What do we mean when we say that an emotion is positive or negative? When we use the term ‘negative’, we do not know which emotion it refers to. Is it fear, anger, disgust, or the fact that it does not matter? If we combine the various emotions, we cannot define which one is more important than another, since each has a different profile, different signals, a different social context, a different physiology, etc. And each of these so-called negative emotions can have a very positive function, such as mobilising us to escape from danger. Moreover, it is not uncommon for people to enjoy experiencing so-called ‘negative’ emotions; there are those who love to read tear-jerking books, those who love to watch scary movies, and even those who seek out experiences related to these so-called negative emotions.
Here I propose the possibility of considering the existence of at least 16 different pleasant emotions, each one different from the other, just as anger is different from fear. There is little evidence to support these distinctions, but there will be none if we continue to lump them together with the patina of emotions of happiness. Given space limitations I can do little more than name them, but in my book “Emotions Revealed”, I elaborate on them more.
The 16 pleasurable emotions we can feel.
The first five are the sensory pleasures derived from taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing. Fredrickson and Branigan (2001) argue that these should not be considered emotions because they do not require evaluation. But does the pleasure experienced when watching a sunset imply less evaluation than the fear experienced when a chair collapses? Much of what provides sensory pleasure involves evaluation and often a great deal of it.
One of the simplest pleasurable emotions is fun. Most of us like to be amused by something; some of us are very likeable and relate to others through jokes and humour that flow effortlessly.
When all seems right in the world, when there is nothing we feel we have to do, we feel instead satisfaction.
The excitement arises in response to novelty and challenge. Tomkins (1962) considered excitement to be the higher end of interest, as did Izard (1971) after him. However, I believe that arousal has its own unique flavour apart from interest (although it seems unlikely that one can be aroused by something uninteresting).
Release is the pleasurable emotion one feels when something that had strongly shaken us, subsides. Unlike most other emotions, relief requires that there has been a previous unpleasant emotion, typically fear.
Wonder is a rare emotion in which one feels overwhelmed by something incomprehensible. I think it is important to distinguish wonder from fear, although the two can merge when we struggle to grasp what threatens us.
estasis is a state of self-transcendent rapture, achieved by some through meditation, by others through experiences in nature, and by still others through a sexual experience with a truly loved one.
Flattery denotes pride and success. There need not be a competition; ‘triumph’ is the word for this emotion when there is a competition with others. Pride is a very important emotion that motivates ambition and achievement.
“Naches” is the Yiddish word he refers to the proudness that a parent (or mentor) feels for the achievement of offspring. Pride ensures the parents’ investment in facilitating their children’s growth and achievements.
The pleasure of others’ misfortune indicates the pleasant feeling experienced when one learns that one’s enemy has suffered. Unlike other pleasant emotions, this one is frowned upon in some cultures. Often, we ‘should not’ gloat over our successes or enjoy the misfortunes of our rivals.
Evocation is the pleasurable emotion experienced when witnessing unexpected acts of human kindness, kindness or compassion. It can motivate us to engage in such actions ourselves.
In one of his recent articles, Richard Lazarus (and his wife Bernice) wrote about gratitude as “appreciation for an altruistic act that provides benefit” (2001). When someone does something nice for us that does not benefit them, we feel gratitude. It is an emotion that has very strong physiological sensations and can combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
Emotions of happiness
I am quite convinced that the face does not provide distinctive signals for each of these pleasant emotions. Some version of what I have called the Duchenne smile (1990) can be seen in each of the emotions listed above, although the temporal dynamics and intensity may vary. Instead, I argue (1992) that it is the voice that provides the distinctive signal for each. Think for a moment of the sound of relief versus the sound of amusement. Scott and Calder have so far identified a different vocal signal for the four pleasurable emotions they studied. I believe more will be found.
The role of enjoyment and the future of emotion research.
These pleasurable emotions motivate our lives; they induce us to do things that are generally good for us. They encourage us to engage in activities that are necessary for the survival of our species, including reproduction and facilitating the growth of children. Like Tomkins (1962), I believe that the pursuit of pleasure is a primary motivation in our lives. But which pleasurable emotion do we pursue the most? We can all experience all these emotions, but most of us prefer some more than others. People organise their lives to maximise the experience of some of these pleasures.
Are there really 16 pleasurable emotions? Only research that examines when they occur, how they are signalled and what happens internally can answer this question. For now, I think we should investigate each one. If we are using a memory task, we should not ask someone to recall a happy experience, but we should specify which of these happy experiences we want them to recall. If we are trying to identify the signal, whether vocal, facial or postural, we should no longer ask people to put down happiness, but rather ask the person to put down amusement, or relief, etc. It is only by making these distinctions that we will discover how many we need to make.
FREELY TRANSLATED BY PAUL EKMAN GROUP