Scientists used to believe that humans were capable of expressing six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. Happiness (glee?) when you stumble on something in your size at an Alexander Wang sample sale, sadness when you get dumped by the love of your life, fear that something bad will happen to you for any reason at any time, anger when you are supposed to go on a date with someone and they cancel at the last minute, surprise when you get a surprise check in the mail, and disgust when you accidentally eat something nasty.
But a recent study by researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow shows that, in truth, there are only four basic emotions. According to Dr. Rachael Jack, “Our research questions the notion that human emotion communication comprises six basic, psychologically irreducible categories. Instead we suggest there are four basic expressions of emotion.”
So what does that look like? The science shows that happiness and sadness are two emotions that register in completely different ways on our faces. But interestingly, fear and surprise and anger and disgust have pretty similar facial patterns. The muscles used to make fear/surprise and anger/disgust are the same. Surprise and fear, for instance, are both registered with wide open eyes, whereas when we are angry or disgusted at something, we crinkle our noses.
You know, it makes a whole lot of sense that this is the break down in how we express human emotions, but how do you classify:
1. Crying after sex. What kind of face does that get?
2. Seeing Olivia Pope in an especially banging coat?
3. Getting turnt up at the club?
4. When you’re working on something really major/important and your Macbook suddenly gives you the spinning wheel of death?
5. When you hear your favorite song and it just hits you in your SPOT?
6. When you order a dessert at a restaurant and it is so good you really can’t even deal with how good it is?
7. When you walk past a mirror and your weave is on fire and your outfit is together and you feel really good?
8. The feeling of reading something that makes you put what you’re reading down and contemplate what you just saw?
9. Feeling so hungover you just can’t even deal?
10. Just generally not being able to deal?
11. When you discover yet another grey hair?
Yeah, so. Humans are complex beings with a range of emotive possibilities. That’s why the hardest thing in the world is deciding which emoticon to use to spice up your text messages. Emoticons can be so suggestive.