So, How Many Basic Emotions Are There Again?

We’ve had this article (or variants of it) brought to our attention a lot in the last couple of weeks. It’s about some new research by academic Rachael Jack which calls into question Paul Ekman’s idea that there are only “six basic emotions”. According to Jack’s work, there are actually four.

This has got a lot of press. People are really interested in the idea that there are common emotions that work across cultures – it’s a reason our FaceTrace methodology, which measures emotions and uses Ekman’s model, has been such a success. 3 million people have used FaceTrace 5 million times in 75 countries, so we know it works – but what if Ekman was wrong? Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.4: Fear

The fourth in our series of posts exploring the eight primary emotions we measure.

Fear, according to psychologist Paul Ekman, is the most-researched emotion among academics. But in the world of people and brands, fear hardly registers. Of all the primary emotions BrainJuicer measures, it’s the one that crops up least, whether we’re measuring new concepts, communications, or looking at reactions to brands. It’s a particularly bold campaign that really goes for fear – like this one for a herbal tea brand.

Drowning clowns aside, marketing may make you angry, or disgusted, or contemptuous, but it hardly ever makes you afraid. So much so that during one experiment, when we wanted to induce fear in participants, we had to resort to a horror movie clip, not an ad at all.

Why is this? Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.2: Contempt

The second of our posts focusing on the primary emotions we all share, and how researchers and marketers use them.

Contempt is the least studied of all the primary emotions – in fact not all emotional researchers recognise it as something separate from disgust or anger. But Paul Ekman makes a convincing case that it is separate – contempt is expressed towards people (or constructs like brands) but not objects or actions, and it can predict things other emotions cannot. Ekman cites a study of marriages where wives who believed their husbands felt contempt towards them suffered quite different negative effects from those experiencing disgust or anger.

As with any “negative” emotion, contempt is constructive and useful – it can act as a warning system for more powerful emotions, or as a kind of insulation against them. And as Ekman points out, because it’s rooted in a sense of superiority, it needn’t be unpleasant to feel. As with Anger, contempt can be something we like to feel vicariously. Here’s the great R&B group TLC, singing “No Scrubs”, their enormous worldwide hit which drips with contempt for men who wrongly imagine they’re up to dating the band members!

But even if contempt is constructive to feel, it’s never enjoyable to suffer. For brands, in fact, it’s perhaps the most disastrous of all emotions. Continue reading