Plutchik’s Wheel Of Emotions: Emotional Expression Guide

Robert Plutchik, a leading psychologist, developed the concept of “ Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion.” In psychology, the wheel of emotion is a popular concept.

This concept is used to understand the different emotional and psychological states and their relationship with one another. 

Plutchik came up with the idea as he understood that several emotional states are also common among humans and other species. 

The wheel helps identify the intensity of emotions and the relationships between different emotional states.

What Is Plutchik’s Wheel Of Emotion?

Pluthcik has been working on the concept of human emotion since 1980. But in one of the research papers published in 2001, he proposed Plutchil’s Wheel of Emotion. 

Today, there are a variety of theories on emotion. In many of them, this wheel of emotion, as proposed by Plutchik, has been used as context.

Understanding different emotional states can be complex. But with this color wheel and the study of various emotional states, he tried to simplify the concept.

Characteristics Of Plutchik’s Wheel Of Emotion

Now that you are aware of the postulates regarding Plutchik’s wheel of emotion, you must also understand the characteristics of the concept.

  • There are eight core emotions, and each one is presented as one color in the wheel.
  • To each primary emotion, there is a polar opposite. These include joy and sadness, fear and anger, disgust and trust, and anticipation and trust.
  • As the emotions become intense, the shade gets darker.
  • There can be a combination of emotions that can give rise to other complex emotions. One of the best examples is trust and joy becoming love.

Importance Of Plutchik’s Wheel Of Emotion

It is crucial to note that emotions help to take action. When you have strong feelings, you are likely to take action quickly. 

A person would act in some way when he has several emotions. His actions might be for survival or for living or accepting challenges. 

Plutchik’s wheel of emotion provides a good base to study emotions as it is often complex to understand these things.

 The theory helps in making things simplified. The theory helps empower a person and take action as needed. 

Eight Core Emotions That Plutchik Talks of

The eight basic emotions, or core emotions, as per Pluthcik’s theory, include:

  • Joy😂
  • Fear😱
  • Surprise😳🤩
  • Trust🤗
  • Anger😠
  • Anticipation😯
  • Sadness😔
  • Disgust😖

There are other emotions too, which can combine with these core emotions. And when this combination happens, it gives rise to complex emotions.

The eight core emotions with their combinations and intensity.

Here’s a chart for you to know how the theory is presented. In this section, you will see eight core emotions, which are sort of basic or balanced. 

But there would also be combinations that would be less or high in intensity.

Core EmotionFeelings with slightly lower intensityFeelings with higher intensity
JoyFeelings of happinessThe feeling of ecstasy, contentment
TrustAcceptance, admirationFeeling peaceful and connected
FearApprehensionTerror, Anxiety
SurpriseAmazementShock or Distraction
SadnessPensivenessGrief and feeling of loss
DisgustBoredomLoathing and feelings of avoidance
AngerAnnoyanceRage and frustration

Explanation of the chart

When you check the above table, you will understand Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion clearly. 

According to him, there are eight core emotions, and then, when combined with other emotional states, there will be complex feelings with higher and lower intensity. 

These feelings will be related to core feelings. The first column in the chart has basic feelings. 

The second column has feelings with slightly lower power than the core feelings. The third column has a combination of feelings with high intensity.

Understanding Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion: 10 Key Postulates to Know

One should know about his proposed ten postulates to understand and accept Plutchik’s wheel of emotion. 

While he was undergoing his study of emotion, he also came up with these postulates. Read on, and you will get better light on the concept.

Emotions have an evolutionary history.

Emotions have been evolutionary and have been around for millions of years. They have an evolutionary history.

Emotions are found among all species.

Plutchik presented this postulate to say that emotions are not just common in humans, but they are present in all species.

The species use emotions for survival.

Humans and animals encounter various challenges in their environment. Emotions help the species to survive. 

They use emotions and adapt themselves to the place they are in. Also, these emotions help them to survive.

Emotions might be expressed in different ways, but there are common elements.

Species might express their emotions in different ways and at different intensities. But they have some common elements regarding the different states of emotions.

There are eight primary emotions.

Plutchik presented in his theory that there are eight core or primary emotions. 

Although there can be many emotional states when you take the extract, you will conclude that the basic emotions are only eight in number.

The core emotion has complex combinations.

There are different states of emotions; hence, when these things combine with core emotions, there will also be a few complex combinations, which will differ in intensity.

Hypothetical constructs and a combination of emotions help to understand the concept.

The basic emotions are then combined with various emotional states to understand the complex combination of emotions. 

These hypothetical constructs vary slightly from experience. But with the combinations, there will be a better idea about the different states of emotions.

Opposite emotions are placed on the wheel against one another.

If you look into the picture of Pluthcik’s wheel of emotion, you will realize that the opposite emotions are kept against one another in the wheel. 

This thing explains that all the core emotions have their polar opposites too.

Emotions also have a degree of similarity.

Just like there are polar opposites, the emotions also have varying degrees of similarity. 

Emotions can have varied intensity.

The emotions vary in intensity. The wheel uses colors for each core emotion, and the color becomes lighter or darker for varying degrees. 

One must read and accept the postulates above to understand and accept Plutchik’s wheel of emotion. 

Key Takeaways

  • Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion: Developed by Robert Plutchik, the wheel helps understand different emotional states and their relationships.
  • Characteristics: The wheel consists of eight core emotions represented by colors. Emotions have polar opposites, and their intensity is shown through shades.
  • Importance: Understanding emotions helps prompt action, and the wheel simplifies this study, empowering individuals to take appropriate actions.
  • Eight Core Emotions: Joy, Fear, Surprise, Trust, Anger, Anticipation, Sadness, and Disgust are the core emotions. Combinations create complex emotions with varying intensity.
  • Ten Postulates: Plutchik’s postulates touch on emotions’ evolutionary nature, presence across species, survival benefits, and combination of emotions.


Are there other emotions besides the eight core emotions?

Yes, combinations of the core emotions can give rise to complex emotions. The wheel illustrates variations in intensity and combinations, but the focus is on the eight core emotions.

Are emotions universal across species?

es, according to Plutchik’s postulates, emotions are not exclusive to humans but are found in all species. Emotions play a role in survival and adaptation.

Can emotions have different intensities?

Yes, emotions can vary in intensity. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion represents this by using shades to indicate the intensity of an emotion, with darker shades representing higher intensity.

Can Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion be applied in the workplace?

Yes, understanding emotions in the workplace is crucial for effective communication, teamwork, and leadership. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion can help employees and employers navigate workplace dynamics, manage conflicts, and promote a positive and supportive work environment.

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