Do people only feel and express a few basic emotions, or is there more to it?
Psychological research often neglects the fact that people vary in
the emotions they have and how they show them on their face.
Do people only smile when they are happy? Or do they sometimes also smile when they are feeling sad, or when they are not feeling anything in particular?
In a recent paper, Lisa Feldman-Barret of Northeastern University addresses the current assumption that there exist several basic emotions which are always expressed in the same manner, and that facial expressions thus always have the same meaning. Barret stresses the fact that there is much evidence running contrary to the above stated view, and that there is a huge variety in the facial expressions people show when they are experiencing a certain emotion. In her opinion, this variety is often ignored in psychological research. It would be more meaningful if psychologists would start exploring how people differ in their expression of emotions, instead of focusing too much on basic emotions alone.
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Barrett, L.F. (2011). Was Darwin Wrong About Emotional Expressions?Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 400-406, DOI: 10.1177/0963721411429125