26 March 2018

An Emotional List

by Stephen Ross

I read recently in a newspaper about a study into the range of emotions human beings can experience. The study turned up 27 of them. And this was a study undertaken by the University of California Berkeley, and not some random list drawn up by two men in a pub over a pint.

Generally, it's been held that there are only about a half dozen core emotions, e.g., anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise.

This study expanded on that.

In short, the researchers at Berkeley sat 800 volunteers down in front of video monitors and asked them to report and rank the emotions they felt when watching 30 short (silent) video clips. The clips included all manner of things, including births, deaths, marriages, sex, spiders, scenic wonders, natural disasters, and awkward handshakes (and probably, Donald Trump's hair).

In short again, they found that the responses they got to the clips were multidimensional. No one clip produced one single emotion. In fact, a clip could elicit a variety of "feelings" in the viewer. And each of these feelings constituted an individual and unique emotion.

For example, a clip of a man on tightrope walking between two mountain cliffs brought in the following response from the subjects: Fear 55%, Anxiety 45%, Admiration 9%, Aesthetic appreciation 9%, Amusement 9%, Entrancement 9%.

I don't want to get into an analysis of how they made their findings or drew their conclusions, but I think I can sum it up: Humans are complex creatures; our responses to stimuli are never one dimensional.


My real interest here, and reason for writing, is the LIST they drew up. And here it is:

27 Human Emotions
  • Admiration
  • Adoration
  • Aesthetic Appreciation
  • Amusement
  • Anxiety
  • Awe
  • Awkwardness
  • Boredom
  • Calmness
  • Confusion
  • Craving
  • Disgust
  • Empathetic pain
  • Entrancement
  • Envy
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Horror
  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Nostalgia
  • Romance
  • Sadness
  • Satisfaction
  • Sexual desire
  • Sympathy
  • Triumph
I like this. It's another handy list for the writer's toolbox.

And I like the concept of multidimensional emotional responses to stimuli. It's a good reminder to write characters that have depth and are of more than one emotion. If a character has only one emotion, he's not real, he's a transparent plot device.

The Illustration: This is a photo (close detail) that I took of a painting that hangs in the Auckland Art Gallery. "For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" by Frank Bramley, 1891. It's quite big and quite haunting, when you stand in front of it. I can report Aesthetic Appreciation, Sadness, Empathetic pain, and Calmness.

www.StephenRoss.net

11 comments:

janice Law said...

Good piece- really like the painting, too.

Robert Lopresti said...

I love the list, Steve. Thanks for pointing it out.

Art Taylor said...

Fascinating! Thanks for sharing. :-)

Melodie Campbell said...

Great list! I'll point my students to it. Thanks, Steve.

John Floyd said...

Interesting!! Thanks for posting this list.

Here's hoping for more joy, satisfaction, calmness, and triumph.

Eve Fisher said...

Great list, Steve, and I love the painting.
In AVP we teach that emotions are very rarely "pure" - they're layered, one on top of another, one often masking another. Most people rarely stay in fear (it's too scary) without going into another emotion, often anger/rage, but also into agreement (making an alliance with what scares you), catatonia (freezing), etc.

Elizabeth said...

Disgust + amusement + admiration + empathetic pain = How I felt watching Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes

Stephen Ross said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! And yes, here's hoping for more joy and satisfaction (and acceptances). :)

Elizabeth said...

Shame? Guilt? Embarrassment? Methinks the list is incomplete as written.

Jeff Baker said...

Wow!

Leigh Lundin said...

Excellent, Stephen. I agree with the emotions you pick out in the painting.

Now that Elizabeth has raised the issue, I find I agree with her. Even dogs have been known to look guilty and embarrassed. Maybe more may be detected.