Humans have 27 different emotions, study finds

  • 08/09/2017
Science, Health
They range from admiration to triumph. Photo credit: Supplied

Forget the five found inside the head of Inside Out's Riley - you'd need 27 to cover the full range of human emotion, new research suggests.

Scientists at the University of California showed thousands of short clips to hundreds of men and women in a variety of tests, judging how each made them feel.

The clips covered a wide range of scenarios, including: births and babies, weddings, death and suffering, spiders and snakes, pratfalls and risky stunts, sexual acts, natural disasters, nature scenes and awkward handshakes.

Previous estimates have guessed we have between five and seven core emotions - but not according to this latest research, published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"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 senior author Dacher Keltner, psychology professor.

There are also gradients between each, as an interactive map showing the links between each emotion illustrates.

"We don't get finite clusters of emotions in the map because everything is interconnected," said lead author Alan Cowen, PhD neuroscience student. "Emotional experiences are so much richer and more nuanced than previously thought."

All of the clips and the emotions they generated can be viewed on the interactive map.

The 27 distinct emotions, according to this study, are: 

  • admiration
  • adoration
  • aesthetic appreciation
  • amusement
  • anxiety
  • awe
  • awkwardness
  • boredom
  • calmness
  • confusion
  • craving
  • disgust
  • empathetic pain
  • entrancement
  • envy
  • excitement
  • fear
  • horror
  • interest
  • joy
  • nostalgia
  • romance
  • sadness
  • satisfaction
  • sexual desire
  • sympathy
  • triumph