The 8 types of emotions (classification and description)

Psychology has always been interested in emotions, Because these influence our thinking, our behavior and even our mental health.

This is why the concept of emotional intelligence has gained ground in recent decades, and words such as emotional validation, emotional regulation or emotional management are increasingly familiar to us. Emotional intelligence has been shown to improve our well-being and performance. In this article, we will talk about emotions and how these human manifestations are classified.

    What are emotions

    Many theorists have tried to explain what emotions are. For psychologist David G. Meyers, emotions are made up of “physiological arousal, expressive behavior, and conscious experience.”

    At present, it is accepted that emotions originate from the limbic system and that these complex states have these three components:

    • physiological: It is the first reaction to a stimulus and they are involuntary: breathing increases, changes in hormonal level, etc.
    • cognitive: Information is processed on a conscious and unconscious level. It influences our subjective experience.
    • behavioral: It causes a change in behavior: facial gestures, body movements …
    • Over the years, there has been a debate between what an emotion is and what a feeling is. You can find out the difference in our article: “The 16 types of feelings and their psychological function”

    Theories of emotion

    In fact, different theories about emotion have been formulated for decades. The most important are classified in three ways: physiological, neurological and cognitive.

    • physiological theories: They claim that intracorporeal responses are responsible for emotions.
    • neurological theories: They argue that activity in the brain leads to emotional responses.
    • cognitive theories: They suggest that thoughts and other mental activities are responsible for the formation of emotions.
    • You can delve into these theoretical models in our article: “Emotional psychology: main theories of emotion”

    Classification of emotions (type)

    But, How are emotions classified? There are different types of emotions, below is a list with a brief explanation of each. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a definitive classification, as none will 100% capture how emotions are grouped and related to each other; it’s just a useful classification.

    1. Primary or basic emotions

    Primary emotions are also called base emotions, And are the emotions we experience in response to a stimulus. For Paul Ekman, there are 6 basic emotions: sadness, happiness, surprise, disgust, fear and anger. All are adaptive processes and, in theory, exist in all human beings, regardless of the culture in which they developed.

    On the other hand, we must keep in mind that the fact that a phenomenon or a psychological trait occurs universally in all human societies does not mean that it is part of our instincts, nor that it is an expression. of our genes. There are cultural universals which, although historically appeared in all human groups, disappear in certain contexts. For example, the tendency to believe in religions.

    Returning to the basic types of emotions, we have seen that it is possible to describe about 6 from the behavioral patterns of people. However, recently research conducted by the University of Glasgow, which published Current Biology, concluded that there are not six basic emotions, but four.

    • You can read more about this study in our article: “The study shows that the core emotions are four, not six as previously thought”

    2. Secondary emotions

    Secondary emotions are a group of emotions that follow the previous ones. For example, when we feel the basic emotion of fear, we may feel the secondary emotions of threat or anger, depending, of course, on the situation we are going through. Secondary emotions are caused by social norms and moral norms.

    3. Positive emotions

    Depending on the degree to which the emotions affect the subject’s behavior, they can be positive or negative.. Positive emotions are also called healthy emotions because they positively affect the well-being of the individual who feels them. They encourage the way of thinking, reasoning and acting. For example, joy, satisfaction, gratitude do not cause a positive attitude towards life and make us have experiences that help us feel good.

    4. Negative emotions

    Negative emotions are opposed to positive emotions because they negatively affect people’s well-being. They are also known as toxic emotions and often cause the desire to avoid or evade them. Fear or sadness are a few examples.

    However, it should be borne in mind that such emotions, in small amounts and of relatively low intensity, are not harmful. In fact, they are part of the learning process, because thanks to them our emotional memory helps us remember the consequences that certain behaviors have (or expose us to certain contexts).

    5. Ambiguous emotions

    Ambiguous emotions are also called neutral emotions because they do not cause negative or positive, healthy or unhealthy emotions. For example, surprise doesn’t make us feel good or bad.

    The existence of these emotions makes it clear that we are complex animals and that our experiences have many nuances.

    6. Static emotions

    Some authors have also referred to static emotions. They are those which occur thanks to different artistic manifestations, such as: music or painting.

    Thus, listening to a song one can feel very happy or very sad, but this feeling would be qualitatively different from the happiness or the sadness which is lived in front of any other experience, as it is lived in an artistic context. , intervened by symbols and attributions on the intentions of the author.

      7. Social emotions

      Social emotions do not refer to culturally acquired emotionsBut another person must be present or he cannot emerge. For example, revenge, gratitude, pride or admiration are emotions we feel towards others.

      8. Instrumental emotions

      Instrumental emotions are those whose goal or purpose is manipulation or the goal of accomplishing something.. They are difficult to recognize because they can appear natural. However, these are forced emotions and hide an intention. Sometimes they are the result of auto-suggestion: voluntarily submitting to certain contexts to make that emotion part of our way of behaving.

      The importance of emotional education

      Many times we don’t realize the importance of emotional education. In schools, for example, they are more concerned with teaching us to be good professionals, and they put aside becoming emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy people. Emotional intelligence has proven to be a basic tool for our mental health and is certainly a way of empowering ourselves to face life, to become people much better prepared for everyday life.

      Emotional intelligence is a term that became famous thanks to Daniel Goleman, and since then, much research has stated that it is positive not only for our daily life, but also at work, in sport and even in education, is very efficient and provides many performance benefits. .

        According to Goleman, intelligence components emotional son:

        • emotional self-knowledge
        • emotional self-control
        • personal motivation
        • Recognition of other people’s emotions
        • interpersonal relationships
        • You probably want to know more about this theory. Then visit our article: “What is emotional intelligence? Discover the importance of emotions”

        Bibliographical references:

        • Damasio, A. (2014). In Search of Spinoza: Neurobiology of Emotion and Feelings. Barcelona: Booket, 2014. ISBN 978-84-233-4615-8.
        • Ekman, P. (2004). What does this gesture say? Barcelona: RBA202f: Integral, 2004. ISBN 978-84-7871-202-1.
        • Ekman, P .; Cordaro, D. (2011). What do we mean by basic emotions. Review of emotions. 3 (4): 364-370.
        • Salmurri, F. (2015). Reason and Emotion: Resources for Learning and Teaching Reflection. Barcelona: RBA, ISBN 978-84-9056-407-3.
        • Suchy, Y. (2011). Clinical neuropsychology of emotion. New York, New York: Guilford.

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