Psychology Colors and Emotions, from the Late Dr. Robert Plutchik

This morning’s med-blog Grand Rounds is up at MedGadget, where my colleague Dr. Nick Genes has put together a nice assortment of reads. One entry refers to the Plutchik Emotion Circumplex – “a wonderful graphic representation of a highly regarded emotion classification system.”

Plutchik's diagram, as featured in his book: "Emotions and Life: Perspectives From Psychology, Biology, and Evolution"

I never took psychology in college, and in med school they sent us straight onto (into?) the psychiatry wards. For whatever reason, I wasn’t familiar with the colorful schematic. Here’s what I learned today:

Dr. Robert Plutchik was an academic psychologist and author best known for his work on the nature and evolutionary aspects of emotions. He was a Brooklynite who attended City College, received a Ph.D. from Columbia University and became a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According to an obituary in now-defunct New York Sun, after retiring he moved to Sarasota, Florida. He died in 2006, at the age of 78.

From the Sun:

He was best known for his theory, laid out in “Emotion: a Psychoevolutionary Synthesis” (1980), that there are eight primary emotions, which can to some extent be recognized in all animals. These are joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. It was Plutchik’s insight that emotions could be laid out in a circular arrangement, much like a color wheel, and then combined into secondary emotional states. Love, for instance, was in this schema a combination of joy and acceptance. Delight was a combination of surprise and joy.

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