enter image description here

I've always loved pondering emotion theories and usually agree with them, but Plutchik describes the intense form of anticipation to be Vigilance, and this is quite confusing to me.

Vigilance as defined on wiki:

"In modern psychology, vigilance, also termed sustained concentration, is defined as the ability to maintain concentrated attention over prolonged periods of time."

This describes a character trait and not an emotion. So my question is has the meaning of vigilance changed since Plutchik's theory, and if so what would be the modern equivalent of this emotion. Or did Plutchik drop the ball on this part of an otherwise excellent theory.


2 Answers 2


Plutchik's model is certainly visually appealing; however, the two dimensions of the model have no neurological or biological basis.

The Atlas of Personality, Emotion and Behaviour (Mobbs, 2020) is an alternative with an established neurobiological basis. The atlas catalogues over 3,000 emotions which include vigilance. Alternative emotions would include: alertness, caution, diligence, attentiveness, observance, and watchfulness.

A visualisation of the atlas is shown below.

Example personality traits, emotions and behaviour applicable to each cell in the atlas

Mobbs AED (2020) An atlas of personality, emotion and behaviour. PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227877. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0227877

Plutchik, R., & Conte, H. R. (1997). Circumplex Models of Personality and Emotions. American Psychological Association.


Well, there's a bunch of problems with Plutchik's theory in general.

Plutchik uses vigilance to describe a high arousal state of exploration. He administered a (dichotomous) semantic differentiation task to study different emotion words, and vigilance was above all described as good (vs. bad), strong (vs. weak), active (vs. passive), and constrained (vs. spacious). Based on these ideas, vigilance could probably be considered an emotion.

However, whether this is an emotion depends (1) on your theory of emotions and (2) on how the word is used (conceptually/semantically).

From the contemporary theory of constructed emotions, vigilance could be an emotion if you use it to conceptualize your affect in a given situation. So if you feel negative, highly aroused and alert, and believe there are a million spiders hiding nearby, you could conceptualize this affective state as vigilance ("I feel vigilant"). In this case, vigilance would be an emotion. (According to these criteria, virtually any string of letters could be an emotion.)

However, if vigilance is only describing a particular state of attentional deployment, then it wouldn't be considered an emotion (although it would still be a conceptualization, but of your attention, not your affect).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.