Wheels of Emotion


In 1980, Robert Plutchik constructed a wheel-like diagram of emotions visualising eight basic emotions: Joy, Trust, Fear, Surprise, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Anticipation. The wheel combines the ideas of circles representing emotions and a color wheel. Similar emotions in the wheel are adjacent. The wheel was inspired by “Plutchik’s Ten Postulates”, a list of theorems which include some of the emotions listed below. The wheel is one of the most influential emotional theories today, although it has been frequently criticised for its lack of a longer list of emotions. Plutchik also theorized twenty-four “Primary”, “Secondary”, and “Tertiary” dyads (a feeling composed of two emotions). Due to the nature of the wheel, the emotions are arranged in pairs according to behavioural and evolutionary mechanisms. The ways the emotions can be paired up are listed here:

  • Primary dyad = one petal apart = Love = Joy + Trust
  • Secondary dyad = two petals apart = Envy = Sadness + Anger
  • Tertiary dyad = three petals apart = Shame = Fear + Disgust
  • Opposite emotions = four petals apart = AnticipationSurprise

Emotions also come in a variety of intensities;for example, Distraction is a mild form of Surprise, and Rage is an intense form of Anger. Weaker emotions lay among the outer circles and stronger emotions bloom in the middle. The kinds of relation between each pair of emotions follow below:

Mild emotion Mild opposite Basic emotion Basic opposite Intense emotion Intense opposite
Serenity Pensiveness Joy Sadness Ecstasy Grief
Acceptance Boredom Trust Disgust Admiration Loathing
Apprehension Annoyance Fear Anger Terror Rage
Distraction Interest Surprise Anticipation Amazement Vigilance
Dyads (Combinations)
Human feelings Emotions Opposite feelings Emotions
Optimism Anticipation + Joy Disapproval Surprise + Sadness
Hope Anticipation + Trust Unbelief Surprise + Disgust
Anxiety Anticipation + Fear Outrage Surprise + Anger
Love Joy + Trust Remorse Sadness + Disgust
Guilt Joy + Fear Envy Sadness + Anger
Delight Joy + Surprise Pessimism Sadness + Anticipation
Submission Trust + Fear Contempt Disgust + Anger
Curiosity Trust + Surprise Cynicism Disgust + Anticipation
Sentimentality Trust + Sadness Morbidness Disgust + Joy
Awe Fear + Surprise Aggression Anger + Anticipation
Despair Fear + Sadness Pride Anger + Joy
Shame Fear + Disgust Dominance Anger + Trust
Jessica Hagy’s Combinations
Human feelings Emotions Opposite feelings Emotions
Acknowledgement Serenity + Acceptance Listlessness Pensiveness + Boredom
Devotion Ecstasy + Admiration Shame Grief + Loathing
Acquiescence Acceptance + Apprehension Impatience Boredom + Annoyance
Subservience Admiration + Terror Hatred Loathing + Rage
Wariness Apprehension + Distraction Disfavor Annoyance + Interest
Petrification Terror + Amazement Domination Rage + Vigilance
Dismay Distraction + Pensiveness Bemusement Interest + Serenity
Horror Amazement + Grief Zeal Vigilance + Ecstasy

The Hourglass of Emotions

In 2012, a scientific research book called The Hourglass of Emotions was largely based on Robert Plutchik’s model, but categorised his emotions into four sentic dimensions. It contrasted Anger, Anticipation, Joy, and Trust as positive emotions, and Fear, Surprise, Sadness and Disgust as negative.

Dimension +3 +2 +1 -1 -2 -3
Sensitivity Rage Anger Annoyance Apprehension Fear Terror
Attention Vigilance Anticipation Interest Distraction Surprise Amazement
Pleasantness Ecstasy Joy Serenity Pensiveness Sadness Grief
Aptitude Admiration Trust Acceptance Boredom Disgust Loathing
Advanced emotions
Dimensions High Sensitivity Low Sensitivity High Pleasantness Low Pleasantness
High Attention Aggressiveness Anxiety Optimism Frustration
Low Attention Rejection Awe Frivolity Disapproval
High Aptitude Rivalry Submission Love Envy
Low Aptitude Contempt Coercion Gloat Remorse