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

Basic Emotions

How it affects us:

The intensity and the type of this emotion mainly depend on the individual and the reason for the sadness, which can also influence one’s ability to deal with it. Extreme and prolonged sadness can make us look for certain coping mechanisms like self-medicating, avoiding others, thinking about a negative experience, and substance abuse.{15} However, such behaviors can be psychologically, emotionally, and physically damaging and lead to stronger feelings of sadness.

A 2008 study found that sadness is an integral part and a core symptom of depression. Another 2017 study revealed that depression can significantly augment mortality risk. The researchers state “The association between depression and mortality persists over long periods of time.” {16, 17}

3. Fear

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

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 a negative emotional state, fear is a survival mechanism for our safety and health.

According to a study {18} on fear, the amygdala, a bunch of cells near the brain’s base, identifies and regulates responses to natural threats and dangers. It is also related to the stimuli which predict the occurrence of danger. Fear is necessary for activating survival behavior in potentially life-threatening situations. It also enables us to learn defensive responses.

When we are experiencing a threat or danger, the amygdala expresses conditioned fear leading to the fight or flight response. This instinctive response makes sure that we are ready to cope with the existing danger effectively.

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. When we repeatedly expose ourselves to a situation or object we are afraid of, we can become familiar with it which reduces feelings of anxiety, panic, and fear.{19}

Certain physiological symptoms of fear show instant activation and preparation for mostly “flight” or even “freeze” than “fight”.{20} Our 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.

This is why exposure therapy {21} is widely recommended to people with different phobias as it gradually exposes them to the feared object in a controlled and safe setting. The feeling of fear decreases eventually. 

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

4. Disgust

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

Disgust is a strong and visceral emotion that can arouse powerful affective and behavioral responses” explains a 2011 study. {22} It 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 bodies.

Disgust serves an evolutionary and adaptive purpose to reject and substances 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:

This primary emotion can occur due to several adverse experiences like a nasty and obnoxious smell, sight, or taste. Experts claim that disgust mainly evolved as an instinctive reaction to specific foods which can be poisonous or harmful.{23}

Moreover, unpleasant things like infection, poor hygiene, blood, and even death can make some people feel disgusted. In fact, according to research, disgust may be a disease-avoidance mechanism that protects us from falling sick. {24}

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts