Motivation and emotion/Tutorials/Core emotions

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Tutorial 07: Core emotions
This is the seventh tutorial for the motivation and emotion unit of study.

Overview[edit | edit source]

  • Explores the psychological concept of core emotions – what are they?
  • Hundreds of emotion words are sorted in a group exercise to create to a model which depicts underlying clusters of emotional experience.

Criteria[edit | edit source]

What are the criteria for a core emotion?

To be classified as a core emotion, the affective state should exhibit each of the following:

  1. Distinct neurological and physiological response (e.g., pattern of brain activity, heart-rate)
  2. Distinct feeling (i.e., subjective/phenomenological state)
  3. Unique expression (e.g., facial expression and body language)
  4. Innate (i.e., evident from birth)
  5. Adaptive (e.g., what is its purpose?)
  6. Short-lived (whereas moods which are longer-lived)
  7. Triggered by same circumstances each time (i.e., has a specific causal trigger)?
  8. Universal (i.e., recognised by different cultures)

Non-emotions[edit | edit source]

If an affective experience does not qualify as an emotion, they could instead be:

  1. Attitude (e.g., hate)
  2. Behaviour (e.g., aggression)
  3. Cognition (e.g., confused)
  4. Disorder (e.g., depression, behavioural conduct disorder)
  5. Mood (e.g., grumpy)
  6. Personality trait (e.g., neuroticism)

Core emotions[edit | edit source]

What are the core emotions?

Theoretical models typically identify about six to eight core emotions, usually including:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Disgust
  4. Sadness
  5. Interest
  6. Joy
  7. Surprise
  8. Contempt

Emotion sort exercise[edit | edit source]

Linguistic models of emotion are developed from analysis of language used to describe different affective states.

The goal of this exercise is to organise many (250+) emotion-related words into core emotion families:

  1. Open this list of emotion words
  2. Each person selects an emotion word and classifies it as either a:
    1. core emotion
    2. non-emotion
  3. Classifications can be changed if you disagree
  4. Repeat until all words are classified - a progress bar will be displayed
  5. Use chat or the comments column to discuss (e.g., unusual/unknown words or emotions you'd like to share or want to know more about)
  6. As a whole class, discuss the results

Emotional intelligence[edit | edit source]

What is "emotional intelligence"?

It could also be termed emotional literacy or EQ.

Goleman's (1997) conceptualisation of emotional intelligence suggested four aspects (see Table 1).

Table 1.

Four Quadrants of Emotional Intelligence (based on Goleman (1997)

Awareness Management
Self Self-awareness Self-management
Other Social awareness Relationship management

Emotion knowledge[edit | edit source]

Schadenfreude (pronounced shar-den-frood-ar) is a German word for pleasure that one may derive from the misfortune of another (e.g., laughing at someone slipping on a banana peel).

Part of emotional intelligence is "emotion knowledge".

What is emotion knowledge?

Emotion knowledge is the library of distinct emotion concepts (e.g., represented by words) a person has access. The bigger your library, the more chance you have of being able to distinguish between various nuances of your emotional states (e.g., various shades of anger):

Emotion knowledge can be improved by expanding one's linguistic repertoire for describing emotions. Our vocabularies can act as a window into psychological and physical well-being. For a deeper dive, see the work of James Pennebaker, one of the study's authors, via Google Scholar.

Non-English emotion words[edit | edit source]

Non-English emotion words and definitions suggested by a class in 2023.

Many nuances of emotion are not well described in the English language.

However, there are plenty of non-English words from the 7,000 or so other human languages that capture subtleties in the kaleidoscope of human feeling.

What words from other languages do you know that describe emotions?

Share an example (from your knowledge or the links below), the definition, and maybe why you like it, with the class.

Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) is a Norwegian word for the practice of purposefully spending time outdoors and the physical and mental health benefits that this engenders.

Lists of non-English emotion words:

What are the psychological implications of our emotion vocabularies? For example, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (linguistic relativity) argues that language enables experience. According to this essentialist view, our emotional vocabulary enables but also limits our capacity for emotional experience.

But linguistic relativity also implies that we can enrich our emotional lives by incorporating non-English emotion words.

Recording[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Additional tutorial material

References[edit | edit source]

Goleman, D. (1997). Emotional Intelligence. Bantam.

External links[edit | edit source]