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

Ekmans Basic Emotions Affect Our Behavior

We often express anger in the following ways:

  • Glaring & frowning
  • Tight lips, nose flaring, teeth grinding & jaw clenching 
  • Clenching fists and having a strong stance
  • Shouting, yelling, speaking aggressively
  • Punching, kicking, hitting or throwing items

How it affects us:

Anger can not only prepare us for action but also increase our cardiac activity. It can make the muscles tense and augment breathing rate. Moreover, it also boosts cognitive tension by increasing production of adrenaline in the blood. However, when in control, anger can also be beneficial for us. It can encourage us to pursue our needs, find probable solutions and take necessary action. 

However, anger can be damaging “when it is excessive or expressed in ways that are unhealthy, dangerous, or harmful to others. Uncontrolled anger can quickly turn to aggression, abuse, or violence,” adds Kendra. It can impact our decision making skills and lead to health risk behaviors, according to a 2010 study. It can also cause diabetes and coronary heart diseases as well.

Read also: How You Can Manage Your Anger And Never Let It Control You

6. Surprise

Last but not the least, surprise is one of the basic emotions explained by psychologist Paul Eckman. It is a reaction to something unexpected and unprecedented. Surprise is a sense of astonishment, wonder, or amazement. It is often followed by a feeling of uncertainty and a lack of conscious awareness. This emotion compels our mind to clear all current working memory associated with residual activity so that we can deal with the unexpected stimulus. 

Hence, it activates our attention as well as curiosity related behavior. A surprise can be positive or negative and based on the experience it can make us feel joy or sadness respectively.Surprise is usually quite brief and is characterized by a physiological startle response following something unexpected,” writes Kendra.

Most of us tend to express our surprise in the following manners:

  • Opening mouth, widening eyes & raising eyebrows
  • Jumping & putting hands on chest
  • Gasping & screaming

How it affects us:

When we are surprised, our heart rate decreases and muscular tone increases. Our breathing usually gets deeper, pitch increases and we tend to make impulsive vocalizations. Surprise can also activate the fight-flight-freeze response and release adrenaline to either face the situation, run away or freeze in fear. Kendra adds “Surprise can have important effects on human behavior. For example, research has shown that people tend to disproportionately notice surprising events.”

Read also: How to Surprise Your Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day

Basic emotions are a survival mechanism

Irrespective of whether an emotion is positive or negative, the main purpose of every emotion we experience as human beings is to ensure our survival. However, when we are unable to control and manage our emotions, it can often translate into danger. This is why emotional regulation is crucial so that our thoughts, beliefs and behavior are not dominated by our emotions.

Emotions allow us to live our lives the best way possible. When we understand the nuances and complexities of the basic emotions, we can understand how our emotions define us and our behavior. Kendra Cherry, MS concludes “The many emotions you experience are nuanced and complex, working together to create the rich and varied fabric of your emotional life.”

Read also: 8 Ways You Can Regulate Your Emotions

Here is an interesting video that you may like:


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Rita Marsh-Birch

My husband of 43.5 years… Read more »

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