Humans have 27 distinct emotional states, study finds

BERKELEY, Calif. — Human emotions may not be as plentiful as the hundreds of emojis we use on social media, but they’re still more complex than previously believed. A new study examining the various ways that we express ourselves determined that humans display 27 distinct emotional states.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley recruited a diverse sample of 853 men and women to watch short five-to-ten second long video clips meant to evoke a range of reactions, hoping to measure the true spectrum of human emotions.

Human emotions may not be as plentiful as the hundreds of emojis we use on social media, but they’re still more complex than previously believed.

The study’s experimental component, which incorporated nearly 2,200 silent clips, split participants into one of three groups.

One group disclosed their unfiltered emotional reactions to 30 clips they viewed to the researchers, allowing for raw documentation.

“Their responses reflected a rich and nuanced array of emotional states, ranging from nostalgia to feeling ‘grossed out,’” says lead author Alan Cowen, a doctoral student in neuroscience, in a university news release.

A second group ranked each video in terms of the various emotional reactions it lent, ranging from anger to sexual desire. Most participants in this group gave each video similar marks when it came to the types of emotions it evoked.

A third group had participants evaluate the emotional content of a given video based on a sliding scale (e.g., how negative or positive a video was, or how exciting or boring it was).

Regardless of the group in which one was placed, nearly all participants reacted in a similar manner to any given video. Furthermore, the researchers were able to use this data to determine that humans have 27 distinct categories of emotion.

This finding is rather groundbreaking, considering how previous research had only identified six significant emotional states.

“There are smooth gradients of emotion between, say, awe and peacefulness, horror and sadness, and amusement and adoration,” notes senior author Dacher Keltner. “We found that 27 distinct dimensions, not six, were necessary to account for the way hundreds of people reliably reported feeling in response to each video.”

The research team hopes the new findings can be utilized by other scientists or doctors for further research and innovations in neuroscience.

“Our hope is that our findings will help other scientists and engineers more precisely capture the emotional states that underlie moods, brain activity and expressive signals, leading to improved psychiatric treatments, an understanding of the brain basis of emotion and technology responsive to our emotional needs,” says Cowen.

The team released an interactive map of the emotional states that each video used in the study elicited from participants that led them to their finding. Each of the 27 states corresponds to a color on the map.

The study’s findings were published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


  1. All human reactions, actions, behaviors, etc., stem from an emotional foundation of only five primary emotions. If you want to learn more about them, pick up a copy of my book, “MODERN-DAY LIBERALISM: Exploring the Psychological foundation of the Disorder”.

  2. Women claim there are hundreds of different colors; men see about six or so: blue, black, green, white, black, yellow and etc. If there are 27 different emotional states, it’s got to be only for women. Men are far simpler: happy, sad, angry, horny, thirsty and confused being about all we have. And that last one is likely because women have so many. Personally I think these researchers must either all be women or else have just never been laid. Mostly I see two female emotional states: 1.) I’m right and 2.) you’re wrong.

  3. Reality, they are 2 sexes, but idiots have concluded that there are more. What new emotional states can there be to whine to claim victimhood? (That is the question)

  4. Jesus, you people, who gives a royal “S” ! There may be 27 facial expressions of how you express your emotions, but actual states, NOT. Just because a large college makes a statement does not necessarily amount to a hill of beans. For you people out there is La La Land, you do realize that many University departments must be funded by grants and being so must have some proof that their monies are being spent judicially so they come up with these research studies which they pronounce as being latest in psychology research. It still comes off as subjective, regardless, because someone must still make a determination about what they see or how the final analysis is accrued.

    The sciences of psychology are a fools errand. The informational statistics on many if not most studies can be manipulated ten ways coming and going to give the results they are looking for and also to make it look like they’ve actually been judiceous in the spending of grant money.

    Who can refute this phony research? NO ONE. By the way what can they
    possibly do with this information but to try and corner us with facial
    recognition systems that will then use those facial expression to
    determine “PRE-CRIME” accountability. Also check to see who is actually funding this research…. FOLLOW THE MONEY !!!

  5. What a crock, it figures it comes out of Berkeley. It was a crock at 6, and it’s a crock at 27! What self important idiots!

  6. In other words, tax-dollar-funded-grants (?, hey its a Berkely study) created 21 new emotions to lend credence to the lefties talking points re: snowflakes, millenniums, BLM, ANTIFA, lefites. OWS….Cut taxes and govt spending now.

  7. Berkeley? The bastion of alt-left whackadoodlery? Hahaha! Are these the same idiots who say there are 39 different genders? Get outta here.

  8. What a steaming crock of shiite. Happy. Sad. Angry. Ambivalent. That’s it folks! Four. Everything else is a variation of these states. These studies all conclude the same thing. There is a spectrum for everything. The worst example yet is gender. There are TWO, count them, TWO genders. Male. Female. All other “genders” are psychological in nature.

  9. No it’s women that have 26 emotional states, men have only two and they are 1. In the mood for work. 2. In the mood for sex.

  10. Top Emotional state…California.. (Delusional)..Washington state, (Narcissistic) close second…

    its a joke people…

  11. Junk Science at its best. Either we have three or four emotional ‘reward’ systems, we can describe Pluchik’s eight dimensions (which is a projection of four). Then we have five or six personality factors that bias them (certain, because they correspond to physical reward systems). And if we assume that in general, humans can distinguish at best, between five states, that should yield Pluchik’s diagram, of, at least five levels, with no less than three emotions ‘active’ at the same time. Meanwhile we can experience any combination at once, or sequence of emotions that result in a transitory, temporal, or durable state of emotional experience. That means there are no less than 64 simple emotions, at no less than five degrees of intensity, in some combination … often in many combinations, including ’emotional confusion’. Ergo the number of discernable permutations may be more than two thousand, even if we only possess names for a few hundred of them, and even if we have only four reward(punishment) systems.

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