Have you ever wondered why you can react to danger before you even really realize it’s there? Or why you can recognize an expression of happiness on someone’s face, no matter where the person is from? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this lesson about the different types of emotions and how the brain processes them. So we’re going to talk about how we categorize emotions. This is something that you really do all the time.
If you ever say, ‘I’m happy, I’m sad,’ congratulations, you’ve categorized some emotions. But what psychologists are trying to do is get a little beyond that and really start to think about which emotions are sort of fundamental and how to categorize those – so how to come up with a list of emotions that are more fundamental than others. Is it happiness? Is it sadness? Those are common ones but are they really distinct in a way that’s not just because we decided to name them that way?
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Fundamental vs. non-fundamental emotions
|evolutionary fitness. So for an emotion to be considered basic, for it not to be considered culturally learned, it’s going to have to give us some sort of advantage evolutionarily. Anger and fear are on his list as well; that’s his classic example is the fear one. It inspires the fight or flight response and that’s key for survival.
If you don’t have it, you’ll probably die.His list that he came up with using this criteria – he came up with these in oppositional pairs – so he had anger vs. fear, joy vs. sadness, trust vs. disgust and surprise vs. anticipation.
These are the eight that he thought were fundamental, and what he does is he organizes them into a little wheel. He has these opposites that he identified as being opposite each other, essentially, on the wheel. Then he has levels of intensity that go in. Anger intensifies into rage and de-intensifies into frustration and annoyance.
Plutchiks wheel of emotions
|thalamus – these are all parts of the brain.
In general, the basic emotions like fear that Ekman and Plutchik were identifying, these tend to go through the lymbic system because they’re super fast. You need to process fear right away or else you’re going to get eaten by a lion. That’s not going to be good.There’s another processing speed that’s slower, and that’s basically the frontal lobe. This is the part of your brain that is also doing all of your thinking – so as you’re thinking about this lesson right now, you’re using your frontal lobe. But you’re also using your frontal lobe when you’re thinking about emotional experiences that aren’t quite so fundamental. If you’re experiencing resentment, that’s not something that’s going to go through the lymbic system, that’s something that’s has, again, as Plutchik was saying, it has elements of all these things that are really fundamental, but it’s something that you have to process cognitively to really identify as resentment.
You have to think about all the horrible things that person did to you and build it up inside you as a horrible feeling. But you can see it’s not the same quality as something like fear or anger that just happens to you. It’s something that’s definitely involved in cognitive processing.So that’s another way to think about how to categorize emotions. Ekman’s and Plutchik’s were trying to be biologically based, but this is a pretty straightforward, ‘Does it go through this or does it go through this?’ It’s hard to really measure that but we can theorize, ‘Is it a lymbic system kind of emotion or is it a frontal lobe kind of emotion?’ That’s another way to think about what kind of emotions there are.Ekman and Plutchik were identifying basic emotions based on various criteria, and then you can also think about emotions in terms of processing speed and what part of the brain they’re going through.
Those are some ways of categorizing emotions.
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