Monitoring Emotional State

by F.

I don’t know about you, but often I don’t know what emotional state my body is in. I feel something, but what? Introspective access to emotional states is, it seems, not particularly accurate. We make misattributions of our own emotional states, as when we think fear is actually sexual interest (the Capilano Bridge experiment, for instance). But imagine a world where we were better at knowing our emotional state. We might be better off.

Robert Plutchik developed an interesting taxonomy of the emotions, which he represented with a kind of “color wheel:”

Print it out on a color printer and put it in your purse or wallet; when you feel something, take out your card and try to name the feeling. It’s an interesting exercise. If it sounds crazy, note that some alcoholism treatment centers use something similar—a kind of “smiley face” code so recovering addicts can get a better grip on their emotions.

Here is another graphic showing the operation of certain basic emotions: