Ekman’s 6 Basic Emotions and How They Affect Our Behavior

Ekmans Basic Emotions Affect Our Behavior

3. Fear

It is an essential primary emotion that generates the fight or flight response and keeps us safe in times of danger and threat. Although it is considered as a negative emotional state, fear is a survival mechanism for our safety and health. One study on fear states that “the amygdala detects and organizes responses to natural dangers (like predators) and learns about novel threats and the stimuli that predict their occurrence.” Fear is necessary for activating survival behavior in potentially life-threatening situations. It also enables us to learn defensive responses.

Kendra writes “When you face some sort of danger and experience fear, you go through what is known as the fight or flight response. This response helps ensure that you are prepared to effectively deal with threats in your environment.”

Fear is usually expressed in the following ways:

  • Tense stretched lips, wide eyes and other facial expressions
  • Heart beating faster & rapid breathing 
  • Running away, hiding or other similar body language

How it affects us:

However, certain individuals actively seek experiences that evoke feelings of fear like watching horror movies, extreme sports and other fear-inducing activities. “Repeated exposure to a fear object or situation can lead to familiarity and acclimation, which can reduce feelings of fear and anxiety,” adds Kendra.

Certain physiological symptoms of fear show instant activation and preparation for mostly “flight” or even “freeze” than “fight”. As cardiac activity becomes intense, breathing becomes faster, irregular, shallow and harder. However, the more we expose ourselves to controlled fear, the less fear starts to affect us. She explains “This is the idea behind exposure therapy, in which people are gradually exposed to the things that frighten them in a controlled and safe manner. Eventually, feelings of fear begin to decrease.”

Read also: Ways To Let Go OF Your Fears, Insecurities, and Negativities For A Fulfilling Life

4. Disgust

Disgust is one of the basic emotions which we don’t usually consider as a primary feeling. However, it plays a crucial role in our lives. This refers to feelings of repulsion and avoidance of substances that we believe can be dangerous if ingested. It leads to feelings of severe displeasure and enhances activation in our body. Disgust serves an evolutionary and adaptive purpose to reject and substance that could be contaminated or toxic. However, this specific emotion can be activated due to toxic social stimuli as well.

This is how we mostly express disgust:

  • Turning away, frowning, curling or lips, wrinkling of nose etc
  • Revulsion, nausea, vomiting 
  • gastrointestinal problems, muscular tension
  • Increased breathing rate and heart rate 

How it affects us:

Disgust can occur due to several adverse experiences like a nasty and obnoxious smell, sight or taste. Kendra Cherry explains “Researchers believe that this emotion evolved as a reaction to foods that might be harmful or fatal.” Moreover, unpleasant things like infection, poor hygiene, blood and even death can make some people feel disgusted. In fact, according to the APA, disgust may be a disease-avoidance mechanism that protects us from falling sick.

Read also: 4 Ways To Cope With Negative Emotions

5. Anger

We feel angry when a certain situation makes us frustrated. Anger is an intense, unpleasant feeling that often prompts us to act without thinking. Anger can be an ambiguous and multi-faceted feeling which is usually not properly identified or justified. It is one of the most evolutionary beneficial emotions among the 6 basic emotions. Anger enables us to cope with frustrating people and environments, threats, dangers and challenges. It offers us certain resources that ensure we successfully overcome these. However, if anger is ineffective in helping us deal with frustrating situations, then we shift to feel sadness.

Kendra explains “Anger can be a particularly powerful emotion characterized by feelings of hostility, agitation, frustration, and antagonism towards others.” Anger also plays a crucial part in our fight or flight response and is more associated with “fight” than “flight”.

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1 thought on “Ekman’s 6 Basic Emotions and How They Affect Our Behavior”

  1. My husband of 43.5 years died 3 months ago. With the Corona Virus, we stay home most of the time. I used to go to the gym and to lots of Women’s organizations. but they aren’t meeting now, and the gym is closed. I realize that I am depressed. I lose things like my keys and cell phone and credit cards. I received over 50 Sympathy cards, and flowers for the funeral. I can’t bring myself to write thank you notes. I have bags of his clothing, but if I put them in my car, I can’t bear to give them to the agencies. I took me 3 weeks to donate the first set of bags. The house is a mess. I can’t get myself to clean it up. I called my General Practitioner M.D. to give me antidepressants, but they have not responded. Several of my friends who have lost their husbands said they were on antidepressants for a while. I cry every morning when I wake up and he is not there. I am 75 y/o, and my husband was 82 when he died. I have been occupied with closing his accounts, paying his balances, and filling our paperwork for inheritances. It is a mess with Verizon because they put my payment for his account on my account. The is no office open locally, and I can’t get a computer to understand what the problem is. This frustrates me and adds to my depression. What advice do you have for me?

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