In the field of psychology, emotions are a fascinating and complex subject to study. Many theories have been proposed to explain how emotions work and what purpose they serve.

One such theory is the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. In this article, we will explore how Plutchik connected his theory to evolution.

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions is a model that describes eight primary emotions: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. These primary emotions are further grouped into four pairs of opposing emotions: joy-sadness, trust-disgust, fear-anger, and surprise-anticipation.

The Evolutionary Perspective

According to Plutchik’s theory, these primary emotions are biologically innate and have evolved over time to help humans survive in their environment. For example, the emotion of fear is a response to potential danger or threat in the environment. This emotion triggers the body’s fight or flight response and helps individuals respond quickly to protect themselves.

Similarly, the emotion of joy is a response to positive stimuli in the environment. It encourages individuals to seek out rewarding experiences that promote their survival and well-being.

The Role of Opposing Emotions

Plutchik proposed that opposing emotions serve an important role in balancing each other out. For example, fear and anger may both be responses to potential danger or threat but serve different purposes. Fear encourages individuals to avoid or escape from danger while anger motivates individuals to confront the threat head-on.

Similarly, joy and sadness may both be responses to positive or negative stimuli but serve different purposes. Joy encourages individuals to seek out positive experiences while sadness allows individuals to reflect on negative experiences and learn from them.

Application in Psychology

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions has been widely used in the field of psychology to understand how emotions work and how they can be managed. By understanding the evolutionary purpose of emotions, psychologists can help individuals better regulate their emotions and respond to them in a healthy way.

For example, individuals with anxiety disorders may have an overactive fear response. By understanding the role of fear in evolution, psychologists can help these individuals develop coping mechanisms that allow them to manage their fear response in a healthy way.


Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions is a valuable tool for understanding the complex nature of human emotions. By connecting his theory to evolution, Plutchik provided insight into why we experience certain emotions and how they have evolved over time to help us survive. This theory continues to be widely used in the field of psychology to help individuals better understand and manage their emotions.