Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is a framework illustrating the various relationships between human emotions. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions was developed by American psychologist Robert Plutchik in 1980 to help people make sense of their sometimes mysterious or overwhelming feelings.
Understanding Plutchik’s wheel of emotions
Plutchik based his framework on the psycho-evolutionary theory of emotion, which he also developed. The theory argues emotions have a long evolutionary history, adapting and evolving to increase human reproductive fitness.
Plutchik also believed emotion played an important role in survival and involved both a cognitive and behavioral response. For example, a person encountering a snake may conclude they are in danger (cognition) and then experience fear (emotion) as a result. This fear then motivates them to take action that improves their chances of survival.
Though it is thought humans experience over 34,000 different emotions, Plutchik identified just eight that serve as the foundation for every other emotion. By learning to identify these eight emotions, the individual can help the sometimes impulsive human mind remain objective when the fight or flight response is triggered.
The eight basic emotions of Plutchik’s wheel
The eight basic emotions are arranged in opposite pairs around Plutchik’s wheel.
The four pairs include joy and sadness, trust and disgust, fear and anger, and surprise and anticipation. This means joy is the opposite of sadness and trust is the opposite of disgust, and so on.
The wheel itself is arranged in a series of color-coordinated spokes in three layers representing by circles.
Let’s take a look at the constituent parts of Plutchik’s wheel below:
- Outer edges – along the outer edges are low-intensity emotions such as boredom, distraction, acceptance, and interest.
- Toward the center – as one moves toward the center of the wheel, deepening colors represent mild emotions as they intensify and become the eight basic emotions. For example, boredom becomes disgust, distraction becomes surprise, and interest becomes anticipation.
- Centre circle – the center circle houses the most intense manifestations of each basic emotion. These include loathing (disgust), rage (anger), vigilance (anticipation), ecstasy (joy), admiration (trust), terror (fear), amazement (surprise), and grief (sadness).
- Between the spokes – between each colored spoke are what Plutchik called mixed emotions. For example, disapproval arises from a combination of sadness and surprise. Optimism arises from a combination of anticipation and joy.
Using Plutchik’s wheel of emotions
There are two ways for individuals to use the wheel:
- The two-dimensional circle – the two-dimensional circle is the simplest way to use Plutchik’s wheel. This approach allows the individual to identify the primary emotions they are feeling and how they combine to create secondary emotions.
- The three-dimensional ellipse – using the three-dimensional ellipse approach, the individual can analyze the emotional intensity of their primary and secondary emotions.
Both approaches help the individual determine the emotions they are feeling, which can sometimes be difficult to identify because they are processed subconsciously.
Specifically, the wheel encourages individuals to:
- Attend to their own emotions through patience and curiosity.
- Talk about their emotions and portray their true feelings to others.
- Accept that feeling a wide gamut of emotions in life is healthy and normal, and
- Adopt healthier, more constructive ways of reacting to a particular situation by substituting negative emotions with more positive emotions.
- Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is a framework illustrating the various relationships between human emotions. It was invented by American psychologist Robert Plutchik in 1980 to help people make sense of the subconscious expression of emotions.
- Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is based on eight basic emotions which, in various degrees and combinations, describe every other emotion a person experiences. The eight emotions include anger, anticipation, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, and disgust.
- Plutchik’s wheel of emotions helps individuals attend to their life experiences with patience and curiosity and express their true feelings to others. Perhaps most importantly, Plutchik’s wheel can be used to adopt healthier, more constructive ways of reacting to a situation.
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