Basic emotions

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Chapter 8 endnote 7, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Ekman’s version of the classical view, called basic emotion theory, assumes that essences for happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust are triggered automatically by objects and events in the world. [...] Scientists debate which emotions should be considered basic.

Scientists who identify with the classical view of emotion debate over how many emotions meet the criteria for basicness, and just what the criteria should be.[1][2][3][4][5] The psychologist Paul Ekman, for example, believes there are seven categories that meet his criteria for basicness (anger, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, contempt, happiness) but that evidence for other categories is close (guilt, shame, embarrassment, envy, compassion, jealousy, love, hate, and interest).[6] Ekman also expects that evidence for several others will materialize soon: amusement, relief, excitement, wonder, ecstasy, naches (pride in the achievement of an offspring), and fiero (felt after meeting a difficult challenge, schadenfreude, rejoicing, and sensory pleasures).[6] But other scientists disagree, both on the criteria they use and on the list of emotion categories that meet those criteria for basicness.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

In recent years, both Ekman and the psychologist Carrol Izard surveyed emotion researchers for their opinions on the nature of emotion and published the findings in peer reviewed journals.[13][14] In the case of Ekman's survey, the results were also reported in the New York Times. The article states, "The Dalai Lama paid Dr. Ekman at least $750,000 to develop the project, which began with a request several years ago."

Emotion families

Basic emotion theory is very clear that an emotion such as sadness can vary a bit in how it is expressed in the face and body from instance to instance. Ekman, for example, writes that an emotion word such as "sadness" refers to a "family" of related states whose shared characteristics distinguish it from every other family, such as the "anger" family or the "fear" family. It is assumed that each family has shared characteristics to distinguish it from every other family. Fundamentally, Ekman and others who believe in basic emotion theory are assuming that an emotion is a category of instances that vary somewhat, but not too much, from one another (in that their physical features can be distinguished in a perceiver-independent way from those of other emotion categories).[15]


Notes on the Notes

  1. For a commentary on this point, read Ortony, Andrew, and Terence J. Turner. 1990. "What's basic about basic emotions?" Psychological Review 97 (3): 315
  2. Paul Ekman's response to Ortony & Turner is Ekman, Paul. 1992. "Are there basic emotions?" Psychological Review 99 (3): 550-553.
  3. Jaak Panksepp's response to Ortony & Turner can be found in Panksepp, Jaak. 1992. "A critical role for 'affective neuroscience' in resolving what is basic about basic emotions." Psychological Review 99 (3): 554-560.
  4. Carroll Izard's response to Ortony & Turner: Izard, Carroll. E. 1992. "Basic emotions, relations among emotions, and emotion-cognition relations." Psychological Review 99 (3): 561-565.
  5. Turner & Ortony's response to the commentaries: Turner, Terence J., and Andrew Ortony. 1992. "Basic emotions: can conflicting criteria converge?" Psychological Review 99 (3): 566-571.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ekman, Paul, and Daniel Cordaro. 2011. "What is meant by calling emotions basic." Emotion Review 3 (4): 364-370.
  7. E.g., Panksepp book [full reference to be provided]
  8. E.g., Scarantino, A. 2015. "Basic emotions, psychological construction and the problem of variability." In The Psychological Construction of Emotion, edited by Lisa Feldman Barrett and James A. Russell, 334-376. Guilford.
  9. E.g., Paul Griffiths book [full reference to be provided]
  10. Izard, Carroll E. 2009. "Emotion theory and research: Highlights, unanswered questions, and emerging issues." Annual Review of Psychology 60: 1-25.
  11. Also see Ekman's Atlas of Emotions.
  12. Tracy, Jessica L., and Daniel Randles. 2011. "Four models of basic emotions: a review of Ekman and Cordaro, Izard, Levenson, and Panksepp and Watt." Emotion Review 3 (4): 397-405.
  13. Izard, Carroll E. 2010. "The many meanings/aspects of emotion: Definitions, functions, activation, and regulation." Emotion Review 2 (4): 363-370.
  14. Ekman, Paul. 2016. "What scientists who study emotion agree about." Perspectives on Psychological Science 11 (1): 31-34
  15. Also see Roseman, Ira J. 2011. "Emotional behaviors, emotivational goals, emotion strategies: Multiple levels of organization integrate variable and consistent responses." Emotion Review 3 (4): 434-443.