|In this section you will find...|
There are a number of theories that have been proposed to describe and understand the nature of emotion. By developing theories about how things work, scientists are then able to work on practical applications and ways of dealing with phenomena.
Plutchik's Theory of Emotions
One of the easier of these theories to understand is Plutchik's theory of emotion. In many ways this can be seen more as a description of our emotions than an explanation of how our emotions work. Robert Plutchik (1980), an American Psychologist proposed that there is a basic set of emotions that all people experience. These emotions are innate and directly related to adaptive behaviour that is designed to enhance our survival in just the same way as the fight or flight response is designed to help us survive.
The table below shows some of these emotions and their relationship to adaptive behaviours. The complete list can be seen in the diagram below.
|Emotion or feeling||Possible Stimulus||Adaptive behaviour|
|Anger||Prevented from doing something you want||Destroy the thing in your way|
|Fear||Any threat or danger||Protection often through freezing so you are not noticed|
|Sadness||Loss of something important||Search for help and comfort|
|Disgust||Something gruesome, awful||Reject or push away the thing that is revolting|
|Surprise||A sudden unexpected event||Focus on the new thing, wide eyes take in as much as possible|
(from Grivas, Down & Carter, 1996 p. 172, Psychology Macmillan, South Melbourne)
Plutchik's model is based on an emotion wheel (diagram to the left). This shows eight basic emotions, some of which have been listed in the table above. These are made up of four pairs of opposites: joy and sadness, acceptance and disgust, fear and anger, and surprise and anticipation. According to Plutchik we cannot experience opposite emotions at the same time. They are also positive (joy, acceptance, anticipation and surprise) or negative (anger, fear, disgust and sadness). Positive emotions are seen to have a positive impact on our health while negative emotions can make us ill.
He did suggest that we can experience blends of emotions. These can be seen in the colour wheel. Joy and acceptance for example produce the complex emotion of love. Plutchik also proposed that emotions vary in their intensity. This is shown in the emotion solid . The eight emotions on the top are intense versions of the eight primary emotions. Less intense emotions are seen at the bottom. As emotions become less intense, they are more difficult to tell apart. So while we may feel that our mood has changed, in these circumstances, it is difficult to identify just what the experience is.
Plutchiks theory is based very much on an evolutionary model. It provides little room for the cognitive elements that many other researchers have stressed as really important.