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Psychol Rev. 1992 Jul;99(3):566-71.

Basic emotions: can conflicting criteria converge?

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Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40506-0044.


The authors discuss some of the key points raised by Ekman (1992), Izard (1992), and Panksepp (1992) in their critiques of Ortony and Turner's (1990) suggestion that there are and probably can be no objective and generally acceptable criteria for what is to count as a basic emotion. A number of studies are discussed that are relevant to the authors' contention that a more promising approach to understanding the huge diversity among emotions is to think in terms of emotions being assemblages of basic components rather than combinations of other basic emotions. The authors stress that their position does not deny that emotions are based on "hardwired" biological systems. On the other hand, the existence of such systems does not mean that some emotions (such as those that appear on lists of basic emotions) have a special status. Finally, the authors note that Ekman, Izard, and Panksepp, in adopting different starting points for their research, arrive at rather different conclusions as to what basic emotions are and which emotions are basic. It is concluded that converging resolutions of these questions are improbable.

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