In this post we are going to talk about emotions. This is a very complex topic, there are between 50 and 100 different emotions, perhaps even more, and they are all somehow connected but also separate in a way. Things like guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, panic, enthusiasm, envy, and so on. There is so much to learn about these concepts, how it works, and what its functions are. So, let’s jump into it.
Definition of an Emotion
There are many definitions of what an emotion actually is. Some of them are similar, but focus on different things that they deem essential. But most of them share the fact that it is some sort of feeling. It is something that you experience in a bodily sense. You feel angry, and you feel happy, etcetera. Furthermore, it is produced by chemical changes in your body. For instance, if you are walking down the street to go to school, and suddenly you see a tiger crossing your path, your brain will release adrenaline in so that you will become stressed out. This will allow you to run away very fast or fight the big bad kitty. Man, running into tigers when going to school can be such a drag.
Okay, so an emotion is about our bodies changing, and we experience this change subjectively. And often times, when this happens this influences our behavior. With the tiger example again, you are flooded with hormones so that you can react appropriately to the situation. Fight, or run away.
So, this kinda alludes to the fact of why we have emotions at all. They have many evolutionary advantages. Our ancestors who were well in touch with their emotions could receive fast and reliable information on how to deal with dangerous situations. It also drove them to find a suitable mate, and then produce offspring. Emotions help our species and many others to survive and pass on their genes.
Different Models of Emotions
So, now we now what emotions are and why we have them at all. Let’s spend a little time to go more in depth and see what kinds of emotions we have. A psychologist named Paul Ekman did some pioneering work in this field and identified 6 basic emotions. These are: scared, angry, sad, happy, excited and tender. Note that tender doesn’t mean soft and chewy, like with tender meat, but rather means something like gentle, kind or affectionate. Kinda how you would feel with a romantic partner or with a close friend.
So, these 6 emotions are the basic ones, and they are called basic because they are shared by all humans. I believe we have never found a culture that doesn’t experience at least these emotions.He made this image and it is also further subdivided into other emotions.
As we can see there are different ways in which we can experience a basic emotion. If we look at the orange slice under excited, we can see that if we are ecstatic, we are just really really excited about something. Similarly, if we are aroused, we are excited but perhaps in a more mild way. And so on, it works similarly for the other guys.
But this is just one model of how emotions work, there are many more. For example, this professor named Robert Plutchik mostly agreed with Ekman’s perspective, but thought there were actually eight primary emotions and that they can be scaled going from positive to negative. I will explain this further with the following image, which is called Plutchik’s wheel of emotions.
Let;s look at, say, boredom. That sucks when you are bored, I think most people would agree. That is one part of it, but then you have this other positive side which is acceptance. So, say you are waiting for the bus, you can either be bored or just accept it. Accepting the situation would be a less negative way to deal with the situation.
I think some of these make a lot of sense of being opposites. For example, distraction and interest. If you are studying for something, then being distracted is clearly the negative scenario, whilst having interest will make the outcome much more positive. But to be honest, for some I don’t necessarily see the relation. For example, between disgust and trust. I guess that if I took a bite out of a sandwich with mould on it, I would be disgusted. And if there was no mould I would trust the sandwich..? I guess, but it kinda feels weird to say this. Also, terror being the opposite of rage doesn’t make much sense to me. Say your partner cheated on you and you are furious, I don’t know if being terrified would be a much more positive outcome. I would imagine being madly in love with her because she didn’t cheat on you to be more applicable.
What do you think? Does it make more sense to you? Let us know in the comments. We would also love to hear if you can come up with another model, with certain basic emotions on the one hand, and ways in which they can be combined to yield other, more complex emotions.