Facial emotions.

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This post is an attempt to get to the basic emotions. Regular readers of this blog will readily appreciate when I claim that there are eight basic emotions and that they follow a developmental/evolutionary time-course and follow a  particular order.


First let us review the attempts made till now to classify and identify the basic emotions– foremost amongst them is the tradition of Tomkins and Ekman that looked at basic and universal emotional facial expressions to come up with their list of basic emotions.


Tomkins listed the following as basic emotions: Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surprise;

I agree more or less with the list except for dropping shame or subsuming it under contempt (along with say guilt too making a triad of social emotions)

Ekman on the other hand thought that only Anger, Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Sadness and Surprise were basic based on clearly identifiable facial expressions. He left out contempt and Interest , but I am not too sympathetic to that position, though I understand that being evolutionarily novel these would be least permanently identifiable using fixed facial expressions.

Another towering figure in the emotion research is Plutchick and his wheel is a wonderful figure that not only lists the basic emotions but also highlights the relations between them- which are opposed (180 degree to each other).

The 8 basic emotions Plutchik lists are Trust(Acceptance), anger, anticipation (interest) , disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surprise .

Astute readers will note that the list is more or less same as that of Tomkins except for substitution of Trust )(acceptance) for contempt (reverse scored but same?)

Izards list viz Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surprise is also the same as above list if we group contempt/shame/guilt together as one social emotion category.

That finally brings me to my list and ordering and how the emotions are opposed to each other on some aspect or the other, here I would like to utilize some terminology from astrology where not only opposed (180 degrees) are bad or disharmonious but even squares (90 degrees ) are somewhat disharmonious.

with that lets take a look at Plutchiks wheel and order emotions as follows:
1. Fear
2. Joy/happiness
3. Anger
4. Sadness
5. Disgust
6. Surprise
7. Contempt
8. Interest (anticipation)

One would note that on Plutchik’s wheel Fear is opposed to Anger; Happiness to Sadness; Disgust to Trust (contempt in our scheme) and Surprise to Interest.

what I will argue is that while on one intuitive level Sadness is opposed to happiness and fear to anger on a deeper level the square relation between fear and happiness is more important and similarly between anger and sadness is more important; rather I would go ahead and claim that if I had to fit them on a wheel I would have fitted them as opposites instead of squares.

why the above claim; read this post for some background, but basically my claim is that these opposed pairs follow the opposed polarities of four tasks of existence, adaptation, replication and abstraction as outlined by Theodore Millon and also the eight basic adaptive problems faced by all animals. .

To elaborate, on their opposed natures, consider the first problem of arrival of a stimuli /something/some person; now this (con-specific/ other species animal) could be either predator or prey and thus arouse either feelings of Fear or Happiness depending on whether the arrival is viewed disfavorably or favroably- as foe or as food.

Consider second, the loss (departure) of a stimuli/ something/ some person. This can either arouse feelings of anger to restore the earlier status-qua or lead to feelings of sadness if nothing can be done and this is inevitable/ unavoidable.

Now consider a novel stimuli/person/thing introduced in the environment. This can either lead to disgust reaction if intuitively it is appraised that the stimuli in question is not good for self; or the stimuli/person/thing may arouse feelings of surprise if a positive outcome is anticipated nonetheless the stimuli being novel/ unexpected. when a new person mates another that person can be seen as a constant source of surprises.

Lastly consider a familiar or expected stimuli being present in the environment; this can either lead to contempt reaction as we all know that familiarity breeds contempt; or we could still remain engaged with that and still pay attention and be interested in that familiar stimuli/person/ thing.

This also squarely fits with my earlier basic emotions post based on work by Jaak Panksepp. There the basic emotions (in the particular order that I imposed) were fear, seeking (or happiness) , anger, panic(distress) , lust (mapped to disgust they even rhyme:-) , care (mapped to Surprise) and play (mapped to contempt in new model) and lastly SELF mapped to Interest/anticipation.

Of course one can also readily see that happiness and sadness are opposed; but that misses the finer opposition and continuum on a single dimension of fear-happiness (anxiety-calmness scale) ; anger-sadness (mania-depression scale); disgust-surprise and contempt-interest (psychosis-autism scale).

To me the basic emotions and there ordering seems just perfect- and these are same set of emotions that I have also mapped to personality as enduring traits.something seems to be falling in place and I am most reasonably elated.

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