Friday, June 15, 2012

Do we Have Primary Emotions Like Primary Colors?

Which emotions constitute our most basic ones? That’s not easy to answer since there are a number of different opinions. As far back as Darwin, theorists speculated about whether emotions are innate or learned, and how many are universally expressed. To shed light on this dilemma, Paul Ekman, a psychologist, traveled to Papua, New Guinea and showed members of an isolated culture, the Fore tribe, photographs of emotions in people from another culture. He found that they could reliably name six emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Ekman was, thus, able to show that contrary to the belief of some anthropologists, including Margaret Mead, facial expressions of emotions are not culturally determined, but are basic or biologically universal to all humans.

I decided to use Ekman’s original six emotions and, based on further research, decided to add two additional ones. Many of our basic emotions are designed to keep us aware of danger, potential harm, or novelty in our environment. Others are more social in nature. Happiness and sadness are often related to our interactions with others. I thought the same was true of shame and love They both, but in different ways, help us to stay connected to others or to be an accepted group member. Dacher Keltner, a student of Paul Ekman, in his book, Born to be Good, talks about the importance of the positive emotions and our deep capacity for kindness and compassion.

Take a look at this You Tube video on basic emotions
Or read an interview with Dr. Ekman.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article and thanks for the link to the video and interview. Intriguing!