The 8 Types of Emotions (Classification and Description)

Types of Emotions

In this article, we will talk about the  8 types of emotions and how these human manifestations are classified.

Psychology has always been interested in emotions because they influence our thinking, our behavior, and even our mental health.

That is why the concept of emotional intelligence has been gaining ground in recent decades, and words such as emotional validation, emotional regulation or emotional management are increasingly familiar to us. It has been shown that emotional intelligence improves our well-being and performance.

What are emotions

There are many theorists who have tried to explain what emotions are. For the psychologist David G. Meyers, emotions are composed of “physiological arousal, expressive behavior, and conscious experience.”

At present, it is accepted that emotions originate in the limbic system and that these complex states have these three components:

  • Physiological: It is the first reaction to a stimulus, and they are involuntary: breathing increases, changes at the hormonal level, etc.
  • Cognitive : Information is processed on a conscious and unconscious level. It influences our subjective experience.
  • Behavioral: Causes a change in behavior: face gestures, body movement.
  • Over the years, there has been some debate between what is an emotion and what is a feeling.

Theories of emotion

In fact, a different theory of emotion has been formulated for decades. The most important are classified in three ways: physiological, neurological, and cognitive.

  • Physiological theories: they affirm that intracorporeal responses are responsible for emotions.
  • Neurological theories: they suggest that activity in the brain leads to emotional responses.
  • Cognitive theories: propose that thoughts and other mental activities are responsible for the formation of emotions.

Classification of emotions (types)

How are emotions classified? There are different types of emotions; below, you can find a list with a brief explanation of each of them.

Keep in mind, however, that it is not a definitive classification since none will capture 100% how emotions are grouped and related to each other; It is simply a useful classification.

1. Primary or basic emotions

Primary emotions are also known as basic emotions, and they are the emotions we experience in response to a stimulus. For Paul Ekman, he affirmed that the basic emotions are 6: sadness, happiness, surprise, disgust, fear, and anger. All of them constitute adaptation processes and, in theory, exist in all human beings, regardless of the culture in which they have developed.

However, recently, research conducted by the University of Glasgow, which was published in Current Biology, concludes that there are six basic emotions, but four.

2. Secondary emotions

Secondary emotions are a group of emotions that follow the previous ones. For example, when we experience the basic emotion of fear afterward, we can feel the secondary emotions of threat or anger, depending, of course, on the situation we are living. Secondary emotions are caused by social norms and moral norms.

3. Positive emotions

Depending on the degree to which emotions affect the subject’s behavior, they can be either positive or negative. Positive emotions are also known as healthy emotions because they positively affect the well-being of the individual who feels them.

They favor the way of thinking, reasoning, and acting of people. For example, joy, satisfaction, gratitude do not cause a positive attitude towards life and make us feel experiences that help us feel good.

4. Negative emotions

Negative emotions are opposed to positive emotions because they negatively affect people’s well-being. They are also known as toxic emotions and often cause the desire to avoid or evade them. Fear or sadness are some examples.

However, it must be taken into account that these types of emotions, in small quantities and relatively low intensity, are not harmful.

In fact, they are part of the learning process, because thanks to them,  our emotional memory helps us remember the consequences of certain behaviors (or expose ourselves to certain contexts).

5. Ambiguous emotions

Ambiguous emotions are also known as neutral emotions since they cause neither negative nor positive emotions, neither healthy nor unhealthy. For example, surprise does not make us feel good or bad.

The existence of these emotions makes it clear that we are complex animals, and that our experiences have many nuances.

6. Static emotions

Some authors have also referred to as static emotions. They are those that are produced thanks to different artistic manifestations, such as music or painting.

Thus, when listening to a song we can feel very happy or very sad, but that feeling would be qualitatively different from the happiness or sadness that is experienced before any other experience, since it is lived in an artistic context, mediated by symbols and attributions about author’s intentions

7. Social emotions

Social emotions do not refer to culturally learned emotions, but it is necessary that there is another person present or else they cannot surface. For example, revenge, gratitude, pride, or admiration are emotions we feel about other individuals.

8. Instrumental emotions

Instrumental emotions are those whose purpose or objective is manipulation or the purpose of achieving something. They are complicated to recognize because they may appear to be natural. However, they are forced emotions and hide an intention.

Sometimes, they are the result of self-suggestion: submitting to certain contexts voluntarily to make a part of that emotion dye our way of behaving.

The importance of emotional education

Many times we do not realize the importance of emotional education. In schools, for example, they are more concerned with teaching us to be good professionals, and neglect to become emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy people.

Emotional intelligence has proven to be a basic tool for our mental health and is, without a doubt, a way of empowering us in the face of life, of becoming much more prepared for the day to day life. Much happier!

Emotional intelligence is a term that became famous thanks to Daniel Goleman, and since then many investigations have affirmed that it is positive not only for our daily lives but that in work, sports and even education, it is highly effective and provides many performance benefits.

According to Goleman, the components of emotional intelligence are:

  • Emotional self-knowledge
  • Emotional self-control
  • Self-motivation
  • Recognition of the emotions of others
  • Relationships

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