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Scientists identify 27 different human emotions

A recent study has found that the range of human emotion might be much larger than we previously thought. Before, it was believed that we felt only six emotions – but researchers at UC Berkeley report that they have found 27 unique human emotions.

“We wanted to shed light on the full palette of emotions that color our inner world,” says lead author Alan Cowen.

The study involved asking over 800 participants, broken into three groups, to report or rank the emotions they felt after watching 30 different video clips. Each clip was five to ten seconds and included things such as birth, death, weddings, spiders, risky stunts, sexual acts, nature, and awkward handshakes.

The first group was asked to freely report the emotions they felt, which is what led to the discovery of the 27 emotions. “Their responses reflected a rich and nuanced array of emotional states, ranging from nostalgia to feeling ‘grossed out,’” Cowen says. 

The second group was tasked with ranking each video according to how strongly it made them feel any of the 27 previously reported emotions. The results from this part of the study made it clear to the researchers that the participants were in agreement about the emotions they were all experiencing.

The final group ranked their emotional responses to a dozen videos on a scale of 1 to 9, using paired opposites such as positive vs. negative or excitement vs. calmness. The researchers were actually able to accurately predict how the third group would rank their emotions based off of the previous groups’ responses. This shows that the participants generally shared similar emotional responses to the video clips, and provides strong evidence of the existence of these 27 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,” says Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychology professor.

Furthermore, the study found that each emotional state isn’t an island. There are gradients of emotion between them, tying them together in a web that is all interconnected.

Enhancing our knowledge of what emotions people feel and what causes them to feel these emotions may help us lead to a better understanding of each other, and even ourselves.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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