What are the main theories of emotion relevant today

wheel of emotion

emotion – Plutchik’s wheel

There are many theories about emotion going back hundreds of years.   They have been grouped into categories, sub-categories and numerous lists.  Some of the main theories can still be useful today.

Many psychologists identify the basic/prime emotions to be anger, fear, disgust, happiness, rage, love and sadness.  Emotion is defined as

a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others

instinctive or intuitive feeling as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge

According to the Oxford Dictionary the word emotion derives from Mid 16th century, denoting a public disturbance:  from French émotion, from émouvoir excite, based on Latin emovere, from e- (variant of ex-) out + movere move.

Darwin identified emotions to fall into the following groupings:

Suffering and weeping

Low spirits, anxiety, grief, dejection, despair

Joy, high spirits, love, tender feelings, devotion

Reflection, meditation, ill-temper, sulkiness, determination

Hatred and anger

Disdain, contempt, disgust, guilt, pride, helplessness, patience, affirmation and negation

Surprise, astonishment, fear, horror

Self-attention, shame, shyness, modesty, blushing.

It is interesting to look at the past and the way emotions have been expressed or interpreted.  Anxiety, which is a common everyday emotion that we are familiar with does not even figure in the language of long ago.   What is relevant now in terms of human understanding is a result of the age we live in.

There is pressure today on families and children that is very different from years ago.  Psychology itself is a new discipline (only going back just over 100 years) and one that is growing as a field of study.  The role of philosophy is still very relevant today in understanding human emotions and behaviour, although is sometimes seen as a soft subject of study.

Find out more about the main theories going back to the time of Aristotle and the Ancient Greeks.

The main theories

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