List of the Top Ten Most Common Emotions

by Ryan Peters

Emotional responses in human beings are predicated both by biological predisposition and environmental stimulus. Because of this, it is impossible to determine or rank which emotions are most common, as each individual is unique in terms of biology and life experiences. Still, psychologists have worked to identify and define many major emotions which humans may experience. Ten common emotions are:

Joy

Joy is a state of mind characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction or pleasure.

Trust

Trust has several forms, including a willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of another and a reasonable belief on behalf of the trustor (the person offering trust) that the trustee (the person receiving trust) will behave in a way beneficial to the trustor.

Fear

Fear is an emotional response to a perceived external threat that may include rapid heart rate, a widening of the eyes, tightening of the muscles and increased sweating.

Surprise

Surprise is an emotional arousal based on the experience of an unexpected event. Surprise can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Sadness

Sadness is characterized by feelings of loss, disappointment or helplessness. Many psychologists consider it to be the basic opposite of joy.

Disgust

Disgust is a reaction to something perceived as offensive, unclean or inedible. Human beings can be disgusted with literal objects, such as garbage, or with actions, opinions or ideas found to be offensive.

Anger

Anger is believed to be the most difficult emotion to categorize, but it is often described as the feeling one experiences in taking action to stop or eliminate a perceived external threat. Some psychologists argue that fear precipitates anger, while others contend that an individual can become angry without first experiencing fear.

Anticipation

Anticipation is a feeling of pleasure one experiences while waiting for an expected positive event or experience.

Love

While love is frequently cited as a generic emotion, psychologists such as Robert Plutchik have suggested that the eight previous emotions listed in this article are basic to all human beings and necessary for the preservation and evolution of the species. Plutchik argues that advanced emotions, such as love, are a combination of two or more generic emotions. He believes that love, experienced as strong feelings of attachment and attraction, is a combination of joy and trust.

Remorse

Characterized by feelings of regret and sometimes shame, remorse is also seen to be an advanced emotion. Psychologists believe regret to be a combination of surprise and disgust.

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About the Author

Ryan Peters has been writing professionally since 2006. He is an editor for HEAVEMedia in Chicago. He graduated with a Master of Arts in English and literature from Loyola University Chicago in 2009. Peters covers arts and entertainment, sports and literature. He is an occasional contributor to WGN Radio in Chicago and was first published through the political website, The Hotline.