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April 6, 2014

Science Identifies 15 New Emotions!

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A new study published this week in the journal PNAS has identified 15 new “compound emotions.”

These emotions are blends of other emotions, kind of like blending blue and yellow to make green.

Yet these emotions are distinct, from each other and from the previously identified basic six emotions of humans: happy, sad, fearful, angry, surprised and disgusted.

“Happily surprised” and “fearfully surprised” are vastly different, for example.

The journal article’s abstract describes the research significance:

“Though people regularly recognize many distinct emotions, for the most part, research studies have been limited to six basic categories—happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust; the reason for this is grounded in the assumption that only these six categories are differentially represented by our cognitive and social systems. The results reported herein propound otherwise, suggesting that a larger number of categories is used by humans.”

In an interview with CNN, researcher Aleix Martinez, associate professor at Ohio State University, said, “The problem with that is that we cannot fully understand our cognitive system … if we do not study the full rainbow of expressions that our brain can produce.”

And these new emotional categories could also affect research on psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia or PTSD, as well as research on developmental disorders like autism. This new discovery is also lauded to potentially help human-computer interaction systems and people who suffer from face blindness, a cognitive disorder that prevents the distinguishing of different faces or facial expressions.

However, Martinez and his colleagues hadn’t initially expected their level of success; showing these compound emotions as true emotional categories.

“I was happily surprised,” he jokes.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo credit: Flickr; elephant archives.

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