A new study from the University of California, Berkeley, 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 novel statistical models to analyze the responses of more than 800 men and women to over 2,000 emotionally evocative video clips, UC Berkeley researchers identified 27 distinct categories of emotion and created a multidimensional, interactive map to show how they’re connected.
Their findings are published this week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
“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, a UC Berkeley psychology professor and expert on the science of emotions.
For the study, a demographically diverse group of 853 men and women went online to view a random sampling of silent 5- to-10-second videos intended to evoke a broad range of emotions.
Themes from the 2,185 video clips — collected from various online sources for the study — included births and babies, weddings and proposals, death and suffering, spiders and snakes, physical pratfalls and risky stunts, sexual acts, natural disasters, wondrous nature and awkward handshakes.
Three separate groups of study participants watched sequences of videos, and, after viewing each clip, completed a reporting task. The first group freely reported their emotional responses to each of 30 video clips.
“Their responses reflected a rich and nuanced array of emotional states, ranging from nostalgia to feeling ‘grossed out,'” Cowen said.
The second group ranked each video according to how strongly it made them feel admiration, adoration, aesthetic appreciation, amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, contempt, craving, disappointment, disgust, empathic pain, entrancement, envy, excitement, fear, guilt, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, pride, relief, romance, sadness, satisfaction, sexual desire, surprise, sympathy and triumph.