Basic emotions: the eight stage model fits again!

2nd third of 17th century
Image via Wikipedia

I had been struggling with the how many and what framework to use for defining the basic emotions and especially as I was sure that there would be eight basic emotions/emotion systems that would lie on a eight fold evolutionary path/model.

Basic emotions research is fraught with many researchers claiming different types of basic emotions and thus there is a lot of disagreement and little consensus. I’ve looked ate Ekmans models , Plutchik’s wheel and others but found all lacking. Recently I came across the basic emotion systems as neural circuits as proposed by Jaak Panksepp and could immediately see a parallel and gleam of truth there.

First a little introduction to Panksepp’s approach. He works at the primary-process level, which is to say the sub-cortical affective brain level rather than secondary process memory or emotional learning stage or tertiary level cortical brain areas where one has thoughts about feelings as the objects of study.

He has stimulated the sub-cortical as well as cortical brain areas and found that stimulating specific sub-cortical brain areas produces specific emotionl action tendencies and behavior in animals and humans and has thus identified seven brain affective systems and a separate SELF system that subsumes them all and is the basis for affective consciousness.

Without further ado, I’ll list the eight emotionless systems as I see , ranked as per my eight fold order. Its important to note that Panksepp also arrives at these circuits keeping in mind evolution as a guiding force.
1. FEAR is characterized by bodily tenseness and a shivery negatively valenced immobility, which can burst forth into a dynamic flight pattern with chaotic-projectile movements to get out of harm’s way (which may reflect recruitment of dopamine energized SEEKING urges); this system has to do with the problem of avoiding predators.
2. SEEKING is characterized by a persistent positively-valenced exploratory inquisitiveness, with energetic for-ward locomotion — approach and engagement with the world—consisting of probing into the nooks and crannies of interesting objects and events (this system is critical also for most other basic emotional responses, such as the seeking of safety when threatened); This is related to searching for food/exploring.
3. RAGE is characterized by a vigorous casting of the body at offending objects with biting and pounding of the extremities; it is a mixture of positive and negative valence; it is related to dominance hierarchies and submission and relationship with consepcifics esp with regards to territorial behavior.
4. PANIC (separation distress) is characterized by aversive crying actions, with urgent attempts at reunion, followed by weakness and a despairing body carriage as grief sets in if reunion fails; this is related to the affiliation systems especially the mother-child bonding problem.
5. LUST is characterized by an urgent and rhythmic thrusting of the body toward receptive others, and in their absence, a craving tension with both positive and negative affective features;this is related to sexuality, adolescence and shame/dis-inhibition.
6. CARE is characterized by a gentle,caressing, enveloping body dynamic accompanied by relaxed positively valenced states of the body; this is related to the intimacy needs and the need for having an intimate relationship with another.
7.PLAY is expressed in a bounding lightness of movement that has an affectively engaging dynamic poking and rhythmic quality, at times bordering on aggression. this is related to communication needs, activity and playfulness and vibrancy dimensions.
8. SELF- the systems that lies at intersection of all emotional systems and cognition and leads to affective consciousness. In my model this would be the need for integrity and might also be related to physical/social disgust.

Here is a table summarizing the neural systems, the emotions and psychopathology associated with each. the only issues I have is placement of Shame, which I think should go with lust. Similarly Hatred/contempt may go with the eight stage that of SELF.

So what do you think of Panskepp’s neurally grounded model. Do the basic emotions that he has discovered in species as low as the rat , appeal to you? On a tangential note, I had a private conversation with Bjorn Brembs on friendfeed as per which flies though may not have ’emotion proper’ related to the above emotion circuits but definitely have traits resembling these circuits and have personalities, to speak of. thus, I believe these circuits and the problems they pose are evolutionary conserved and Panksepp is on the right track.

Panksepp, J. (2000). The neuro-evolutionary cusp between emotions and cognitions: Implications for understanding consciousness and the emergence of a unified mind science Consciousness & Emotion, 1 (1), 15-54 DOI: 10.1075/ce.1.1.04pan

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Effecient Related Posts:

3 thoughts on “Basic emotions: the eight stage model fits again!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Basic emotions: the eight stage model fits again! | The Mouse Trap --

  2. Raymond

    I’ve been trying to create a card game to replace Tarot reading.
    I’ve been trying to find how many emotions there are.
    As you pointed out, there seems little agreement.

    Panskepp’s ideas don’t seem any more reasonable than any others.
    Is panic so different than fear that it deserves to be considered basic?
    He’s the only one to include lust, but, despite his own researches into animal laughter, doesn’t include amusement among his emotional basics.
    Why have disgust and surprise been overlooked in his system when every other scheme considers them basic and animals share these emotions?
    Why are pain and pleasure regularly excluded?
    What does “Self” mean here?
    Why does no system make room for a neutral state?

    I’ve seen nothing which seems definitive in this matter.
    The same goes for personality types.
    Very few tests or typing systems are cross cultural or command general assent.
    Certainly there is no theory which has majority support.
    There doesn’t even seem to be a reliable definition of emotion as opposed to, say, sensation.
    For instance, are lust and fear simply emotions or are they also sensations?

    1. sandygautam Post author

      Hi Raymond,

      I myself have been very interested in tarot cards for long and you can read my epic -in -the-making poem based on tarot here . so best of luck with your similar to tarot card deck.

      To me Panksepps idea seem very reasonable and on the right track. Panic , if you will observe is more related to attachment system and the emotions of sadness and in every classification sadness is treated different from fear, thus I think it merits separate classifications.
      Lust or desire can be taken as a proxy for disgust as much of the lust is seen as disgusting . That also explains why disgust is not present.
      Surprise may be related to seeking/ exploration system. Amusement is not overlooked, it is very much there as Play or joy/glee. Again pleasure (liking) is a proxy for play and pleasure (wanting) is proxy for seeking so those are taken care of. Pain is also absorbed in Panic (disliking) and fear (dreading) .
      Self is somewhat mysterious to me too – it should be a cognitive emotion; it might also be a proxy for disgust if out-group and out-self concerns become prime.
      All of these systems make room for neutral states; none say you have to be in one emotional state or the other- you can be in an emotion free state.

      similarly, it is my firm belief that personality types though delineated by so many theorists have underlying structure which I am trying to nail down via my emotions and personality series of posts.

      Yet I very much admire your skeptical and questioning attitude. that will take you far!

Comments are closed.