Research Stream


Paul James
Western Sydney University

Stephanie Trigg
The University of Melbourne

Lisa Beaven
The University of Melbourne

Andrew Lynch
The University of Western Australia

Thomas Dixon
Queen Mary University of London

W. Gerrod Parrott
Georgetown University


Circles of Emotion

‘Circles of Emotion’ asks individuals to identify the emotions that they see in faces, objects and places from across the globe and across history. By identifying both the presence and strength of emotions as individuals respond to different iconic images, the project seeks to map those individual responses against others from across the globe.

Circles of Emotions website image

Emotions may be a core foundation of what makes us human, but they are notoriously difficult to describe and analyse. One of the central problems in affect theory concerns the role of language and the meaning of the conceptual naming of different emotions. This project seeks to explore this question by developing a new taxonomy of emotions and asking respondents to attach different emotions to faces, objects and places from across human history and global geography.

'Circles of Emotion', in the first stage at least, has involved building a web-accessible interactive database that stores images in a series of thematic sets, and provides a site for recording and analysing emotional responses from people from very different walks of life.

‘Circles of Emotion’ is part of a larger project called ‘Circles of Social Life’. This long-term project builds upon a well-established method for assessing and practically responding to complex issues of human wellbeing: vitality, relationality, productivity and sustainability. We are concerned to explore and support practices that make for a flourishing world. We are working together to create alternative futures where people can make better sense of their lives with others and for themselves.

Collaborating Researchers

  • Paul James, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, Australia
  • Stephanie Trigg, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Lisa Beaven, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Penelope Lee, The University of Melbourne
  • Andrew Lynch, The University of Western Australia

Image: The ‘Circles of Emotion’ website.