Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions: what is it and what does it show?

Emotions are one of the highest and lowest phenomena experienced in the history of psychology. Thus, they experienced times in which they turned out to be a matter of paramount importance, and times in which they were hardly considered.

Today, the emotional life is of interest to most professionals engaged in the study of mind and behavior, having been categorized in different ways.

In this article, we will review one of the most brilliant theoretical propositions, the wheel of emotions by Robert Plutchik, Which is not limited to its conceptualization, but also to the approach of its potential interactions.

Knowing this problem in depth can help us understand a part of ourselves that influences almost every aspect of life (decisions, relationships, etc.).

    Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

    Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions is made up of eight basic emotions, which they involve relatively common experiences in the field of experiential heritage, More precisely: joy, confidence, fear, surprise, sadness, aversion, anger and anticipation. The author recognized them as dimensions which were seldom presented and which could be expressed in varying degrees of intensity.

    This last nuance is what makes the richness of this theoretical proposition. Plutchik indicated that the emotional states described have a certain similarity to each other, making them likely to be combined in different ways, resulting in the formation of a more complex feeling. He called these overlaps dyads; and differentiated them into primary, secondary or tertiary (less and less frequent and embroidered by less related affections).

    We then tackle each of the basic emotions, highlighting their different degrees of intensity and the particular way in which they can intermingle to acquire new and almost infinite nuances.

    1. Joy

    Joy is a “positive” emotion, expressed by a state of well-being and self-satisfaction and / or general living conditions. Its most subtle degree is manifested in serenity (a steady state of calm, stillness, and poise), while the higher degree takes the form of ecstasy, one of the most exalted human experiences in the world. mood and which has been adopted even by mystical texts of different creeds). Its opposite is sadness.

    Joy can be combined in very different ways with other basic emotions. Their first days tighten subtle links with the emotions with which he keeps a greater affinity: trust and anticipation. In the first case, it arouses love, a feeling of acceptance on which meaningful bonds are built between human beings; while in the second, it breeds optimism, a positive outlook on what time will bring.

    His secondary days would be the result of the combination of emotions with which he maintains a greater distance: fear and anger. To blend in with fear would engender guilt, through which would be expressed a secret feeling of inaptitude which would obscure a benefit of which he had been the object; and with the second he would be proud, through which he would testify to a vacant exacerbation of his own position on any issue, in the context of a confrontation with others.

    2. Confidence

    Confidence is an essential emotion for Plutchik, who it implies the firm conviction that one can act without danger of prejudice or harm. When it is attenuated, it takes the form of an acceptance, of a sincere integration of the facts lived in the account of his own experience. When it is inflamed, it becomes admiration, with which is expressed a total exaltation of the esteem which is projected on a person or a thing. Its extreme is aversion.

    Besides love, trust tends to be combined with fear, being another of its main days. When this happens, it can be transformed into a state of surrender, in which the will of the other is accepted even though aspects of their own freedom are sacrificed. This condition can be the result of bonds in which either party exerts deliberate actions to cause imbalance, which promotes vulnerability or emotional dependence.

    The secondary days of confidence, born of their combination with ailments of greater similarity, coincide with surprise and anticipation. In the first case, curiosity takes place, a kind of “kidnapping” of attentional focus to increase knowledge of something that is perceived to be important; and in the second emerges conviction, from which the principles governing thought and conduct are embraced, as well as the values ​​and purposes derived from life.

    3. Por

    Fear is a basic, universal instinctive reaction; considered as such in virtually all typologies of emotion that have flourished throughout history. In its most subtle degree, it expresses itself in the form of apprehension (An uncertainty pregnant with pessimistic expectations) and at the highest level it becomes a real terror or panic (a state which generally displays combat or flight behaviors). Fear, an adaptive reaction to threats in the environment, has anger as its opposite.

    The most basic first day of fear occurs alongside surprise, emerging at this point in what we call fear or startle. This reaction constitutes a disturbing nuance by an initially neutral affective state (surprise), Which usually suggests underlying negative psychic states (such as depression or anxiety), or the presence of stable personality traits involving susceptibility to discomfort (such as high neuroticism).

    As for his secondary days, highlights the one that results from their coexistence with sadness: despair. This condition is one of the most critical for any human being, as it involves a subjective feeling of loss of control and maintenance of impotence is a major risk factor for major depression. There are many proofs of this in clinical and research fields.

    Finally, fear can be mixed with emotions other than those observed, in particular aversion and anticipation. Shame (perception of fear of rejection to consider ourselves inappropriate) and anxiety (worry about a threat that is at an undefined and ambiguous time in the future) respectively. Both are common and the potential cause of deep suffering.

      4. Surprise

      Surprise is an emotion, nature tends to be seen as neutral, and that it involves a reaction to changing and unpredictable circumstances in the immediate environment. According to their degree, the lightest would be distraction, a state of slight attentional retention; and the most intense would be surprise, which involves an absolute projection of consciousness in the face of a subjectively overwhelming event (for better or for worse). The opposite of surprise would be anticipation.

      As for the primary days, those that occur most often when associated with other emotions, the one that occurs with sadness stands out. This emotional overlap results in disappointment, which arises from the awareness of a negative and unforeseen outcome that contrasts with the initially favorable expectations, on which hope had been placed.

      Surprise can also coexist with joy (shaping crime) and anger (shaping outrage), inferring from these diametrically opposed products. Pleasure is the result of receiving positive news of which one had no knowledge, which promotes existential joy, while indignation implies a state of offense in the face of unfavorable circumstances which suddenly erupted. The latter is common in interpersonal relationships and is a common reason for confrontation.

      5. Sadness

      Sadness is an answer emotional which depends on the loss, which it is expressed in the form of an envelope and provides social support for the activation of mirror neurons of those who observe it. The mildest degree is isolation, a tendency to withdraw from shared activities; and the most serious is depression, the result of small, cumulative losses that exacerbate the original grief. The emotion that acts as its opposite is joy.

      As for its frequent combinations, or primary days, the one that occurs with aversion stands out. The confluence of the two involves remorse, a state of intimate discomfort that arises in the face of behaviors that we deem inappropriate due to the impact they may have had on others. When combined with surprise, disapproval emerges, suggesting disagreement with the ideas or actions of others, which are opposed to the fundamental principles or values ​​that govern our lives.

      In this deep emotional web, sadness can coexist more with anger. In this case, the resulting product is envy, from which we project our faults onto another person, In which we perceive what we believe to be sick. In some cases, it may promote actions aimed at harming its status or degrading its value.

      6. Aversion

      Aversion is an emotion suggestive of rejection and a raw, deliberate desire to avoid. Within its thin limits, it expresses itself out of boredom (or obvious lack of interest), while in the more intense, it becomes disgust or boredom. The latter results in an obstinacy for maintain a physical or psychological distance from an element considered undesirable. Its opposite pole is trust, which stimulates rapprochement.

      The most common mixture of aversion, or first day, occurs with anger. According to this premise, with rejection comes an obvious hostile attitude, which is called contempt. It is an emotional state responsible for some of the major issues facing our society, which hide within its depths a certain shade of fear. Some examples would be xenophobia and other forms of hatred.

      As for the secondary days, much less frequent, the combinations of aversion with surprise and anticipation are remarkable. In the first case, it turns out to be an experience of disgust (Reaction of extreme disgust following the eruption of an event that would be avoided under normal conditions) and in the second cynicism (through which a succession of acts on which there is a broad consensus of rejection, but premeditated lies and hypocrisy).

      7. Ira

      Anger is a condition that arises in direct response to an offense, especially when attributed to the clear will of a third party, which is a perceptual element of great importance to one’s appearance. In its sweetest form it takes the form of a simple rage (Disagreeing with another person in their words or mannerisms) and in the most extreme it becomes fury (under which impulsive acts are usually performed). Specular affection, in this case, is fear.

      The most common day of anger works to interfere with anticipation, to produce betrayal.. It involves acts of violence upon which careful planning is based, which involves a thoughtful preparation process and a high degree of sophistication. In many countries, blood crimes committed under the aegis of treason tend to be viewed as extremely cruel and receive the most severe penalties.

      As for the Tertiary Days of Wrath, the one that springs out of the intersection with confidence basically stands out. In this case, a state of domination occurs, opposed at all to that of submission, and which serves as a vehicle to bend the will of another person by relying on the link established with him (hierarchy). Domination often employs authoritarian styles of leadership that constrain individuality.

      8. Anticipation

      Anticipation is the reverse of surprise, that is, the articulation of clear expectations about the course of the future. The lowest profile of this emotion is interest, Which implies a moderate degree of attraction to a particular object or stimulus, and the highest is alertness (a superlative level of attentional focus, which also lasts for long periods and consumes many cognitive resources).

      The most common day of anticipation occurs when you simultaneously interact with sadness, which leads to pessimism. In this case, the expectation is clouded by a negative shade, obscuring the path on which life will have to travel. It is a common emotional state in major depression, as well as in other psychological disorders.

      The complexity of inner life

      As you can see, the inner life is deep and very diverse. Humans can experience many things at once and in fact it is our natural state.. Knowing the possible combinations of primary emotions and their translation into subjective terms is essential in learning to identify, discriminate and deal with what is happening within us. In other words, having adequate emotional intelligence.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Manshad, M. and Petrovich, A. (2019). Summarize the emotions of the text using Plutchik’s Emotions Wheel. Advances in Intelligent System Research, 166, pages 291-294.
      • Plutchik, R. (2001). The nature of emotions. American Scientist, 89 (4), pages 344-350.

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