This is an absolutely fascinating map (from Neatorama by way of Metafilter) of the more than 2,000 "vocal bursts" clustered around 24 distinct nodes of meaning that we humans use to communicate without words! By tasking 56 people (some professional actors, some non-actors) to create different emotional scenarios via sound, then asking more than 1,000 people through Mechanical Turk to listen to and react to the recordings, this interactive map was made.
Via Discover Magazine, who helped share the research:
Along with the paper, published in the journal American Psychologist, Cowen and team have also made an interactive map of the vocalizations publicly available. Each point of the map you move your mouse over lets you hear that particular vocal burst. So, if you quickly wiggle your cursor around, say, the elation and triumph branch, you’ve got your own little cheer squad. Or if you zip back and forth in the amusement branch, you’ve basically got a laugh track. It’s perhaps a little too
Aside from being amusing, the map has practical applications, too. The team says it could be useful in helping robotic devices better pin down human emotions. It could also be handy in clinical settings, helping patients who struggle with emotional processing.
“It lays out the different vocal emotions that someone with a disorder might have difficulty understanding,” Cowen said in the press release. “For example, you might want to sample the sounds to see if the patient is recognizing nuanced differences between, say, awe and
Aside from underscoring how the vast majority of communication truly is non-verbal, it's fun to play around with and hear the various sounds simply browsing around can create!