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Basic Emotional Expressions

According to renowned American psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman, seven basic emotions are widely experienced in different human cultures across the planet. Expressing emotions is not required to be taught. It's an autonomous process and we all inherit it from our common ancestors. Apart of seven basic emotions, all other emotions (and their expressions) can be classified under a particular emotion or as a combination of different emotions. For example, aggressiveness is closely related with anger whereas nervousness is combination of fear and sadness.

Do watch YouTube video of Dr. Paul Ekman talking about emotions - evolution, purpose and sensory stimulus.


1) Fear – It’s a state of preparing to run away from imagined or actual warning or danger. 

Eyebrows tensely get curled, shoulders fall down, neck gets stiff, gaze get focused or redirected, eyes get widely open to let more light pass to retina, mouth opens wide to let more air pass to lungs, vocal tone trembles, respiration soars, heartbeats goes up, face faints, throat dries and saliva’s swallowed, torso lowers, stomach gets pulled inside, whole body starts sweating and shivering, hands appear muffling mouth to suppress scream, body hides itself behind something and feet gets ready to flee.

2) Anger – It’s a state of preparing to threaten, retaliate or punish somebody. Whole body is provoked, tightened or bluffed to appear bigger and hostile.

Eyes get wide open signaling to target of being caught and to warn inhibiting its activities, body temperature starts rising, gaze gets more fixated and short darts move all over target, eyelids bat faster, neck gets stiff or tilts either side, face and eyes turn red, shoulders become broad, torso elevates, chest puffs, nostrils balloon, respiration soars, pulse jumps, lips get tightly closed or opened, teeth get exhibited, vocal tone gets fierce, arms get crossed over chest or rest on hips and feet get firmly grounded and separated apart to prepare for attack.

3) Disgust – It’s a state of exhibiting loathe or lack of interest about person, situation or object.

Torso and face gets disoriented, eyes faint, heartbeat drops, gaze becomes more fleeting than fixated, mouth gets opened on either side with displaying teeth, lips curl down, lower lips push out, tongue protrudes, nostrils pull upward, breath exhales briskly, throat clearing sound generates, sounds like “Yuck”, “Whack”, “Ooom” expel from mouth, vocal tone gets dull, hands push or hold disgusting thing away.

4) Sadness – It’s a state of disapproval or exhaustion to make person appear in  demand of others' attention and support.

Posture loosens, back hunches, responses dampen, neck hangs or tilts side way down, hands support neck or cover face, shoulders lower, respiration rate drops, gaze gets hovering around own body, eyes barely open, lower lips rides over upper, edges of mouth curl down, palms clamp together and rest on lap or hid in pocket, vocal tone get dull - heavy and sluggish, sounds like “Hmm”, “Whoosh” expel from mouth.

5) Surprise - It’s a state of curiosity and great attention being paid to object, person, situation or phenomenon that is unexpected, inexperienced or takes place suddenly.

Eyes get wide open to let more light pass to retina, eyebrows raise, neck remains straight or tilts backward, mouth gets wide open and lips get rounded, hair raise, jaw drops, vocal tone accentuates, sounds like “Wow”, “Ohh” expel from mouth, torso gets raised, hands are kept in ready position, whole body faces and points partially or fully towards the source of surprise.

6) Happiness - It’s a state of expressing and enjoying some kind of achievement, benefit, fulfillment or victory. Whole body starts sending messages of excitement, friendliness, open and outgoing - sharing temperament.

Posture elevates, footsteps appear flying, movements become energetic - wavy - swiveling, facial muscles get relaxed, mouth opens, edges of mouth curl upward, teeth get partially or fully exhibited, eyes glitter, gaze remains more upward or ahead and away from body, palms gets open and held upward, hands get separated and raised shoulder high or above, vocal tone gets crunchy - chirpy - sweet, sound like “Ha…Ha...Ha...”, “Hurray…” “Ho...Ho…”, “Hey...Hey...”, “Yeah”, “Yippee…”, “Yee Haw” expels from mouth.

7) Contempt - It's an expression of superiority or utter dislike. Unlike other six basic expressions, contempt is expressed consciously - thoughtfully and mostly on face. 

Narrowed eyes, lips tightly press together and either edge of mouth gets pulled upward appearing like an asymmetrical smile. Often, sound like "Hhhhh" rapidly expels from mouth. Both edges of mouth deeply pinched inside cheeks is also an expression of contempt.

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1 comment:

  1. That's the emotional literacy. Thanks a lot!

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