How Many Human Emotions are There?

According to Robert Plutchik, a psychologist and professor emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of medicine, all human emotions can be broken down into eight basic emotions:

o   Happiness

o   Sadness

o   Anger

o   Fear

o   Trust

o   Anticipation

o   Surprise and

o   Disgust

Plutchik believed that these eight primary human emotions overlap and blend into each other, combining into the secondary and complementary emotions. For instance, joy and trust can combine to create love. The psychologist illustrated his model with the famous “wheel of emotions”.

However, many researchers questioned Plutchnik’s wheel of emotions arguing that, for emotions to be considered basic, they need to be universally experienced across all cultures. During the 1970s, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic and universally experienced emotions:

o   Happiness

o   Sadness

o   Anger

o   Fear

o   Surprise and

o   Disgust

Nevertheless, a recent study indicates that there are much more foundational emotions that originally believed – researchers identified 27 different categories of emotions.

The Impact on Human Behavior

The scientists today agree that the foundational emotions serve as the basis for the more complex and delicate emotions that we experience. Emotions are an inseparable part of our lives that we use to communicate our subtlest feelings. They influence our perceptions, behavior, and the choices we make at any given moment.

o   Happiness

When experiencing happiness, we are in a state of satisfaction, gratification, and well-being. Therefore, happiness is probably the emotion we strive for the most. We express happiness through body language, facial expression, laughter, and a cheerful voice tone.

Our feeling of happiness, however, is influenced by our thoughts. People who experience more gratitude and have a positive outlook tend to feel happier and more content. Also, research suggests that happiness is often linked to positive outcomes such as increased longevity, enhanced relationships, and improved mental and physical health.

On the other hand, unhappiness is linked to a variety of poor mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness.

o   Sadness

We all experience sadness from time to time. The type and severity sadness vary depending on the cause. However, if you experience feelings of grief, hopelessness, disappointment, and lethargy for prolonged periods or these feelings are severe, you may be suffering from depression.

o   Anger

Although anger is usually considered a negative emotion, it can sometimes be constructive in encouraging you to find solutions to your problems. However, when excessive or expressed in harmful ways, anger can become a dangerous emotion that quickly turns into aggression and hostility. Furthermore, anger can impact our mental and physical health, leading to alcohol and drug abuse, heart disease, and diabetes.

o   Fear

As the emotional response to an immediate threat, fear is an emotion that plays a crucial role in survival. A normal reaction to the potentially dangerous or threatening situation is the flight or fight response: our heart rate and respiration increase, our muscles become tense, and our mind becomes extra alert. This kind of response helps us prepare to effectively manage danger in our environment.

o   Surprise

We experience surprise as a response to something unexpected. This emotional reaction can be positive, negative or neutral and it is often characterized by a specific facial expression (raised eyebrows, open mouth, and widened eyes), verbal, and physical reactions. This is also an emotion that often triggers the fight or flight response.

o   Disgust

According to researchers, this emotion evolved as a reaction to food that might be harmful or even fatal. In addition to physical disgust to food, blood, poor hygiene, and rot, we can also experience moral disgust when we witness other people engaging in behaviors that we consider offensive, immoral or malicious.

Emotions play a vital role in our lives. By understanding them, we can better understand how to control these emotions and their impact on our behavior.