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 Basic Emotions


Explanations > Emotions > Basic Emotions

List of emotions | So what


List of emotions

What are the basic emotions? As ever, theorists disagree. Ortony and Turner (1990) collated a wide range of research on identification of basic emotions.


Theorist Basic Emotions
Plutchik Acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surprise
Arnold Anger, aversion, courage, dejection, desire, despair, fear, hate, hope, love, sadness
Ekman, Friesen, and Ellsworth Anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise
Frijda Desire, happiness, interest, surprise, wonder, sorrow
Gray Rage and terror, anxiety, joy
Izard Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surprise
James Fear, grief, love, rage
McDougall Anger, disgust, elation, fear, subjection, tender-emotion, wonder
Mowrer Pain, pleasure
Oatley and Johnson-Laird Anger, disgust, anxiety, happiness, sadness
Panksepp Expectancy, fear, rage, panic
Tomkins Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surprise
Watson Fear, love, rage
Weiner and Graham Happiness, sadness


Here is a deeper list of emotions as described in Shaver et al. (2001), where emotions were categorised into a short tree structure.


Primary emotion

Secondary emotion

Tertiary emotions

Love Affection Adoration, affection, love, fondness, liking, attraction, caring, tenderness, compassion, sentimentality
Lust Arousal, desire, lust, passion, infatuation
Longing Longing
Joy Cheerfulness Amusement, bliss, cheerfulness, gaiety, glee, jolliness, joviality, joy, delight, enjoyment, gladness, happiness, jubilation, elation, satisfaction, ecstasy, euphoria
Zest Enthusiasm, zeal, zest, excitement, thrill, exhilaration
Contentment Contentment, pleasure
Pride Pride, triumph
Optimism Eagerness, hope, optimism
Enthrallment Enthrallment, rapture
Relief Relief
Surprise Surprise Amazement, surprise, astonishment
Anger Irritation Aggravation, irritation, agitation, annoyance, grouchiness, grumpiness
Exasperation Exasperation, frustration
Rage Anger, rage, outrage, fury, wrath, hostility, ferocity, bitterness, hate, loathing, scorn, spite, vengefulness, dislike, resentment
Disgust Disgust, revulsion, contempt
Envy Envy, jealousy
Torment Torment
Sadness Suffering Agony, suffering, hurt, anguish
Sadness Depression, despair, hopelessness, gloom, glumness, sadness, unhappiness, grief, sorrow, woe, misery, melancholy
Disappointment Dismay, disappointment, displeasure
Shame Guilt, shame, regret, remorse
Neglect Alienation, isolation, neglect, loneliness, rejection, homesickness, defeat, dejection, insecurity, embarrassment, humiliation, insult
Sympathy Pity, sympathy
Fear Horror Alarm, shock, fear, fright, horror, terror, panic, hysteria, mortification
Nervousness Anxiety, nervousness, tenseness, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, dread


There are also moves to minimize the number of basic emotions. Jack et al. (2014) analyzed the 42 facial muscles which shape emotions in the face and came up with only four basic emotions. Starting from the Ekman group of anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness and sadness, they found fear and surprise are similar, with 'eyes wide open' as the person increases visual attention. Anger and disgust are also similar, both starting with nose wrinkling.

So What

Learn to recognise emotions at increasing levels of detail. If you can see the emotion, then you can respond appropriately to it.

See also

Plutchik's Ten Postulates


Ekman, P. (1972). Universals and Cultural Differences in Facial Expression of Emotion. In J. Cole ed. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 207-283.

Ekman, P., Friesen, W. V., & Ellsworth, P. (1982). What emotion categories or dimensions can observers judge from facial behavior? In P. Ekman (Ed.), Emotion in the human face (pp. 39-55). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Frijda, N. H. (1986). The emotions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gray, J. A. (1985). The whole and its parts: Behaviour, the brain, cognition and emotion. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society. 38, 99-112.

Izard, C. E. (1977). Human emotions. New York: Plenum Press

Jack, R.E., Garrod, O.G.B and Schyns, P.G. Dynamic Facial Expressions of Emotion Transmit an Evolving Hierarchy of Signals over Time. Current Biology, 24, 2, 187-192

James, W. (1884). What is an emotion? Mind, 9, 188-205.

McDougall, W. (1926). An introduction to social psychology. Boston: Luce.
Mowrer, O. H. (1960). Learning theory and behavior. New York: Wiley.

Oatley, K., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (1987). Towards a cognitive theory of emotions. Cognition & Emotion, 1, 29-50.

Ortony, A., & Turner, T. J. (1990). What's basic about basic emotions? Psychological Review, 97, 315-331.

Panksepp, J. (1982). Toward a general psychobiological theory of emotions. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5, 407-467.

Parrott, W. (2001), Emotions in Social Psychology, Psychology Press, Philadelphia

Plutchik, R. (1980). A general psychoevolutionary theory of emotion. In R. Plutchik & H. Kellerman (Eds.), Emotion: Theory, research, and experience: Vol. 1. Theories of emotion (pp. 3-33). New York: Academic.

Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O'Connor, C. (2001). Emotional Knowledge: Further Exploration of a Prototype Approach. In G. Parrott (Eds.), Emotions in Social Psychology: Essential Readings (pp. 26-56). Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.

Tomkins, S. S. (1984). Affect theory. In K. R. Scherer & P. Ekman (Eds.), Approaches to emotion (pp. 163-195). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Watson, J. B. (1930). Behaviorism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Weiner, B., & Graham, S. (1984). An attributional approach to emotional development. In C. E. Izard, J. Kagan, & R. B. Zajonc (Eds.), Emotions, cognition, and behavior (pp. 167-191). New York: Cambridge University Press. 


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