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What You Need To Know About Feelings And Emotions

The Difference between feelings and emotions

In everyday conversation, most people use these two words interchangeably, but this does not mean that they are one and the same. Unfortunately, there has yet to be an agreement among experts as to what distinguishes a feeling from an emotion. The Feeling Theory of Emotion does equate one with the other, but theres more opposition than support for this line of thinking.

Many renowned philosophers including Aristotle, Descartes, and Spinoza reject the feeling theory because they believe that emotions have a cognitive element. Feelings do not as these are mental states that do not involve cognition.

Other attempts at differentiating the two are less complicated. For the psychologist Robert Plutchik who developed the Wheel of Emotions that is still used as a reference today feelings are simply the result of two core emotions combining. The feeling of contempt, for instance, is the product of the basic emotions anger and disgust.

For many neuroscientists, the difference between emotions and feelings starts with point of origin. An emotion originates from the brains sub cortex region. A feeling, on the other hand, starts in the neocortex. The implications here are simple:

Emotions are the bodys response to external stimuli and are what helped mankind survive and thrive in the world. Feelings are the minds response to emotions. Of course, these are not absolute statements. As mentioned earlier, there is no consensus yet on what emotions and feelings are, and how exactly they are related.

A List of Human Emotions There are many takes on what the basic emotions are. Among the more popular theories are those by Plutchik (mentioned above), and Paul Ekman a psychologist who was one of the first to study the relationship between emotions and facial expressions. Plutchik maintained that there are 8 core emotions (4 pairs of opposites), namely:

Fear - anger Surprise - anticipation Joy - sadness Trust - disgust

Ekman, in his study, brought the number down to 6 universal emotions. These are the following:

Joy Surprise Sadness Disgust Fear Anger

An Important Recent Study

While the two lists mentioned above are referenced often, it is important to note that recent research from the University of Glasgows Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology has further narrowed down the list of basic emotions to four (4):

Happiness Sadness Fear/Surprise Anger/Disgust

The study modifies Ekmans list, and the explanation is that fear and surprise, and anger and disgust, exhibit the same facial expressions. This observation led researchers to combine the said emotions and not treat them as distinct. It was also mentioned that the differences between them developed later, and only for social reasons.


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