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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.

Information Handout

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Everything you could need: a PDF of the resource, therapist instructions, and description with theoretical context and references. Where appropriate, case examples and annotations are also included.

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Editable version (PPT)

An editable Microsoft PowerPoint version of the resource.

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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.

Reference Basic emotions
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


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


  • 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.