A new study challenges a long-held assumption in psychology that most human emotions fall within the universal categories of happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust.
Using statistical models to analyse the responses of 853 men and women, who are demographically diverse, to 2,185 emotionally evocative video clips, University of California, Berkeley, researchers have identified 27 distinct categories of emotion and created a multidimensional map to show how they are connected.
According to the study published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, there are smooth gradients of emotion between, for instance, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration.
“We don’t get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected,” Xinhua quoted lead author Alan Cowen as saying.
The results showed that study participants generally shared the same or similar emotional responses to the videos shown to them, providing a wealth of data that allowed the researchers to identify 27 distinct categories of emotion.
Through statistical modelling and visualisation techniques, the researchers organised the emotional responses to each video into a semantic atlas of human emotions.
“We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video,” said study senior author Dacher Keltner.