There are 27 Different Emotions, New Study Suggests

Early conventional psychological studies suggested that there are six or seven basic emotions: happy, surprised, afraid, disgusted, angry, and sad (sometimes contempt is listed as the seventh). 

A new study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences suggests that there are as many as 27 different categories of emotions. Alan S. Cowen and Dacher Keltner, PhD, based in the University of California, Berkeley, found these categories of emotions:

  • Admiration
  • Adoration
  • Aesthetic Appreciation
  • Amusement
  • Anxiety
  • Awe
  • Awkwardness
  • Boredom
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Disgust
  • Empathetic pain
  • Entrancement
  • Envy
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Nostalgia
  • Romance
  • Sadness
  • Satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sympathy
  • Triumph

Researchers used 2,185 different short video clips to try to elicit a spectrum of emotions. Videos range from a kitten pouncing on a dog, a slow high-five, a woman running into traffic, or dancing Oompa Loompas. Participants rated these videos among 34 different emotional categories and on a scale of 1 to 9 across different dimensions like positive versus negative, excitement versus calmness.

The study found these 27 emotional categories and also found that emotions were not clear and distinct, but experienced along a gradient. 

If you’re curious about your own emotional reactions, you can actually check out all the short video clips on this interactive map released by the researchers. Click on the different video regions and compare your own emotional reactions with the survey results. For a clip of a corgi jumping into a swimming pool and other animal videos, check out the amusement corner. Entrancement occupies a much small real estate of shapeshifting geometric puzzles. Food lovers will want to check out the bottom right craving corner of the map for a slice of pepperoni pizza or melting butter on toast.

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