POLL: How you think of "Emotions"

Poll to follow. I was in a discussion the other day with someone, about the process of becoming aware of a situation, and I was taking the position that you first experience emotional states as your initial cognitions and then analyze them to figure out what you’re feeling. The other person looked perplexed and said “Huh? Exactly which emotions are you talking about here? Anger? Fear? Sadness?”

I ended up with this image of this person holding one of those boxes that hold 8 crayons and meanwhile I was doing one of those internet tests to see if you can sort 20 different shades of green in the correct consecutive order…

I seem to recognize zillions of individually different emotional feelings and remember feeling that one in the past, etc, and only a small subset of them have universally-recognized names, terms that I could call them by and other people use the same terms, and even then those labels are broad clumsy things like “red” or “green”. Like there are a whole bunch of different kinds of sadness, each with its own characteristics and meanings, you know what i mean?

I’d divided them into just a handful of broad emotions: anger, love, fear, etc. However, there are multiple different flavors and intensities of each. Loving your spouse or kids is not the same as loving seeing your sports team win. Fear of spiders is not the same as fear of losing your job. There’s anger that is murderous, I’m-about-to-kill-for-real rage, and then there is the mere annoyance of seeing someone cut ahead of you in line at the grocery.

I like the crayon analogy. We experience several broad categories of emotions, but each can be broken down into quite a few variations… like a million-color box of crayons. In fact, each time we experience a given emotion seems to be unique. My love for my husband is distinctly different than my love for ice cream. And my love for my husband today is quantitatively and qualitatively different now than yesterday. And my love for him is different when we’re making love today than when I’m thinking about him while we’re apart. Etc.

Neither, or both.

How many colors are there? Our eyes only have three types of color receptors (red, green, blue), yet our brain can interpret a rainbow of colors. And then there’s the linguistics of the word labels we apply to different points in the colorspace. Is it really a different color if we don’t think of it as a different color because we have no word for it? Do we count the physiological response of the retina, or do we count the perception of the brain, or do we count the words to describe?

I think counting emotions faces similar issues.

Let’s see… there’s:


I count, 5.

I count 2: Annoyed and Only Somewhat Annoyed.

Wait, 3: Love for my children.

There are a handful of emotions/feelings with levels of intensity, and combinations of each. A combination of lust/love/affection for your partner, love/affection for your kids. Levels of ntensity such as the difference between Love/affection for your kids and Love/affection for ice cream.

I was under the impression that there were 4-8 core emotions.

Things like happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, surprise, etc.

And all our emotions are just varying intensities and combinations of these. The same way the apparent infinity of colors we see are just the three primary colors of red, yellow and blue organized and combined in different ways.

Not voting, because I don’t think I fit in either option.

I know I don’t fit in the first, because I’ve got at least one emotion that doesn’t seem to have a name in English.

But I’m not willing to go for the second, because I’m not sure that there’s a huge number, and I do think there are some major ones that are basically the same emotion from person to person and also, to some extent, common through multiple species.

I have it on good authority that there are five emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust.

I voted huge spectrum, that that’s really a deceptive answer. In my opinion there are a bunch of core flavors of emotion (I’m not sure how many), but these emotions can be at varying amplitudes and mixed together to result in a lot more emotions. It’s sort of like how your paint palette might only have eight colors on it, but by mixing and thinning those colors in various proportions you can create a bunch more colors. Except that when you get right down to it you really only have the original eight colors put together in different ways.

Emotions do not fall into neat boxes. This is clear when you’re angry at something, then (some time later) you’re relaxed. That transition from anger to relaxed doesn’t happen instantly; it goes through a gamut of intermediary processes.

However, as with all language, we have divided the spectrum-esque landscape of emotional states into a finite number of delineable categories so as to allow us to convey our emotions to one another.

Thus, our emotions form a huge spectrum of unique and finely-varied feelings. But there aren’t too many words to describe them.

I think there are limitless subjective interpretations/experiences of a finite set of emotions.

There is only one emotion, but it has a plethora of different shades, hues, and intensities (and maybe more dimensions than that). But it’s worth noting that intensity is a distinct quality of them, with the result that it’s fairly easy for one very intense emotion to turn into any other very intense emotion, even one seemingly opposite to it. Hence, for instance, why so many murders are committed by loved ones: They’ve already got strong emotion, and it only has to turn from love to hate.

Emotions are highly illogical.

I’m going with this combined with the crayon analogy. Think of it as a 8-pak with an surprise 64 hidden under it.

I voted for no. 2, even though I think the answer is “there’s a huge variety of emotions, but they blur into each other” But there are a lot, is the takeaway.

A therapist once told me that there are five basic emotions: mad, sad, glad, hurt, scared. I Googled that list, and the results contained numerous references to only four basic emotions: mad, sad, glad, afraid. This seems more plausible, since “hurt” isn’t really an emotion. The general idea seems to be that one’s emotional response to any given situation is likely to be a complicated blend of these four basic emotions in varying quantities:

Emotions are like a rainbow. Certain basic ones, with many fine gradations between.

The basics: Mad, sad, glad, afraid, ashamed, hurt (yes, psychic pain is definitely an emotion in my book)

There are only a few-all rather annoying when you think about it.
Now for most, they vary greatly in strength. But great sadness and mild sadness is still one emotion. Like I said, annoying.

I think it depends on the quality of “crayons in your box”. My box is full of Rose Art trash. The colors almost never match what the label says, they apply unevenly, and some are completely made up emotions that don’t appear anywhere else. I’ve stopped myself from using them and am devoted to using the monochromatic logic of a pencil–one color, infinite shades.