• The 27 Emotions List: What Recent Science Says We Feel

    “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

    When talking about social media, politics, and $30 Starbucks coffees, we often feel a familiar combination of disgust and anger. But a study in 2017 came to the conclusion we have far more emotions despite what our modern internet age tells us.

    In 2017, two researchers from the University of California, Berkely, Alan S. Cowen, and Dacher Keltner, PhD, came to the conclusion there are 27 distinct classifications of emotions in humans.

    In fact, their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal was the largest collection of emotional data to date!

    They used new forms of statistical analysis to analyze 324,066 individual judgments from over 800 people using Amazon Mechanical Turk.

    Cowen and Keltner initially collected 2,185 five-second videos with the goal of eliciting as many emotions as possible. The videos included births, babies, weddings, death, cute animals, art, explosions, sexual acts, and everything in between.

    They showed these videos to the study participants and had them report their emotional responses in the form of free form, ratings, or on a scale of one to nine for other dimensions such as positive versus negative experience, etc.

    Their results?

    They found 27 statistically provable emotions felt by the individuals in their study.

    The 27 Emotions List

    So, what are the 27 emotions Cowen and Keltner identified?

    Admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, craving, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, excitement, fear, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, and surprise.

    Here’s the list in alphabetical order as well as links to their definitions.

    Emotions aren’t on an island

    We should note the study might not be perfect and there could be far more or fewer emotions experienced in real life. Additionally, the collection of data was based on self-reported answers.

    As the authors noted, “self-report measures only partially capture; self-report is not a direct readout of experience.”

    But it’s cool to think there are some universally identifiable emotions, potentially across cultural, geographical, and linguistic barriers, too (although this wasn’t assessed in the study).

    The 27 emotions identified also aren’t supposed to be thought of as sitting on a lonely island. Keltner said:

    “There are smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration.”

    Life, after all, isn’t composed of simple 0s and 1s, even if many of like to think of such binary terms. The other author, Cowen, mentioned:

    “We don’t get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected. Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought.”

    If you’re interested in knowing more about the study or seeing how the videos were mapped out by participants in terms of emotions, the authors created an interactive map (viewer discretion advised).

    What other theories of emotion are there?

    Psychology is often not an exact science, and whenever this occurs you’ll find multiple theories explaining how our internals work and function. Here are a few of the main alternate theories on how many emotions people actually have.

    Charles Darwin’s theory of emotions

    After publishing On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin released his third major piece on evolutionary psychology called The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. In this book, Darwin explores the universality of emotions among animals and humankind, and discusses 34 separate emotions:

    1. Anxiety
    2. Devotion
    3. High spirits
    4. Low spirits
    5. Patience
    6. Affirmation
    7. Negation
    8. Surprise
    9. Joy
    10. Love
    11. Hatred
    12. Disdain
    13. Contempt
    14. Tender feelings
    15. Suffering
    16. Weeping
    17. Grief
    18. Blushing
    19. Reflection
    20. Mediation
    21. Determination
    22. Dejection
    23. Despair
    24. Anger
    25. Disgust
    26. Guilt
    27. Pride
    28. Helplessness
    29. Ill-temper
    30. Sulkiness
    31. Fear
    32. Self-attention
    33. Shyness
    34. Modesty

    His conclusion showed he believed there were six basic shared emotional states: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust.

    Robert Plutchik’s theory of emotions

    The prolific psychologist Robert Plutchik had a focus on emotional responses and how they might influence people. As part of his research, he came to the conclusion that people possess eight primary emotions:

    1. Fear
    2. Anger
    3. Joy
    4. Sadness
    5. Acceptance
    6. Disgust
    7. Anticipation
    8. Surprise

    If you’ve ever studied writing before, you’re probably familiar with Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, which aims to illustrate his theory in a color wheel. It’s a good tool for authors looking to explore their characters’ different emotions and feelings when stuck for words.

    Discrete emotion theory

    This theory has been in development since Darwin’s work mentioned above. It’s along the same idea — that humans universally experience a set of distinct emotions. In the latest iteration of the theory, psychologist Carroll Izard proposes there are 12 discrete emotions shared by humans:

    1. Interest
    2. Joy
    3. Surprise
    4. Sadness
    5. Anger
    6. Disgust
    7. Contempt
    8. Self-hostility
    9. Fear
    10. Shame
    11. Shyness
    12. Guilt

    Book two of Aristotle’s theory

    In book two of Aristotle’s classic, Rhetoric, he outlines a series of 14 emotions he thinks are universal. But note they might be considered somewhat dated as this was released around 2400 years ago.

    Aristotle’s list of emotions included:

    • Anger
    • Calm
    • Friendship
    • Enmity
    • Fear
    • Confidence
    • Shame
    • Shamelessness
    • Kindness
    • Unkindness
    • Pity
    • Indignation
    • Envy
    • Emulation

    Takeaway

    According to researchers, we humble humans experience over 6,000 thoughts per day. At least 90% of our waking hours also constitute at least one ongoing emotion. And this jumps between 3 to 30 separate emotions depending on different studies.

    In short, while different researchers posit we might have 6, 8, or even 27 distinct emotions throughout our lives, the absolute truth is, we are emotional beasts!

    We experience anger while feeling sad when a loved one gets taken away too early. We feel joy and anticipation when we make progress on personal projects. Our emotions are truly a wheel of craziness that scientists might never nail down to their exact parts.

    But that’s okay, because at the end of the day, knowing how to control and take advantage of your own emotions is probably more important than knowing the distinct number of them available to the human species.

    And for that, your best bet is probably learning about the different forms of meditation — something scientifically proven to help us regulate our mood and bring on an increased level of relaxation and contentment.


    J.J. Pryor

    Head over here for more of my written shenanigans.

  • The Wason Selection Task: Over 90% of People Get This Simple Logic Test Wrong

    “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” — Albert Einstein

    Some days the cards just seem to fall in the right order. Today is probably not that day for you. At least, according to the results of a simple test devised by the renowned psychologist Peter Cathcart Wason.

    His field of study?

    Why we humans consistently make the same mistakes when confronted with logical solutions. If you’ve ever heard of the term “confirmation bias,” this was the dude who coined it in the first place.

    And while he created this series of logic tests way back in 1966, his work is still studied, debated, and analyzed many decades later.

    Why?

    Because we humans still keep making ridiculous choices in our mental reasoning when faced with logic. We choose to order a $10 Starbucks coffee when we know a $2 version from a local cafe tastes just as good. We sign up for expensive gym memberships, even though we haven’t cleared time in our schedule to go to it. We vote for officials who are clearly corrupt because we feel they represent our tribe, and our tribe has to be right even when it isn’t.

    Simply put, we make dumb decisions all the time because of a lack of logical abstract reasoning.

    Now, you might find yourself nodding your head in agreement.

    • Those people do drink overpriced fecal coffee.
    • Those people do sign up for programs they’ll never follow through on.
    • And those people certainly vote for the candidate who’s clearly a corrupt piece of Starbucks latte.

    But more than 90% of people studied consistently got this logic test wrong. So how do we know we aren’t those people in the first place?

    Well, let’s jump in and see if you’re the you, you think you are!

    The Wason selection task

    Here’s the test as it was originally laid out:

    “You are shown a set of four cards placed on a table, each of which has a number on one side and a colored patch on the other side. The visible faces of the cards show 3, 8, red and brown. Which card(s) must you turn over in order to test the truth of the proposition that if a card shows an even number on one face, then its opposite face is red?”

    And here’s my amazing artwork skills in Canva showing what the cards look like:

    Four cards, a 3, and 8, a red one, and a brown one

    Image made in Canva by author

    Now reread this passage at least 3 times to make sure you get the gist of it.

    Which card(s) need to be turned over to prove this statement true: If a card is an even number on one side, then the other side is red.

    Re-read it one more time, just to make sure.

    Now, I’m going to type a bunch of possible answers that people tend to give. Scroll down to the bottom for the full answer and explanation!

    Don’t cheat!

    Typical answers given to the Wason selection task

    In the original series of tests given along the same lines, only 4% chose the right answer! Here’s how the answers went:

    1. 45% picked the 8 card and the red card
    2. 35% picked the 8 card only
    3. 7% picked the 8 card, red card, and brown card
    4. 4% picked the 8 card and the brown card
    5. 9% picked other combinations

     

    Can you guess which one was correct?

    If you chose the 8 card and the brown card, congratulations, your logic is of a superior kind and we should all bow down before you.

    But why, God, why!?!” I asked myself the first time I encountered this test and assume you are as well right now.

    It’s logic, silly

    The first part of the statement mentions even numbers, so we know we’re dealing with the 8 in this scenario. The second part mentions the red color.

    So, the simple conclusion is we should flip over the 8 to prove it true, and flip over the red one to prove it true. That’s what 45% of people think, anyway.

    But the reasoning uses a bit of whacky back and forth logic here. Let’s start with the first of four cards:

    • The 3: Doesn’t need to be flipped because it’s not an even number. The statement doesn’t give any rules for a 3, so we don’t have to care about it. Poor 3.
    • The 8: We need to flip the 8 to prove the other side is actually red. If it isn’t, then the rule is broken. So we care about the 8.
    • The Red: We don’t have to flip the red card because it doesn’t matter what is on the other side, whether it’s an even or an odd number because the statement never mentioned odd numbers! As in, the other side of the card can be anything because it won’t disprove the rule.
    • The Brown: We need to flip this card to see if the other side is an even number. Because if it is even, then it breaks the rule.

     

    Still feel a bit confused? Don’t worry, I was in your same boat for a while too. That’s how I found about an even crazier part of this series of tests.

    Psychologists later on figured out something even weirder. If we put the test in terms of something we all actually understand in our everyday lives, the rates of answering correctly goes through the roof!

    Let me show you.

    The Wason selection task (if it was a drunkard)

    Let’s take the same idea of the test, but transfer it into something many of us know and love — beers and coke!

    Imagine you’re a bartender just starting a shift, and you see the following scenario.

    Four cards, one with 16 on it, 25 on another, a soda on one, and a beer on the other

    Created by Domthedude001 via WikiMedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

    Assuming the numbers are ages and the drinks are drinks, which two cards would you have to check to make sure everyone was legally drinking?

    When the test was given, here were the most common answers:

    1. 72% picked the beer card and the 16 card
    2. 20% picked the beer card only
    3. 3% picked the beer card, 25 card, and 16 card
    4. 5% picked other combinations

     

    And surprise, surprise, 72% people got it right this time!

    We don’t need to check the 25-year-old because it doesn’t matter what they’re drinking. Just like we don’t need to check the soda card, because it doesn’t matter how old that person is!

    And that leaves a young 16-year-old and a person of unknown age drinking the beer. Check both of those cards and we can tell if everyone is legal.

    Same test, different images.

    And yet the results were virtually flipped. That’s why psychologists in the 1980s figured the success rates on these logic tests are highly context-dependent.

    That led to psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby in the 1990s creating the beer version of the test above, and then concluding the context of social relations is the more important factor.

    (Note, many psychologists later disagreed with this premise, but it’s too advanced for my little brain to go into.)

    Takeaway

    While the entire functioning of why these tests are perplexing and easy with just some minor tweaks, I like to think of it like this.

    If we’re familiar with something, especially social rules of where we grow up and participate in society, then our brains can essentially *click* that much faster when presented with related logic problems.

    We all know about beer and drinking ages and how their rules can be easily applied, but most of us have never cared about odd and even numbers being flipped over to brown or red shades.

    And that familiarity with a subject lets us apply logic in situations we’re unfamiliar with, as long as our brains think it’s related.

    And if that’s true, I’m positive it also has negative effects as well.

    Perhaps they’re like blinders helping us finish a race faster, while also preventing us from seeing a pile of juicy carrots halfway down the track.

    After all, how can we really know if we’re the blind horse or the commandeering jockey, or if we’re actually in the 4% or the 96%. All we truly have is our assumptions and an ability to learn more about the world.

    And I suppose that has to be good enough for this writer.


    J.J. Pryor

    Head over here for more of my shenanigans.

  • The Protégé Effect: How to Learn by Teaching

    “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”-Albert Einstein

    The protege effect is a well-known psychological phenomenon that states teaching other people a subject helps a person learn that subject more effectively in the first place. And that’s not all, if the effect is true, it can help people who are preparing to teach—or even pretending to, too!

    Probably the best example is to think of a typical college student studying for exams. If that student were to partner up with a classmate and take turns teaching each other the material on an upcoming exam, chances are, they’d perform vastly better.

    And the best thing about it? It’s not even that hard to do. This article discusses the reasoning behind the protégé effect, studies, examples, and how you can use it yourself!

    Psychology of the protégé effect

    There are several reasons for why the protégé effect is thought to work more effectively than just straight-up self-learning. 

    #1. Respect for teachers

    Imagine your relationship with any teacher you’ve had in the past you liked. Now compare that to one you didn’t. I bet for that first teacher you had a lot more respect, listened a lot more, and generally absorbed what they had to say, right?

    Now imagine you were tasked with teaching that person some small snippet of knowledge. You’d be sure you knew the information, you’d probably collect it in an organized manner, and you might even practice saying it out loud before going to the teacher.

    Essentially, when we are told we need to teach someone else something, we’re more inherently motivated to do a good job. We spend more time learning the material, we organize it better, and we gain a better long-term memory of the information. 

    #2. Brains work harder

    Learning by preparing to teach has been proven to activate parts of our brains that might normally lay dormant when doing simple self-learning. This study found students who were preparing to teach a math problem they were learning used 1.3 times more metacognitive strategies than the group that didn’t.

    #3. Motivation and Agency

    A neat study was performed using a digital assistant called Betty’s Brain, where one group of students had to teach the software a certain subject. The students who had to teach far out-performed the group who didn’t when later tested on the recall and knowledge learned. 

    #4. Organization

    Lastly, when we’re told we need to teach information later, it’s natural for us to spend more time truly understanding the key concepts. And to do that means we need to organize information in a way we can completely grasp the subject. One study set out to prove this exact premise, and according to their results, they did. 

    Using the protégé effect

    Whatever the actual reasoning or motivation behind the protégé effect is, we can be sure it’s a more effective way to learn almost any skill in life. It doesn’t matter your age, either. The extra motivations and effects of learning by teaching can be applied to most situations, such as:

    • At work: When new employees are onboarded, many are faced with tombs of dry dictionary-like standard operating procedures, how-tos, and motivational drab spoken in a robotic corporate voice. In my opinion, it’s almost useless. We all know that people learn better by doing, and having new employees teach back concepts they just learned to their supervisors is likely a far more effective strategy for them to learn. And what kind of business wouldn’t want shorter employee training times? (Hint: That saves them money.)
    • At college: I used to do this myself when taking phenomenally boring taxation and accounting classes. Every semester come exam time, I teamed up with a classmate and spent time going over each concept that was going to be on the exams. We’d take turns teaching the concepts to each other, eventually being able to do it without referring to the textbook. While it definitely took a bit more time, those exams were always aced in comparison to the ones I didn’t use the buddy teaching system.
    • At school: If you’re a teacher or have a kid in school, the protégé effect can also help. Having students teach each other the concepts they just learned, whether for a test or just as a routine action, will help them retain the knowledge far more effectively than traditional methods.

    Summary

    I’ve used the protégé effect throughout my life without even knowing it. This very blog is an example of it. When I take the time to write about a subject that isn’t pure conjecture, it often takes me down winding holes of interest and depths of information. But the thing is, if I’m writing an essay or article on that idea, I have to go back and recheck facts, figures, and concepts to make sure I’m not writing gibberish. 

    Once that’s all wrapped up into a shiny nice article like the one you’re seeing, I’ve actually learned that material (and can later recall it accurately) far better than if I didn’t spend the extra time doing so.

    Think of an article you read last week that tweaked your interest and you wanted to tell a friend. Could you recall all the specifics correctly? Could you answer any questions they shot back at you? Or, did you just send them the article link to read because explaining the entire thing from memory would’ve been impossible?

    For me and I suspect most people, the case is often the last one. But with researching and writing articles like this one, I feel like I’m actually gaining new knowledge instead of just going through the never-ending scroll of information we call the internet.

    And to me, that’s incredibly important.

    Is it also to you?

    If so, take a moment to think of using the protégé effect the next time a subject is really interesting to you. Good luck!