Posts tagged Jaak Panksepp

Basic Emotions

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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Emotions and personality

Eight ball...
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In response to my last post on the eight factor model fitting Jaak Pankspep’s basic emotions model,@vasusrini asked in a tweet my opinions on relationships between the emotions and relationship of emotions to personality.

Image of Vasu from Twitter
Image of Vasu

@sandygautam I love the 8-emotion classification. I am wondering if there are relationship models, a)bet. emotions b) with Personality typesless than a minute ago via web

This post is the response to the second query. Even prior to this I had had a conversation with @brembs on friendfeed regarding whether flies have emotions and in the case of a inconclusive answer the second follow-up question as to whether they have a personality.

Discerning readers will immediately note that I foresee a plausible and meaningful connection between emotions and personality. Basically in a nutshell, I believe all state variables have a affective component and can be labeled as emotions; while all trait components have a enduring and temperamental component and can be labeled as the personality. Given this fact and given my emphasis on the evolutionarily driven eight basic adaptive problems as determining both the states and traits of an organism as it goes about the business of life, the short answer is that I definitely see a relationship and correspondence between 8 basic emotions and 8 factors/traits of personality.

The long answer is that the best correspondence I have found, with respect to eight factor models, to date for emotions is Jaak Panksepps eight basic emotions and the best correspondence I have found for personality is Robert Cloningers seven factored temperament and character traits of personality. Of course I have also elaborated the five factor model of personality to an eight factor model and will like to draw attention to that as well.

Before I proceed I would like to claim that Cloninger has missed one temperament trait and has confounded anger and seeking systems and traits under one rubric of novelty seeking. thus , I propose and predict that factor studies and more robust empirical work should in the end split Novelty seeking factor of Cloninger in two- thus leading to 5 temperament traits and 3 character traits.

Now lets do a rundown of the eights stages and adaptive problems and ‘state’ emotions useful for that situation and enduring personality ‘traits’ where individuals can differ in their habitual responses tendencies to the same give problem of adaptation .

  1. Physical/survival stage. task: Avoiding predators/Foe. emotions useful: FEAR/Anxiety; personality trait : neuroticism (big 8) / Harm Avoidance )(cloninger).
  2. Impulsive/willfulness stage. task: finding food/exploration.  emotions useful: SEEKING; personality trait: conscentiousness (big 8)/ Novelty Seeking -I (relating to impulsiveness) (cloninger)
  3. interpersonal/dominance-hierarchy stage. task: forming friends/alliances. emotions useful: aggression/RAGE. personality trait: extraversion (big 8) / Novelty Seeking II (relating to anger) (cloninger)
  4. social/emotional stage: task:   providing help to kids/children. emotion useful :PANIC/ separation distress (to bond mother-child). personality trait :  agreeableness (big 5) / Reward-dependence (cloninger)
  5. cognitive /self-formation stage: task: helping kins or like minded folks. emotion useful: LUST/sexuality (of adolescence just like self-formation in adolescence). Personality trait: Conformity/rebellion(big 8)/ Persistence (perfectionists) (cloninger)
  6. Intimacy stage: task: reading others minds/ selecting a mate. emotions useful: CARE/love. personality trait: Trust/suspiciousness (big 8) /Cooperativeness (cloninger)
  7. Generativity stage. task: communicating with others/seducing a mate. emotions useful: PLAY/joy. personality trait: Activity (big 8)/ Self-Directedness (cloninger)
  8. integrity stage: task: Securing mate/ coming to terms with death. emotions useful: SELF. Personality trait : masculine-feminine (big 8)/ Self-Transcendence (cloninger)

In all of the above , the emotions capitalized are with respect to Jaak Panksepp’s model. So that is the long answer. what do you think of this? Do read the earlier mouse trap pots too for context and let me know whether the 8 factor model excites you as much as it does me or @vasusrini?

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Basic emotions: the eight stage model fits again!

2nd third of 17th century
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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

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