Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions

  • Jun 21, 2022
Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions

Although emotions are inherent to all human beings, they are often difficult to classify and understand. In fact, some people think that they are states without defined rules and that, therefore, they are indecipherable. In this sense, the Dutch psychologist Nico Frijda, who is considered one of the researchers contemporaries on the most important human emotions, proposed that they follow twelve rules or laws generals.

The researcher himself made it clear that, like any rule, there are exceptions, but that, in general, emotions follow an established pattern that makes them differentiable. In this Psychology-online article, we will explain in detail what they are Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions and why this author showed that feelings are a vital component of reason. In addition, these laws are a guide to understand one's own emotions and explain those of others.

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  1. Law of Situational Meaning
  2. law of worry
  3. law of apparent reality
  4. Laws of change, of habituation and of comparative sentiment
  5. Law of hedonic asymmetry
  6. Law of Conservation of Emotional Impulse
  7. law of closure
  8. Consequence Beware Law
  9. Laws of lightest load and highest gain

Law of situational meaning.

Nico Frijda's first law of emotions states that emotions are derive directly from the situations experienced. This means that if you have already experienced something, when you face the same circumstances or experiential events another time, it is likely that the same emotions that you experienced the first time you experienced it will be generated or surfaced.

For example, if you get something that you want very much, you will be very happy. On the contrary, with losses or failures you will suffer sadness. Ultimately, it is a reciprocal and proportional relationship, that is, when a situation is at stake, an immediate emotion.

Law of concern.

Nico Frijda's second law states that feelings and emotions come from worry, that simple. Therefore, if we are interested in something or someone, that interest causes the emotion to manifest. Likewise, when people are carefree, they are likely to show no emotion at all, much less express their personal feelings.

Law of apparent reality.

Another of Nico Frijda's laws of emotions which states that when something seems real to us, that provokes an emotional response, since we associate this phenomenon as a reality. In other words, the way we evaluate and perceive situations is the trigger for our emotions. For example, movies, soap operas or artistic manifestations arouse emotional reactions because they are perceived as part of reality.

Coupled with this, the law of apparent reality also states that when we don't see things directly, we may think they are not true. For example, when receiving the news of the death of a loved one, it is possible that the emotions are not fully expressed. emotions if you don't get in touch with the fact that he will no longer be there when you get home or when you try to to call him.

Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions - Law of Apparent Reality

Laws of change, habituation and comparative sentiment.

These three laws of emotions of Nico Frijda are corresponding to each other and therefore they must be explained together. Next, we tell you what they consist of:

  • law of change: refers to the fact that individuals are capable of getting used to anything, regardless of the circumstances. In the same way, change arises because the circumstances we live in vary and, therefore, it is that change that activates the emotion. For example, if you are in a regular job and the routine changes for the better or worse, that will be an emotional trigger.
  • law of habituation: This rule refers to the fact that human beings get used to any situation. In this sense, emotions respond and adapt quickly to changes. In this article you will find more information about the process of adaptation to change according to psychology.
  • Law of shared sentiment: Frijda states that people are always looking for a frame of reference to compare what happens to us with stable events in our lives. In other words, the law of comparative feeling states that the intensity of emotions will depend of the relationship established between the phenomenon and the event that is being evaluated and compared in opposed.

Law of hedonic asymmetry.

Nico Fridja's law of hedonic asymmetry states that positive emotions tend to fade over time. In the same way, it affirms that the most distressing or terrible circumstances do not occur for individuals to get used to them, however, they can activate negative sensations such as the fear.

Likewise, negative emotions tend to persist over time, unless self-deception comes into play. This suggests that the bad or negative has more strength than the good on an emotional level.

Law of conservation of emotional impulse.

Another of Nico Frijda's laws of emotions that states that emotional events do not heal over time. On the contrary, they maintain their power, unless the person is repeatedly exposed to the situation, which causes extinction or habituation to the fact.

For example, you have to face traumatic events to rewrite the emotions associated with them. Therefore, reexperiencing is what reduces the emotional charge.

Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions - Law of Conservation of Emotional Impulse

Law of closure.

As we see Fridja's emotional laws explain how emotions work. In this case, the law of closure refers to the fact that when people are invaded by emotions, his experimentation is absolute. So in these situations, their emotional responses shut down, which clouds decision making.

This state is reversed at the moment in which the emotional response decreases and balance is recovered, that is, the more open and less emotional rationality is recovered.

Law of care of the consequences.

According to the Nico Fridja Consequence Care Act, people can modulate and control their emotional responses, that is, although they feel the need to express strong emotions, they can control them. That's why whenever someone feels upset he doesn't fight with everyone, however he will try to modify their emotional state through manifestations such as blows, shouts or other forms that serve as catharsis. Find out what a emotional catharsis: types and examples in this article.

Laws of the lightest load and the greatest gain.

Nico Frijda's latest laws of emotions explain different emotional processes. Let's see which ones:

  • law of lightest charge: everyone can give a twist to her emotions to reinterpret those negative reactions that affect her emotional balance.
  • law of greatest profit: the impact generated by any event or situation will depend on the individual interpretation of each person. As long as a situation can be reinterpreted as positive, it will be. In this sense, illusions can be created that will generate positive emotions.
Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions - Laws of Lightest Load and Highest Gain

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Nico Frijda's 12 Laws of Emotions, we recommend that you enter our category of Emotions.


  • Frijda, N. h. (1988). The Laws of Emotion. In: Jennifer M. Jenkins, Keith Oatley, & Nancy Stein (Eds.), Human Emotions: A Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. pp. 271-287.
  • Frijda, N. h. (2017). The laws of emotion. Psychology Press.
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