What Are the Seven Basic Human Emotions?

The American Psychological Association recognizes seven basic human emotions, including joy, surprise, sadness, fear and contempt. The APA also recognizes anger and disgust as basic human emotions. These seven emotions are expressed throughout all cultures and are considered universal.

Each of these seven emotions has a corresponding universal facial expression, and most people can recognize these expressions on the faces of others. How easily people recognize basic emotions relates to the success they have in social interactions. Often, those with disorders that prevent the facial expression of appropriate emotions have trouble recognizing those emotions in others. The same expressions of these emotions are found at all life-stages, beginning with infancy. They are also found in the blind and among nonhuman primates such as chimpanzees.

Some psychologists also recognize love, anxiety and trust as basic human emotions. In addition to the seven basic emotions, Bowling Green University researcher Jaak Panksepp recognizes a similar set of emotions that are basic across multiple species, including humans. Panksepp's set includes lust, seeking, rage, fear and care. The set also includes panic/grief and play. Panksepp believes the control center for these emotions lies in a very primitive area of the brain and that they played a significant role in the evolution of social species.