Exploring “Emotion”

At the very beginning, I had no idea what I wanted to do for my FMP, all I knew was I am interested in “Emotion”, hence I started to explore about this topic.

Humans have many emotions, many scholars have defined them differently. Cowen and Keltner (2017) found that people have 27 distinct varieties of emotions, while in Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (Donaldson, 2017), he even identified the opposite emotion and intensity of emotion with the eight basic emotions he defined in the wheel.

The Emotion Wheel defined by Robert Plutchik

While scholars have different classification standard, Ekman, Friesen, and Ellsworth (1972, cited in Ekman, 1992) have identified the six basic emotions that appear to humans in all cultures, including: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise.

6 basic emotions that applies to all culture

After getting an idea on the types of basic emotion human have, I continue to search about “what controls people’s emotion?”, then I learnt about emotion regulation.

Emotion regulation allows people to evaluate how they feel under situations, then determine what type of emotion reaction to response, and when to express it (Wang and Saudino, 2011). Many scholars have mentioned how important emotion regulation is to one’s mental health and wellbeing.

Emotion regulation can be identified as two types:

  1. Antecedent-focused (e.g. reappraisal)
  2. Response-focused (e.g. suppression)

Antecedent-focused emotion regulation allows people would reevaluate the way they perceive the situation then generate emotional response. Research shows older adults tend to use reappraisal more frequently and have better emotion regulation.

Response-focused emotion regulation is the opposite to the former one, it is the after state where emotions are already here and one is managing it. Suppression is a type of strategy under response-focused emotion regulation. It means not overly expressing emotion out but keeping it on the inside, it doesn’t change the situation or emotion at present (Catterson et al., 2017).

Emotion regulation takes control in both positive and negative emotions, however more research shows suppression might create more negative emotions and affect one’s socially. In the long run, it would cause emotional problems such as depression. Younger adults are more likely to employ such method to manage their emotion.

Summary of emotion regulation

Small Experiment

Even after getting a bit of understand with emotion and emotion regulation, I was still struggling to find a direction to narrow down my topic. But quoting what my tutor said about “doing something even when you don’t know it”.

I did a small experiment with 20 people ranging from young adults to adults in Hong Kong by asking them two emotion related questions but in a different way of questioning:

  1. Regarding to the COVID-19 situation, use 1 word to describe your emotion.
  2. What situation you think of when you heard the word “Hopeless”?

For the first question, the answers turned out to be more negative emotions than positive. Most answers were either feeling worry, anxious, and tired, only one person felt renewed because she realised the gratefulness of her past “normal life”. I then soon realised this type of questioning method might not be the most appropriate because people can experience multiple emotions towards an incident.

Under COVID-19, people have more negative emotions than positive ones

For the second question, I tend to get more personal stories from people by asking the situation instead of feeling, people tend to feel hopeless when they encounter unachievable goal, sickness, unemployment, political situation and realising natural disasters.

Situations from thinking of the word “Hopeless”

What to focus on?

Actually, until now I still have no idea what I really wanted to focus on, but I roughly have two direction to work towards.

My first direction was inspired by the answers from the previous experiment, I wanted to understand more about one’s deeper thoughts and feelings towards a particular incident. Will I able to recreate their emotion through sensory and visual experience hence building empathy and allowing others to understand how things can mean and affect one mentally?

The second direction was a continuation research with suppression from the emotion regulation research. In a paper written by Tsai and Lu (2018), Asian culture tend to suppress their emotion more than Westerners because they want to maintain social harmonious. In other words they are afraid of social negative consequence. Apart from culture aspect, people with jobs that requires interaction with clients or customers tend to have emotional labor in order to get their job done in a well-manner way (Lee, 2016).

Although emotion suppression didn’t lead to significant depressive symptoms to Hong Kong people (Tsai and Lu, 2018), I think it is also important to express emotion in an appropriate way in order to maintain healthy emotional wellbeing.

Since maintaining social harmonious is a cultural factor in Asian countries, I think creating a way that allows people to disclose their emotion privately can be a viable direction to pursuit.

Note: The above two directions are just my initial thought, I might go to a different direction in the future.


For the Final Major Project, I always wanted to continue working in pairs or in groups. However due to COVID-19, many of my close friends are staying in a different country than I am. With time and location differences, it would be hard to collaborate for the long run…

In addition to that, I don’t think my thoughts are very structuralised at the moment, I have been working on different areas that is related to emotion, but I wasn’t able to link them well enough. The directions I mentioned above are still a very rough idea that pop into my mind, even myself still don’t have a clear direction on what to focus on yet, but I will take some time to think about it. My tutor recommended me to look at externalisation, perhaps that can inspire me to find my focus point.


Catterson, A.D., Eldesouky, L. and John, O.P., 2017. An experience sampling approach to emotion regulation: Situational suppression use and social hierarchy. Journal of research in personality, 69, pp.33–43.

Cowen, A.S. and Keltner, D., (2017). Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(38), pp.E7900-E7909.

Cowen, A. (2018) How Many Different Kinds of Emotion are There?. Available at: https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2018.00015 (Accessed: 15 June 2018).

Donaldson, M., 2017. Plitchik’s Wheel of emotions–2017 Update.

Ekman, P., (1992). Are there basic emotions?.

Lee, B., 2016. Relationship between hiding emotions and health outcomes among south Korean interactive service workers. Workplace Health & Safety, 64(5), pp.187–194.

Moriya, J. and Takahashi, Y., 2013. Depression and interpersonal stress: The mediating role of emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 37(3), pp.600–608.

Tsai W, Lu Q. Culture, emotion suppression and disclosure, and health. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 2018 Mar;12(3):e12373.

Wang, M. and Saudino, K.J., 2011. Emotion regulation and stress. Journal of Adult Development, 18(2), pp.95–103.




Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

The Barriers to Love: Dropping Every Mask

Did you know that when expressing feelings or attitudes words only represent 7% of the message?

노쇠와 인지기능

Research Paper: A Statistical Analyses of differences in RoSelf-Esteem score between countries and…

You Are Not Right

Understanding Misunderstandings

The Long Game — Issue #236

Hidden Ways We Judge Others by Their Appearances

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store


More from Medium

User-Centered Design Perspective

User-Centered Design Perspective. Illustration by Stayu Kasabov.

How “Lightning Demos” works in a Sprint?

How to design for autism

Who are my users?