Six Base Emotions

March 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm (bizzare)

I’ve heard the psychological theory that all emotions stem from six base emotions, being:
Anger
Fear
Sadness
Joy
Surprise
Disgust

So, for example, despair would be a mix of Sadness and Fear. Jealousy might be a mix of Anger and Sadness.

However, I also read a conflicting minimalist view that there are but three base emotions:

Ecstacy
Terror
Despair

So all emotions are lesser degrees of these. So anger would be a mix of terror and despair, and irritation an even milder mix.

In the first theory all emotions can be reduced to six base emotions. The six base emotions are stated in their mildest form, however in the second theory the three emotions are at their maximum amplification, and everything else is a milder version of these. The first theory strikes me as more plausible. Also, in both, there is only one positive emotion, (One and a half if you include positive surprises), this strikes me as odd considering the amount of postitive emotions one can experience.

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15 Comments

  1. russell said,

    What do you mean you “heard” this? Was it like a rumor or something? Or did you actually read it in a book pertaining to this specific subject?

  2. rabeldin said,

    Just to get things heated up:
    All emotions are base! 🙂

  3. notquitethere said,

    All emotions can’t be base as a baby cannot feel all emotions and a baby is the simplist form of human being.

  4. russell said,

    notquitethere wrote:
    All emotions can’t be base as a baby cannot feel all emotions and a baby is the simplist form of human being.

    How do you know that a baby cannot feel all emotions? What evidence do you have showing this?

  5. notquitethere said,

    Does a baby feel mild aesthetic joy when viewing a piece of art? Seems unlikely to me.

    On a different note, someone suggested to me that fear was not a base emotion, but instead must be learnt. I’m not sure about that one.

  6. Heathen said,

    rabeldin wrote:
    Just to get things heated up:
    All emotions are base! 🙂

    Just to reframe to make them sound more positive:
    All emotions are THE base.

  7. Heathen said,

    notquitethere wrote:
    Does a baby feel mild aesthetic joy when viewing a piece of art? Seems unlikely to me.

    Not when viewing a painting, when viewing anything. Choosing the object, in this case something fitting adult tastes, does not disprove the emotion.

    Further, is aesthetic joy an emotion or does the adjective aesthetic actually modify the source of the person’s pleasure, rather than being a specific kind of emotion, that is.

    But I have seen babies take great pleasure in seeing objects and because of these objects visual qualities. Things that shine, move and are bright seem to bring aesthetic joy to them.

  8. notquitethere said,

    Okay. Granted. Perhaps a better example would be schadenfreuder- taking grim delight in the misfortune of others. Okay, so a baby might laugh when an adult slips on a misplaced set of marbles, but that’s hardly the same thing…

  9. russell said,

    Yes, babies do seem to experience joy from looking at aesthetically pleasing objects.

  10. ghaleon said,

    On a different note, someone suggested to me that fear was not a base emotion, but instead must be learnt. I’m not sure about that one.

    I LIKE it! To a certain extent fear might have to be learnt. One has to understand the reason why something should be avoided in order to actively avoid it. One may not at first sight, for example, fear a beaker of sulfuric acid. But upon learning about its corrosive effects, one learns to fear it.

    Of course you could just as easily say that fear as an emotion is always present, but that only its object changes over time. While at a very young age we might fear the staircase in our house, as we grow older our fears evolve into phobias of bigger objects and concepts, such as death. I suppose it’s a psychological issue whether we can experience fear at all ages, but speaking from a broad, philosophical perspective, it seems like it would be advantageous for us to experience fear from the day we’re born. It’s part of applying what we know to the world at large in order to encourage our survival.

  11. notquitethere said,

    What about shame. A baby cannot feel shame as shame is a socially enforced thing and must be learnt.

  12. caveo said,

    shame is not a base emotion.
    And of course babies have emotions! By golly, I’ll send anyone who doesn’t believe me to take a turn babysitting my two neighbor kids! 😉
    Even animals have emotions!
    Ah, and fear is partially learnt and partially base. A baby fears many things, if the mother goes away for instance. Or a baby will also fear certain people it doesn’t like. Perhaps out of instinkt, but emotions are connected to instinkt.

  13. milleniam said,

    notquitethere wrote:
    I’ve heard the psychological theory that all emotions stem from six base emotions. Any thoughts?

    I don’t agree with this idea at all. I think that emotions are each uniquely and separately provided for. (Much in the same way that we have unique receptors for each smell that we can detect.)

    However – whether you agree with this or not – one thing that any theory of emotion must provide for, is that the range of emotions available to us is fixed and limited. Unlike thoughts – which are unlimited in their range and scope – no one can come up with a brand new, hitherto unexperienced emotion. Why should that be?

  14. omni said,

    My view on this, based on nothing but my own analysis, is that emotion is a biological tool to steer us towards desirable outcomes, such as having a secure place in a tribe and having a mate, and away from dangers, in the same way that our nerves steer our actions by giving us good feelings (mating is enjoyable-keep doing it) and bad ones (it hurts when the lion bites us-run away); therefore, our base emotions are “feel good” and “feel bad,” with all the different emotions we give names to just being flavors, intensities, or even mixtures of good and bad feelings, all with the intention of keeping us safe and helping us navigate the social waters of our “pack.” 😀

  15. notquitethere said,

    Perhaps you might have something there, Omni. Oh, Caveo, I wasn’t suggesting that babies don’t have emotions and I’m all in favour for allowing all sorts of animals emotions, I was merely assuming that a baby will have simplified emotions, and not experience the rich emotional life of, say, a twenty-nine year old profesional dune buggy instructor who likes to rehabilitate injured turtles in her spare time.

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