Modeling Semantic Emotion Space Using a 3D Hypercube-Projection: An Innovative Analytical Approach for the Psychology of Emotions

Frontiers in Psychology 7 (2016)
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The widely accepted two-dimensional circumplex model of emotions posits that most instances of human emotional experience can be understood within the two general dimensions of valence and activation. Currently, this model is facing some criticism, because complex emotions in particular are hard to define within only these two general dimensions. The present theory-driven study introduces an innovative analytical approach working in a way other than the conventional, two-dimensional paradigm. The main goal was to map and project semantic emotion space in terms of mutual positions of various emotion prototypical categories. Participants (N = 187; 54.5% females) judged 16 discrete emotions in terms of valence, intensity, controllability and utility. The results revealed that these four dimensional input measures were uncorrelated. This implies that valence, intensity, controllability and utility represented clearly different qualities of discrete emotions in the judgments of the participants. Based on this data, we constructed a 3D hypercube-projection and compared it with various two-dimensional projections. This contrasting enabled us to detect several sources of bias when working with the traditional, two-dimensional analytical approach. Contrasting two-dimensional and three-dimensional projections revealed that the 2D models provided biased insights about how emotions are conceptually related to one another along multiple dimensions. The results of the present study point out the reductionist nature of the two-dimensional paradigm in the psychological theory of emotions and challenge the widely accepted circumplex model.

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Author Profiles

Radek Trnka
Prague College Of Psychosocial Studies
Peter Tavel
Palacky University