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Many people find it hard to label their emotional states or reactions. This information handout provides a list of emotions, categorizing them as basic, secondary, and tertiary emotions. It can be used as a therapy tool to aid emotional understanding and expression.

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A PDF of the resource, theoretical background, suggested therapist questions and prompts.

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A PDF of the resource plus client-friendly instructions where appropriate.

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An editable Microsoft PowerPoint version of the resource.

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  • Arabic
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  • English (GB)
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Introduction & Theoretical Background

Theorists have developed multiple methods for categorizing emotions. Ortony & Turner (1990) compared the ‘basic’ emotions proposed by different theories (below). Shaver et al (2001) used data from a similarity rating task to perform a cluster analyis, the results of which form the basis for this worksheet. Shaver et al’s analysis identifies six ‘basic’ emotions, and organizes secondary and tertiary emotions in a hierarchical structure.


Arnold (1960): Anger, aversion, courage, dejection, desire, despair, fear, hate, hope, love, sadness

Ekman, Friesen, Ellsworth (1982): Anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise

Frijda (1986): Desire, happiness, interest, surprise, wonder, sorrow

Gray (1982): Rage and terror, anxiety, joy

Izard (1971): Anger, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, guilt, interest, joy, shame, surprise

James (1884): Fear, grief, love, rage

McDougall (1926): Anger, disgust, elation, fear, subjection, tender-emotion, wonder

Mowrer (1960): Pain, pleasure

Oakley, Johnson-Laird (1987): Anger, disgust, anxiety, happiness, sadness

Panksepp (1982): Expectancy, fear, rage, panic

Plutchik (1980): Acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, joy, fear, sadness, surprise

Tomkins (1984): Anger, interest, contempt, disgust, distress, fear, joy, shame, surprise

Watson (1930): Fear, love, rage

Weiner, Graham (1984): Happiness, sadness

Therapist Guidance

This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training

References And Further Reading

  • Ortony, A., & Turner, T. J. (1990). What’s basic about basic emotions? Psychological Review, 97, 315-331.
  • Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O’connor, C. (1987). Emotion knowledge: Further exploration of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(6), 1061.