Wheel of Emotions (A complete guide)

This blog explains Plutchik’s wheel of emotions. It describes the theory behind the wheel of emotions, the importance of this wheel of emotions and how we can use it in our daily lives.

We hope you will enjoy reading this interesting blog. Let’s take a start from the creator of this wheel of emotions. 

What is Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions?

Rober Plutchik was a psychologist who introduced psychoevolutionary theory of emotions.

Based on his theory, he invented the wheel of emotions presenting eight basic emotions. These eight basic emotions include joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust.

In his wheel of emotions, Plutchik explained how these eight basic emotions relate to each other. He told which emotions are the opposite emotions and also mentioned how one emotion transforms into another one.

Though his wheel of emotions may seem mysterious sometimes, it is a great resource for clarifying the concepts about emotions. 

Plutchik’s Psychoevolutionary Theory of Emotion

As we mentioned earlier, Robert Plutchik introduced the famous, psychoevolutionary theory of emotions, based on this theory he classified basic emotions into primary and secondary emotions.

Primary emotions are the ones that give rise to secondary emotions. According to Plutchik, the primary emotions are an evolutionary development and each emotion that occurs as a response to these primary emotions, tends to give the highest level of survival possibility.

Ten points of Plutchik 

Plutchik devised ten points regarding emotions. These ten points are stated as follows:

  • Emotions exist at all evolutionary levels of species. Just like human beings, emotions are applicable equally to animals. 
  • The origin of emotions in each species was different from one another and the expression of each emotion might also vary from species to species.
  • Emotions are experienced in order to express evolutionary survival response so the organism can survive the environmental changes.
  • Although expression of emotions can be done in various ways and the triggers of emotions vary from organism to organism, some similar elements can be pinpointed across all emotional animals.
  • Eight basic or primary emotions exist. 
  • Other than these eight basic emotions, all the other emotions are formed by the combination of two or more of these eight emotions.
  • The eight basic emotions are ‘idealized’ and their characteristics must be deduced from evidence but can not be properly stated. 
  • Each of these eight basic emotions has a pair with an emotion which is its opposite.
  • Emotions may and do differ with respect to their commonalities with each other.
  • Emotions can be found in different degrees of intensity. 

Polar Opposites of Basic Emotions 

Plutchik paired each of the eight basic emotions with its polar opposite. Following are the polar opposites of each other:

  • Joy – sadness
  • Fear – anger
  • Anticipation – surprise
  • Disgust – trust 

Importance of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions was a great success as it was very helpful in understanding the association between different emotions.

The wheel of emotions displayed basic emotions in the centre and surrounded by it are the secondary emotions, the intensity of which increases as we go towards the center of the circle and decreases when we go on the opposite side, towards the outer side of the wheel.

Different shades of colors are used in this wheel of emotions to indicate the intensity of the emotions.

The darker shaded represent greater intensity and the lighter shades represent lower intensity of the emotions.

For example anger in the wheel of emotions has annoyance at the lowest level of intensity, represented by a lighter shade whereas rage, which is the greatest level of anger, is represented by darker shade. 

Criticism of Plutchiks Model 

Although Plutchik’s model was a great success and was of great help, it had to face criticisms as well.

The greatest criticism this model faced was its inability to account for the pairing of emotions pride and shame.

These emotions are applicable in charities and trusts in tapping shame in people to motivate them to do charity and contribute to the betterment of organisms.

Another criticism faced by Plutchik’s model was that it was so simple and complex emotions were not included in it. 

How to Use Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is a great source of understanding emotions and their relationship with other emotions.

This wheel of emotions can be used in various ways.

When we experience emotions, this wheel of emotions can help us identify the primary emotions behind our emotions, followed by the reason why we encountered these emotions, so we can take necessary steps for managing these emotions to avoid their highest level of intensity, as it would be harmful for us and the people around us.  

The wheel of emotions can be used in two ways, either as a two-dimensional circle or a three dimensional circle.

If we view this wheel of emotions as a two-dimensional circle, we can successfully identify the primary emotions that caused secondary emotions to emerge.

Once we identify the primary wmoriots, we can explore the events that caused that emotion to rise, feelings associated with those emotions and how they gave rise to these secondary emotions.

For example when anger rises in its intensity, it causes aggression or rage. 

When the wheel of emotions is considered as a three-dimensional form, we can identify the emotional intensity of each kind of emotion, whether primary or secondary. 

Survival Behaviors 

According to Plutchik’s Sequential Model, specific stimuli trigger specific emotions in us which produce specific behaviors in us.

Plutchik recognized some survival behaviors that cause specific behaviors in us.

These survival behaviors are mentioned as follows:

Protection: Withdrawal, retreat

(activated by fear and terror)

Destruction: Elimination of barrier to the satisfaction of needs

(activated by anger and rage)

Incorporation: Ingesting nourishment

(activated by acceptance)

Rejection: Riddance response to harmful material

(activated by disgust)

Reproduction: Approach, contract, genetic exchanges

(activated by joy and pleasure)

Reintegration: Reaction to loss of nutrient product

(activated by sadness and grief)

Exploration: Investigating an environment

(activated by curiosity and play)

Orientation: Reaction to contact with an unfamiliar object

(activated by surprise)

We can infer from these survival behaviors that our emotions are triggered so they can drive a certain survival behavior in us.

Although this all occurs in our subconsciousness, it helps us to serve the envestnet challenges.

Wheel of Emotions Worksheets

Various worksheets related to the wheel of emotions are introduced by reputable websites to help individuals identify primary emotions behind their secondary emotions so they can work on managing them.

This not only enables the individuals to deal with their basic emotions but also helps them recognize their needs and feelings.

Individuals can have an understanding about their emotions when they identify what, why and when they are feeling, and how their feelings are producing certain behaviors in them.

Exploring their feelings in detail can help them manage their emotions to modify their behaviors.

Two of the best worksheets to be used for self-help or in a therapeutic setting are Wheel of Emotions Worksheet and Wheel of Emotions. Feelings Wheel is another interesting, colorful and helpful worksheet that aids in discovering the primary emotions behind complex emotions. 

Some books are recommended for you that would help you increase your knowledge about emotions. These are:

You can also get the following amazing amazon tools for yourself: 

  • Wheel of Emotions Art Print Feelings Wheel Chart Therapy Poster DBT Counseling CBT Therapy Mental Health Gift for Therapist Home Office Wall Decor Unframed (12″ x 12″) by Zapista
  • Feelings : Converting Negatives to Positives Paperback – 2001 by Dr. Gloria Willcox (Author)
  • Feelings Wheel Chart Diagram Poster Horizontal – CBT & DBT – Mental Health Therapy & Counselors

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question. What is Plutchik’s wheel of emotions?

Answer. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions explains how the eight basic emotions;  joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust, relate to each other.

This wheel of emotions.

In addition to this, Plutchik also categorized emotions in the form of primary dyads, secondary dyads and tertiary dyads.

Question. What is an emotional wheel?

Answer. An emotion wheel, also known as the wheel of emotions and often misnamed as emotional wheel, is a wheel created by Robert Plutchick, that illustrates the basic eight emotions and the secondary emotions that are a cause of primary emotions.

The intensities and degree of levels of these emotions are also represented with the help of different shades of colours in this wheel of emotion. 

Question. What are the 8 core emotions?

Answer. Paul Ekman devised six basic emotions in the 20th century. These include anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.

Rober Plutchik identified eight basic, primary emotions that include joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust.

He paired these basic emotions with their polar opposites; joy-sadness, anger-fear, trust-distrust and surprise-anticipation.

Question. How do you use Plutchik’s wheel of emotions?

Answer. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions can be used in many ways.

It helps improve learning about emotions.

It helps identify the primary emotions behind the secondary emotions and helps recognize how the increase in the intensities of emotions results in complex emotions. 

Question. What are the primary emotions in psychology?

Answer. The primary emotion, as the name implies, are the fisrt emotinos experienced by the indicivlda in respse to any stiumuls.

These emotions are easily identifiable due to their intensity.

The most common primary emotions include fear, happiness, sadness and anger.

These emotions are not always primary, they may occur as secondary emotions as well, with respect to the situation.

Question. Is anger a secondary emotion?

Answer. Anger is often referred to as a secondary emotion because anger is often expressed when we try to hide  something or feel vulnerable to some things.

The primary emotion is the one which gives rise to anger emotion.

So the emotions that give anger, the secondary emotion, is the primary emotion. It could be fear, anxiety, love, anything. 

This blog gave you  details about the wheel of emotions, how it originated and how it can be used.

Here you were told about the importance of the wheel of emotions and which worksheets can be used for recognizing emotions behind secondary emotions.

This blg aimed to clear all your concepts about the wheel of emotion and recommended some books and tools to help you increase your knowledge about emotions.

If you have any queries, you can leave your comments in the comment section.

We will be glad to assist you.


Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions- Resources for understanding emotions and utilizing them as a resource

Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions- video & lesson 

The emotion wheel: What it is and how to use it [+ PDF]


Unsplash images