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

Basic Emotions

5. Anger

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

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.

According to a 2017 study, anger is considered as one of the basic emotions, “mainly given its distinct and universally recognizable pattern of facial expression.” The study adds that anger can also hint at the presence of  Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). {25}

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 feeling sadness.

It is an intense and dominating emotion marked by frustration, agitation, antagonism, and hostility towards others. Anger also plays a crucial part in our fight or flight response and is more associated with “fight” than “flight”.

We often express anger in the following ways:

  • Glaring and 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 the 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, when it is extreme, uncontrollable, or expressed in an unhealthy manner, it can be dangerous for self and others. When not regulated in time, it can lead to aggression, violence, and abuse. Anger 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. {26}

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

6. Surprise

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

Last but not the least, the surprise is one of the basic emotions {27} explained by psychologist Paul Eckman. It is a reaction to something unexpected and unprecedented. Surprise is a sense of astonishment, wonder, or amazement.{28} Researchers state that “surprise is an emotion arising from a mismatch between an expectation and what is actually observed or experienced.” It necessitates a mechanism for comparing reality with an expectation. {29}

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. Unlike other emotions, it typically lasts for a brief period of time and is marked by physiological startle response and anxiety.

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

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

How it affects us:

When we are surprised, our heart rate decreases, and our 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.

This cognitive-emotional phenomenon can significantly impact our behavior and decision-making as we generally observe surprising incidents disproportionately. {30}

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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