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Three basic positive emotions

Based on a large study of men and women, American psychologist, Howard Berenbaum, believes that one can divide positive emotions into three emotion groups.

The first of the positive emotions is called contentment. It covers concepts such as satisfaction, pleasure and comfort. This emotion is specially linked to situations where a need or desire is satisfied. These can vary from physical needs like sex and food, to psychological needs like receiving praise and recognition, or simply having completed a job and feeling very satisfied with the result.

The second positive emotion is cheerfulness. It is associated with concepts such as joy, gaiety and happiness. This is a quite sustained emotion and especially arises in situations where you are together with other people you really like.

The third and last of the basic positive emotions is called enchantment - an emotion that is particularly experienced when you are absorbed by something, e.g. a film, another person, or just your own work when it is going well. This emotion is equivalent to expressions such as being fascinated by something or enthusiastic about something.

Love does not appear as an independent emotion. Berenbaum believes that the strongest positive emotions, including love when it is intense and true, cover all three basic positive emotions. You feel happy and cheerful in the company of your beloved. Your needs are satisfied, sexually but also psychologically (because lovers are usually good at admiring and praising each other). Finally, you can be so fascinated by your beloved that just seeing and hearing him or her generates a lasting delight, regardless of what else is going on.

Source:
Berenbaum, Howard (2002): Varieties of joy-related pleasurable activities and feelings. Cognition and Emotion, 16 (4), 473-494.

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