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Core Emotions

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There are a variety of models of emotional experience that identify different core, or basic emotions. I will give a broad overview of the model that most closely matches my basic approach to how we build our emotional experience: Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Plutchik went far beyond this overview by asserting postulates that govern our emotional experiences. I do not cover these, nor will I delve into the definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary.

Plutchik went far beyond this overview by asserting postulates that relate to emotions across time and species (psycho-evolutionary). I do not cover these, nor will I delve into the definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary dyad emotions. Please contact me if you would like more information on those pieces.

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions

Robert Plutchik’s model lists 8 basic/core emotions that are grouped into 4 direct-opposite pairs:

  • Joy and Sadness
  • Trust and Disgust
  • Fear and Anger
  • Surprise and Anticipation

Each of these emotions also has varying degrees of intensities (Mild Joy would be Serenity; Intense Joy would be Ecstasy). I’ll delve into those shades using the actual Emotion Wheel below.

Each of the basic/core emotions can be paired with one of the others to create a dyad (see the post on Compound Emotions). I won’t get into the details of primary, secondary and tertiary dyads, but this is part of his model. When you pair Joy with Trust, we get Love. Pair Joy and Fear and we get Guilt. and so forth. There are 24 of these dyads**.

**Note: Pairing direct opposites, like Joy and Sadness, Trust and Disgust, etc. is not directly covered in the literature that I looked through, but I believe that this is relevant. The resulting emotional experiences, in my opinion, would be varying degrees of confusion and ambivalence.

Plutchik’s emotion-wheel

Plutchik's emotion wheel

In the inner-most circle of the emotion wheel, you see the “intense” version of the basic/core emotions. The circle outside of the basic emotions you see the “milder” version of the basic emotion. The darker the color, the more intense, and vise versa.

In my next post I will cover the Dyad Emotions, and a basic idea of compound emotions. Stay tuned!

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