I see that in the Wikipedia page of emotion classification, sexual desire is only mentioned once (in Parrott's tree-structured list of emotion). It is absent from other kinds of classification.

What is sexual desire?

Sexual desire is a motivational state and an interest in “sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities”. Synonyms for sexual desire are libido, sexual attraction and lust. Sexual desire is an aspect of a person's sexuality, which varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time. Not every person experiences sexual desire; those who do not experience it may be labelled asexual.

What is emotion?

Emotions are biological states associated with the nervous system brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioural responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure. There is currently no scientific consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, creativity and motivation.

So it seems to me that you can consider sexual desire as an emotion. However, the lack of it in other kinds of classification make me question about that. I think sexual desire is common and basic enough to have a consideration in most classifications.


Sexual desire, libido, horniness, titillation, lust and eroticism are all listed as emotions in the Atlas of Personality, Emotion and Behaviour (Mobbs, 2020). In the atlas taxonomy, emotion is defined the perception of a neurological impulse that initiates behaviour (typically abstract nouns).

The full catalogue is available at: https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4792323

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

  • $\begingroup$ I search in the paper and the table of affiliation and dominance, and find neither "desire", "sex", "libido", "horn", "lust" or "ero". Where do you put them? // Also, in the table, I find the emotion "drive" is align with the behavior "design" and personality "determined". Do you mean "desire" instead of "design"? // Also, there is a personality called "a1" in the affiliation 1, dominance 2 section $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jun 4 '20 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker: Please see the link to the supplementary data doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4792323 Please then select 'dataset'. The catalogue is in the first tab of the spreadsheet. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Jun 4 '20 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ pardon me for not having read your paper carefully, but how do you assign a word as emotion, behavior and personality? $\endgroup$ – Ooker Jun 4 '20 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Part of speech heuristic: Verbs = behaviour, adjectives = personality trait, abstract nouns = emotion, and non-abstract nouns = power (king, rich, poor). More precise approach: behaviours are observable acts, emotions useable in the sentence 'I feel a sense of emotion'. Personality trait is observer's perspective of someone's characteristic behaviours (something repeated). Power is whether you have the capacity to influence others, or be influenced by others. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Jun 4 '20 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ In addition to the two methods listed above, the article itself lists other procedures, including: 1) starting with other catalogues of emotions, and examining the synonyms and antonyms of these previously agreed descriptors of emotion. For example, anger is widely accepted as an emotion by psychologists (Plutchik, DSM-5, ICD-11 etc). If anger, why not the synonyms; fury, indignation, and wrath? 2) Confirming the linguistic emotion can cause behaviour. 3) All catalogued words using this linguistic approach were then submitted to review by a neurologist and multiple clinical psychologists. $\endgroup$ – Tony Mobbs Jun 4 '20 at 19:39

The Wikipedia page of desire counts it as emotion:

Desire is the emotion of longing or hoping for a person, object, or outcome. The same sense is expressed by words such as "craving". When a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the thought of the item or person, and they want to take actions to obtain their goal. The motivational aspect of desire has long been noted by philosophers (for example, stating that human desire is the fundamental motivation of all human action) as well as by scientists (see motivational salience).

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Wikipedia is notoriously unreliable and dynamic in its content. Further, the fact that it refers to desire as an emotion is kind of circumstantial, as its stated as a part of a definition, where longing and hoping are the keywords, not emotion. I think a more solid and direct reference would give you your desired upvotes more readily. $\endgroup$ – AliceD May 11 '20 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ haha :D. I think a downvoted answer is still better than having none. I know having a direct reference is more, well, desired, but I feel that searching on Google Scholar is still quite intimidating, considering my level of understanding. Anyway, so you think that the word "emotion" in the Wikipedia's definition is just like a placeholder, and a generic word can replace it? For example, "state" $\endgroup$ – Ooker May 12 '20 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ Hi Ooker. The point is that I don't know - a more definitive answer would solve the question, also for me. As of now, I'm not convinced by your quote. The downvote probably comes from the fact that your answer is basically a link-only answer, which is discouraged. $\endgroup$ – AliceD May 12 '20 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ I found another better source here that would satisfy you: What's the Difference Between an Emotion and a Desire? | Psychology Today. The problem is that almost all the content is perfectly fit as an answer I guess, and I think copying it is the best thing. What's the point of reinventing the wheel? I don't think copying like this is "link-only answer" - it's for hit-and-run answers, and usually be converted to comments $\endgroup$ – Ooker May 13 '20 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker Your PsychologyToday article contradicts the idea that desires are emotions. They are different. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers May 13 '20 at 9:39

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