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Posted: February 07, 2014

Human emotions less complex than previously thought

(Getty)

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            Human emotions less complex than previously thought
(Getty)

By Danny Matteson

As humans we tend to consider ourselves to be unique snowflakes — all with our own distinct feelings and emotions — but a new study says we may not actually have that many emotions to choose from.

The research, from the University of Glasgow, says that humans have just four basic emotions — instead of the six basic emotions that were previously on the list -- happiness, surprise, fear, disgust, anger and sadness.

Instead of those six, after observing reactions to faces exemplifying those emotions, researchers now say there’s some overlap.

To get to their findings, researchers had participants examine computer-generated facial-animations, then categorize them into one of the six emotions. (Via University of Glasgow)

They found that anger and disgust, as well as fear and surprise, looked very similar to the participants at first glance, and it took a minute to discern the difference. (Via Slate)

So, what does that tell the researchers?

According to a writer for The Atlantic, it indicates that humans have only four biologically-based facial signals — with additional nuances evolving in response to social cues.

The article quotes the study authors: "Our data reflect that the six basic facial expressions of emotion, like languages, are likely to represent a more complex set of modern signals and categories evolved from a simpler system of communication in early man.”

According to the study, we are left with the four basic emotions of happiness, sadness,hybrids of fear and surprise, and of anger and disgust. Their research was published in the journal "Current Biology."

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