Plutchik's (1980) psychoevolutionary theory of basic emotions has ten postulates.
  1. The concept of emotion is applicable to all evolutionary levels and applies to animals as well as to humans.
  2. Emotions have an evolutionary history and have evolved various forms of expression in different species.
  3. Emotions served an adaptive role in helping organisms deal with key survival issues posed by the environment.
  4. Despite different forms of expression of emotions in different species, there are certain common elements, or prototype patterns, that can be identified.
  5. There is a small number of basic, primary, or prototype emotions.
  6. All other emotions are mixed or derivative states; that is, they occur as combinations, mixtures, or compounds of the primary emotions.
  7. Primary emotions are hypothethical constructs or idealized states whose properties and characteristics can only be inferred from various kinds of evidence.
  8. Primary emotions can be conceptualized in terms of pairs of polar opposites.
  9. All emotions vary in their degree of similarity to one another.
  10. Each emotion can exist in varying degrees of intensity or levels of arousal.

Basic Emotions

Basis for Inclusion


Acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surpriseRelation to adaptive biological processes


Anger, aversion, courage, dejection, desire, despair, fear, hate, hope, love, sadnessRelation to action tendencies

Ekman, Friesen, and Ellsworth

Anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surpriseUniversal facial expressions


Desire, happiness, interest, surprise, wonder, sorrowForms of action readiness


Rage and terror, anxiety, joyHardwired


Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surpriseHardwired


Fear, grief, love, rageBodily involvement


Anger, disgust, elation, fear, subjection, tender-emotion, wonderRelation to instincts


Pain, pleasureUnlearned emotional states

Oatley and Johnson-Laird

Anger, disgust, anxiety, happiness, sadnessDo not require propositional content


Expectancy, fear, rage, panicHardwired


Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surpriseDensity of neural firing


Fear, love, rageHardwired

Weiner and Graham

Happiness, sadnessAttribution independent

Basic Emotions

Basis for Inclusion

(This table is taken from Ortony and Turner, 1990.)


Ortony, A., & Turner, T. J. (1990). What's basic about basic emotions? Psychological Review, 97, 315-331.

Plutchik, R. (1980). A general psychoevolutionary theory of emotion. In R. Plutchik & H. Kellerman (Eds.), Emotion: Theory, research, and experience: Vol. 1. Theories of emotion (pp. 3-33). New York: Academic.

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