Secondary emotions


Emotions have been a fundamental aspect for our survival. It is through the mood changes that animals adapt to the phenomena of their environment. For example, when faced with a threat, it is normal to be afraid and run away or, when something serious has happened, such as the death of a family member, it is normal to feel sad and make others see it.

However, in the human species, the most basic emotions, shared with other mammalian species, have become more sophisticated, allowing us to have a broader emotional spectrum.

Secondary emotions arise from this greater sophistication , emotions that we are going to talk about next, in addition to mentioning some models that have tried to discover exactly how many human beings possess.

What are secondary emotions?

The human emotional spectrum is broad compared to that of other species , especially the rest of mammals. In addition to presenting the most basic emotions, such as anger, disgust, sadness, joy and fear, human beings have developed emotions that, for them to occur, it is very necessary that there be a specific social context. These emotions are secondary and behind them there is an important factor of learning and socialization.

It should be said that the study of secondary emotions is complicated because, to begin with, the study of primary emotions has also been complicated.

Despite the fact that great figures such as Robert Plutchik and Paul Ekman have proposed models of primary and, subsequently, secondary emotions, the scientific community has not clarified what exactly these are .

Brief introduction to primary emotions

Before delving into the idea of ​​secondary emotions, it is necessary to do a brief review of what are the primary emotions raised by both Plutchik and Paul Ekman.

For Robert Plutchik, an American psychologist, the primary emotions are those that we naturally possess, innate , already manifesting at an early age, when we are still babies. He postulated that these emotions, also called basic, were the following:

  • Joy: state of well-being and satisfaction with oneself and with their circumstances.
  • Trust: assurance that no harm will happen to us in the situation we are in.
  • Fear: uncertainty, associated with expectations where we may suffer harm.
  • Surprise. reaction to unforeseen action around us
  • Sadness: emotional decline, which has to need social support.
  • Aversion: avoidance or rejection of someone or something.
  • Anger: response to an offense or act that we did not like.
  • Anticipation: expectation that we create from the information and previous experience of previous circumstances.

On the other hand, Paul Ekman considers that there are fewer primary emotions, considering them as universal aspects , that is, manifesting themselves in all people regardless of what culture they are part of. His studies took into account both western and eastern populations, including those with a low degree of globalization and low literacy.

According to Ekman the primary emotions would be: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise. The emotion of contempt indicated that it could be universal, although research could not confirm it.

Models of secondary emotions

Plutchik considers that secondary emotions are nothing more than the combination of primary or basic emotions, giving emotions that require thinking and a higher level of socialization behind. That is, if the primary emotions are the instinctive response to the demands of the environment, the secondary ones are the response , sophisticated and with a clear social purpose, of an environment with social stimulation, both positive and negative. It is for this reason that these emotions have also been called social, since in order for them to occur it is necessary that links have been established with the social environment.

Secondary emotions are manifested based on what has been learned throughout life , nurtured by experiences and empowered by expectations in different situations. As they are learned and require a certain cognitive capacity, these emotions begin to develop around the age of 2 or 3, when the infant already has strong ties with his caregivers and has had the opportunity to acquire certain linguistic proficiency.

What are the types of secondary emotions?

Considering that the models on emotions do not agree on what the primary emotions are, it is to be expected that they will disagree even more on what the secondary emotions are. What can be assured is that most models, including Ekman's and Plutchik's, consider that the following five are among the "universal" secondary emotions .

1. shame

Shame is the fear that others will not consider us valid or accept us socially , or that we find ourselves in a status perceived as inferior to what we would like to be. This emotion causes us discomfort, making us try to avoid many situations, hide or try to adapt to the expectations of others at the cost of our own personality.

2. Guilt

Guilt comes from the feeling of having done something that we think we should not have done . It is a draining feeling and it supposes a very great burden, making the person not even move forward and even think that he is worthy of a punishment for it.

3. Pride

Pride means being very satisfied with what you have done yourself or how you are . In its fair measure, it is an adaptive and beneficial emotion, as it fosters the growth of self-esteem and security. However, in excess it can have negative repercussions on our social relationships.

4. Pleasure

Pleasure is a positive and pleasant sensation that is experienced when our needs are met .

It is a very important aspect as a motivator for learning fundamental behaviors for our survival, such as eating, sleeping or reproducing, but it can also be extrapolated to other areas that are not biologically based, such as hobbies, more complex social relationships or job.

The problem with pleasure is that, if it occurs excessively, it could cover fears and suppress responsible decision-making, leading to dangerous consequences such as drug use or other risky behaviors.

5. Jealousy

Jealousy is felt when we perceive a threat to something that we consider to be our own, that can either hurt or take it from us . In due measure, it can help us achieve what we want, however, in most cases jealousy arises from a lack of self-esteem and mistrust.

Ekman's model

During the 90s Ekman expanded its model, incorporating new emotions . The classification of these emotions is somewhat controversial already within the model because, although it maintains that they are still basic emotions, many of them could be considered as secondary emotions, which is why Ekman himself would end up making his own distinction between those that Originally considered as universal (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness and surprise) and secondary the following:

  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Contempt
  • Complacency
  • Enthusiasm
  • Pride
  • Pleasure
  • Satisfaction
  • Shame

There is no doubt that Ekman sees in secondary emotions more complex states of mind than primary emotions , being the result of our growth and interaction with others. They are not as easily identifiable as the basic ones and, in many cases, these are simply expressed through gestures such as a smile, the arching of the eyebrows or simply a small grimace, such as joy, anger or disappointment.

The wheel of emotions

Although he predates Ekman, Robert Plutchik has a much more complex model . This model, known as the wheel of emotions, represents the basic emotions and how these are combined generating the secondary ones in the form of a graph.

For him, and more or less along the same lines that Ekman would be in, secondary emotions would be more sophisticated versions of the primary ones, highly dependent on the social context and arising from the combination of basic emotions .

The secondary emotions proposed by Plutchik and the basic emotions from which it starts are the following.

  • Aggression (Anger and Anticipation)
  • Alarm (Fear and Surprise)
  • Love (Joy and confidence)
  • Anxiety (Fear and Anticipation)
  • Cynicism (Aversion and Anticipation)
  • Guilt (Joy and Fear)
  • Curiosity (Confidence and Surprise)
  • Disappointment (Surprise and Sadness)
  • Delight (Joy and Surprise)
  • Despair (Fear and Sadness)
  • Contempt (Aversion and Anger)
  • Domination (Trust and Anger)
  • Envy (Sadness and Anger)
  • Fatalism (Trust and Anticipation)
  • Unbelief (Surprise and Dislike)
  • Outrage (Surprise and Anger)
  • Morbidity (Joy and Aversion)
  • Optimism (Joy and Anticipation)
  • Pride (Joy and Anger)
  • Pessimism (Sadness and Anticipation)
  • Remorse (sadness and aversion)
  • Sentimentality (Trust and Sadness)
  • Submission (Trust and Fear)
  • Shame (Fear and Disgust)

Final reflection

As we have seen throughout the article, research on emotions is somewhat controversial. If from the beginning it has not been established with certainty what the universal emotions are, although it is more or less accepted that they are those proposed by Ekman, the secondary emotions that derive from them are a subject with a lesser degree of certainty . What is known is that secondary emotions appear in contexts highly dependent on social stimuli, since they are acquired socially.

For example, fear is a primary emotion that appears in the presence of a threat that can harm us, instead, shame can arise because we have thrown a coffee over ourselves, we have soiled our pants and it seems that we have urinated. In this second case, our life does not depend on it, but our social integrity does: we care about what others think.

Much remains to be investigated, and while Paul Ekman's model is accepted as the most scientific and up-to-date, the subject of secondary emotions in particular and emotions in general will never fail to raise questions in the scientific community.

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