As promised, some highlights from my Study Tour!
My Affective Neuroscience class took a 5-day trip to Paris, where we dived into the relationship between emotion and the senses. We not only looked at great works from famous landmarks such as the Musée de la Musique, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Pasteur museum, but we also experienced first-hand the consequences of depriving ourselves of certain senses. How does not being able to see affect our emotions in aesthetic contexts? Do other senses compensate? How does this affect social emotion and our ability to connect with our peers? We tackled these questions by attempting to discern sculptures while blindfolded, eating dinner in complete darkness, and floating in sensory deprivation tanks.
In addition to gaining valuable perceptions about my own emotions, being in a fairly unfamiliar setting allowed me to draw comparisons between Paris and the United States. I observed anxiety in the eyes of metro riders and flustered tourists (such as myself), joy in the smiles of couples sitting along the Seine River, and pride in the rigid posture of tour guides and presenters.
From this Study Tour, I learned how emotion is dependent on the interaction between our fluctuating internal state and the ever-changing external environment. In addition, our emotional states are adaptive and protective, allowing us to both adjust to novel situations (like eat in the dark) and act in appropriate and beneficial ways (like become “sedated” in the deprivation tank rather than freak out).
This Study Tour also gave me the chance to revisit Paris as an adult, rather than a reluctant 12-year-old. I found myself actually reading the plaques next to paintings, and I didn’t cower quite as much when a waiter asked for my order in French (thank you to my classmates who helped translate during this trip). Speaking of which, I now feel confident in calling my classmates a true, Affective Neuroscience crew.