Handbook of Cognition and Emotion

By Tim Dalgleish; Mick J. Power | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3
Basic Emotions

Paul Ekman
University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA


In this chapter I consolidate my previous writings about basic emotions (Ekman, 1984, 1992a, 1992b) and introduce a few changes in my thinking. My views over the past 40 years have changed radically from my initial view (Ekman, 1957) that: (a) a pleasant-unpleasant and active-passive scale were sufficient to capture the differences among emotions; and (b) the relationship between a facial configuration and what it signified is socially learned and culturally variable. I was forced to adopt the opposite view by findings from my own and others' cross-cultural studies of facial expressions. There are some who have challenged this by now quite large body of evidence; I describe those challenges and the answers to them in Chapter 16.

The framework I describe below is most influenced by Darwin (1872/1997) and Tomkins (1962), although I do not accept in total what either said. There are three meanings of the term “basic” (see also Ortony & Turner, 1990). First, it distinguishes those who maintain that there are a number of separate emotions, that differ one from another in important ways. From this perspective, fear, anger, disgust, sadness and contempt, all negative emotions, differ in their appraisal, antecedent events, probable behavioral response, physiology and other characteristics described below. So, too, amusement, pride in achievement, satisfaction, relief and contentment, all positive emotions, differ from each other. This basic emotions perspective is in contrast to those who treat emotions as fundamentally the same, differing only in terms of intensity or pleasantness.

To identify separate discrete emotions does not necessarily require that one also take an evolutionary view of emotions. A social constructionist could allow


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