Critiquing models of emotions

Herman Smith, Andreas Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This article provides the first systematic empirical examination of four major genres of theories concerning the nature and rise of the corpus of human emotions with more than 2,000 statistical tests of five hypotheses. The distinction between evolutionary-universal and other "secondary" emotions is empirically uninformative for all five cultures. Next, the emotion-wheel theory of Plutchik receives no empirical support. All palette theories fail four empirical tests. More than 90 empirical tests fail to support Kemper and Turner in assuming that many secondary emotions arise through complex combinations of primary emotions due to socialization. The Johnson-Laird and Oatley hypothesis of five universal clusters of emotions is also tested and rejected. Researchers need to rethink the heuristic value of dichotomizing and lumping emotions in categories such as universal, primary, basic, secondary, tertiary, and so forth. There are clear empirical advantages to differentiating between emotions with three dimensions rather than two dimensions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-589
Number of pages30
JournalSociological Methods and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2009


  • Cross-cultural
  • Emotions
  • Primary
  • Secondary


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