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Emotions have been of interest to philosophers and scientists for centuries. Currently, there are 2 primary theories about emotion.
The evolutionary theory of emotion states that emotions evolved to enhance survival by prompting appropriate reactions to the environment (e.g., like being chased by a bear). While humans generally do not have the same threats to their survival as our primal ancestors, emotions still serve important social functions by communicating intentions and future actions.
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Given the complexity of emotions, Robert Plutchik created the Emotion Wheel to visualize the complexity of emotions and help people identify and label their emotions. The Emotion Wheel uses color to depict discrete emotions and blends of emotion, uses their grad...
The social constructivist theory of emotion (Barrett, 2009) posits that emotions are not innate, and instead are socially and culturally constructed. In other words, past experience, informed by upbringing and culture, colors our interpretation of viscer...
The Emotion Wheel was created by Robert Plutchik to help organize complex emotions and so that people could more easily gain clarity, identify, and label their emotions. We'll dive into the specific emotions in the emotion wheel, and how to use it, but first let's talk a bit abou...
All perception is colored by emotion.
Now that you have the emotion wheel to better identify and label your emotions, here are some exercises that can help you put this tool to use to grow your well-being.
People at times struggle with communicating how they feel. People often say they “feel bad” and sometimes cannot be more specific. Using clear emotion labels helps people to have more awareness of their emotions and communicate with others about their needs. People who use more granular l...
The subjective feeling component of emotion refers to our experience of emotions.
When we talk about our emotions, the subjective feeling is typically what we think of and describe (e.g., “I feel sad about…”). Wr...
Emotions are associated with facial, verbal, and/or behavioral expressions.
Charles Darwin first noted the universality of this component of emotion in his book, “On the Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals” published in 1872. For example, he wrote abo...
The center of the emotion wheel reflects the maximal levels of arousal of each emotion. The emotions further away from the center of the emotion wheel represent milder arousal levels of the primary emotions. Emotions placed closer to each other in the emotion wheel are deemed more similar...
For example, not all cultures have the same words for different emotions (the German word ‘schadenfreude’ means taking pleasure in someone else’s pain and there is no equivalent word in the English language). This view of emotions suggests that multiple brain net...
The Emotion Wheel can also be used to reflect on some of the bridges people experience between their emotions (e.g., anger and sadness may frequently co-occur). To help people regulate their emotions, the Emotion Wheel can be a visual aid for converting emotions from nega...
Emotions can get in the way or can get you on the way.
Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.
The Emotion Wheel can be a useful tool in individual therapy, group settings, or on your own to identify, generate, and explore the complexity of emotions. For example, in therapy, the Emotion Wheel can be a visual cue to discuss and label one’s emotions or try t...
Plutchik argued that each emotion serves an evolutionary function and he identified specific survival behaviors as triggered by specific emotions.
For example, the emotions of fear/terror result in withdrawing behaviors that are meant to protect oneself. I...
Emotions prepare us to respond to a perceived or real environmental stimulus (e.g., being chased by a mountain lion or thinking that a friend is angry can both produce fear, causing us to retreat). But what differentiates an emotion from a mood, a ph...
Emotions are coordinated with the body’s physiological responses.
For example, when you are scared, your heart rate typically increases and your palms get sweaty. There is some debate about whether emotions precede or proceed these physiological r...
According to the evolutionary theory of emotion, emotions are thought to have clear neural bases in the brain and are universal across cultures and species. As such, emotions are thought to be innate. Plutchik's emotion wheel uses an evolutionary perspective on...
“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison
What are emotions and what is the Emotion Wheel? Learn how to identify and label your emotions using the Emotion Wheel.
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