Central to the science of emotion is the principle that emotions are centered in subjective experiences that people represent with language. In this way, emotions are centered in subjective experiences that people represent, in part, with hundreds, if not thousands, of semantic terms. The basic emotion theories posit that a limited number of clusters, ranging in theoretical accounts from 6 to 15, describe the distribution of all emotional states
The full range of human emotional experiences can be captured in 27 overlapping categories, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers asked 835 participants to view a random sample of 30 video clips taken from a pool of 2,815 clips that depicted emotion-inducing images, including babies, deaths, spiders, nature scenes and much more. One group offered free response interpretations of their emotional response to each of 30 videos and the second group of participants rated each of 30 videos in terms of the degree to which it made them feel the 34 emotion categories of interest. The third group of participants rated each of 12 videos they viewed in terms of its placement along 14 widely measured scales of affective dimensions (e.g., arousal, certainty, attention, compliment, control and so on), which are frequently used to measure self-reported emotional experiences.
The researchers found that using three self-report measures, participants reported similar or the same reactions to the videos. Then the researchers used statistical modeling to create a “map” of 27 emotional categories that could encompass all emotional responses, with proximity representing the overlap between the emotions. These clusters were united and created so-called “map”. For example, a cluster that includes such emotions as admiration, awe, aesthetic appreciation and joy, and the opposite cluster includes anxiety, fear, horror and disgust. The researchers argue that this mapping more accurately and comprehensively captures emotional experiences than previous approaches.
The researchers found evidence for traditionally understudied varieties of positive emotion, such as excitement and also for differences between nuanced states such as romantic love and sexual desire, interest and surprise, horror and fear, and aesthetic appreciation or beauty and feelings of awe. It so turned out that the defined 27 distinct varieties of emotional experiences in English involved a richer variety of states than had been considered earlier in the field.