“No matter your age or background, everything you do and think is enriched by emotions: Being human is being emotional”

Think of an emotion – which comes to mind first? Hope perhaps, or anger, fear, sadness, or pride. Indeed, those are some well-known emotions, but our repertoire includes many more shades of pleasure and displeasure. In fact, there are at least 60 different emotions, each with unique qualities and experiences. The pallet of human emotions is highly diverse, not just in terms of how they feel, but also why we have them and how they influence our actions. They urge us to laugh, to cry, to examine, to withdraw, to confront or to comfort. They influence the mundane as well as the profound, from our choice of coffee to our political stance and our choice of life partner.

The ability to grasp the differences between emotions is called “emotional granularity”. A person with high emotional granularity is able to see nuanced differences between emotions. They can tell the difference between fascination and inspiration, or between embarrassment and shame. They can label their own emotions with precision, and likewise the emotions of others. The emotion typology is a resource for emotional granularity – its goal is to inspire you with rich information about the nuances of emotions and to encourage you to explore these nuances in your own work or life.

The emotion typology is one of the richest emotion resources in the world.

The emotion typology is an open-access online database that provides detailed information about negative and positive emotions. It includes 60 emotions, of which 40 are negative and 20 are positive.

The typology can be used by anyone who is interested in nuanced emotion information, whether you’re a scientist, a student, coach – or anyone else with an interest in human emotion.

For each emotion, it provides the following information:

  • Formal definition
  • Explanation
  • Three clips from popular movies that express the emotions
  • Typical expressions
  • A cartoon mini-story (currently only for negative emotions)
  • Comparisons to similar emotions (currently only for negative emotions)
  • References to scientific sources

The typology is an initiative of the Delft Institute of Positive Design (Delft University of Technology). Its development took seven years (2015 – 2022). Several scientists have contributed to it over the years, including researchers from Delft University of Technology, Twente University, the University of Amsterdam. Apart from the lead researchers, many other experts and designers have contributed. For an overview, see the colophon.

Share your insights

We would love to hear about and learn from your experiences. You can get in touch via emotiontypology@gmail.com. Your questions and feedback will help us improve future versions of the typology.

The typology is the result of a literature study that comprised the publications of hundreds of researchers in psychology, social sciences, and the humanities. We have only included emotions that other researchers have studied. In doing so, we set ourselves the goal of making as much distinction between emotions as possible. Some emotions are further apart, such as boredom and shock, while others are closer together, such as annoyance and dissatisfaction. Therefore, the fact that there we included more negative emotions in the typology simply means that we were able to find more information about specific negative emotions than we did about positive ones. Note that it does not imply that people experience negative emotions more often or more prominently than positive emotions.

So why did we find more information on negative emotions? Although positive emotions have received an increasing amount of attention in recent decades, historically, psychological studies tended to focus much more on negative emotions. If you study certain emotions more, you are bound to find more differences among them. Nevertheless, it may still be the case that people experience more differences between negative emotions than between positive ones. People have negative emotions when something is wrong, and perhaps it is more important to make fine distinctions in how things are wrong rather than how things are right. However, the views on this matter differ, and it is not something that we have personally investigated.

You might have come here hoping you could read up on love, happiness, outrage, or any other word that you definitely consider an emotion, only to find that is not in the list! No worries, we will try to help you as good as we can. There are a few options of why your emotion is not included.

Option 1: The emotion is included, but under a different name. For example, ‘outrage’ is not included in the list. However, ‘indignation’ is, which has ‘outrage’ as one of its similar words. You can find the similar words for an emotion on its own page, just below the definition.

Option 2: The word does not refer to an emotion proper, but to a broader and/or more complex phenomenon. A notable example is the word ‘love’. Some people consider it the epitome of an emotion. However, many emotion scholars beg to differ. Love is a multifaceted phenomenon, consisting of many different emotions (such as affection, lust, tenderness, jealousy – all included in the typology) and many types (loving someone is different from being in love with someone), all of which are more complex than a single emotion. The same goes for words like ‘happiness’ and ‘upset’.

Option 3: The word sounds like an emotion but is in fact not (at least according to emotion scholars). There are many lists of ‘emotions’ found online, but many include words that are related to emotions but are not emotions. Just a few examples: lazy (behavioural disposition), relaxed (mood), or sleepy (bodily state).