.
Why you should listen
Tiffany Watt Smith is the author of The Book of Human Emotions, which tells the stories of 154 feelings from around the world. It has been published in 9 countries so far. She is currently a Wellcome Trust research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, and she was educated at the Universities of Cambridge and London. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, the BBC News Magazine and The New Scientist. In 2014, she was named a BBC New Generation Thinker. In her previous career, she was a theatre director.
Tiffany Watt Smith | Speaker | TED.com