What are Emotions? Types of Emotions and their Effects

Types Of Emotions

Different types of emotions affect how we live and interact with others. These emotions may seem to rule our lives at times. Every choice we make, every action we take, and every perception we have is impacted by the emotions we experience at any given point in time.

In addition to identifying types of emotions, psychologists have worked to identify specific feelings. People feel emotions in a variety of ways, and various theories exist regarding how to explain and categorize them.

Read: Emotional disorders

Key elements of emotions

Let’s examine their three primary components: the subjective experience, the physiological response, and the behavioral response, in order to better understand what emotions are.

The subjective experience

Research has shown that all people experience the same set of emotions regardless of culture or background, however, the experience of emotions can also be highly subjective. For instance, anger can be experienced in different ways in different places. Is anger the same for everyone? Mild irritation or blinding rage could be part of your experience.

While emotions such as anger, sadness or happiness have broad labels, your own experience will be much more multi-faceted and as such, subjective.

Emotions are not always expressed in the purest form. Different life events and circumstances often cause us to experience a mix of emotions. Beginning a new job can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. A wide range of emotions may accompany getting married or having a child, ranging from joy to anxiety. You may experience these emotions at the same time, or you may experience them one after another.

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The physiological response

Your stomach may lurch with anxiety or your heart may palpate with fear if you’ve ever experienced strong physiological reactions to emotions. It can also be said that we experience emotions and physiological reactions simultaneously. (As in the Cannon-Bard theory of emotion.)

The sympathetic nervous system regulates physiological responses brought on by emotion, such as sweaty palms or a pounding heartbeat.

It regulates involuntary body functions including blood flow and digestion. Control of the body’s fight-or-flight reactions is handled by the sympathetic nervous system. This response automatically prepares you to escape from danger or come face-to-face with it.

Recent research has focused on the role of the brain in emotions rather than these autonomic responses in early studies of emotion. Researchers have discovered that the limbic system’s amygdala plays an important role in emotion, and specifically fear.

The amygdala is a tiny structure shaped like an almond that has been linked to emotions and memory. According to research, people’s amygdalas activate when they see pictures of threats. The fear response can also be impaired by damage to the amygdala.

Read: Sociopath

The behavioral response

Perhaps your most familiar component is the expression of emotion itself. It is very common for us to interpret the emotional expressions of those around us. It’s believed that our ability to accurately read these expressions has something to do with our emotional intelligence; these expressions are an integral part of our general body language.

According to recent research, many expressions are universal, such as smiling to show happiness and frowning to show sadness. The way we express and interpret emotions is also influenced by social norms.

For example, Japanese people often hide their fear or disgust when approaching authority figures. Additionally, western cultures, such as the United States, are more likely to express negative emotions alone and in the presence of others than eastern cultures, such as Japan.

Basic emotions

Psychologists Paul Eckman identified six primary emotions that he proposed were universal to all human cultures during the 1970s. According to him, he was experiencing joy, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger. Eventually, he added pride, shame, embarrassment, and excitement to his list of basic emotions.

Check: Personality Disorders

Combining emotions

The psychologist Robert Plutchik developed something similar to the color wheel the concept of a “wheel of emotions”. As colors can be mixed to create different shades, emotions can also be combined to form different feelings.

As per this theory, the more fundamental emotions are like building blocks. Some emotions are more complex and may contain a mix of these basic ones. Love can be created by combining basic emotions such as joy and trust.

Several recent studies indicate that basic emotions exist in much greater numbers than previously thought. Scientists identified 27 different categories of emotions in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers discovered that people’s feelings are more like a gradient than they’re totally distinct. We will explore the effects of some basic forms of emotion on human behavior by exploring some of the most basic types.

Types of basic emotions

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People tend to pursue happiness the most out of all the different types of emotions. According to the dictionary, happiness is the state of being content, joyful, gratified, satisfied and feeling well.

Positive psychology is one of the fields of psychology that has conducted significant research on happiness since the 1960s. Expressions of this type of emotion include:

  • Smiles and other facial expressions
  • Your body language: for instance, a relaxed stance
  • A pleasant, upbeat tone of voice

Human happiness is seen as a basic emotion, but what we believe will make us happy is heavily influenced by our culture. In pop culture, for instance, it is often emphasized that buying a house or getting a high-paying job will make one happy.

Researchers have found that happiness contributes to both physical and mental health, and research supports this concept. However, the actual factors that make people happy are often much more complex and individualized.

Happiness is associated with a number of positive outcomes, such as a longer lifespan and stronger marriages. Meanwhile, unhappy people can suffer from a variety of medical conditions.

Various health problems, such as lowered immunity, increased inflammation and decreased life expectancy, have been linked to stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Check: Mood Disorders


Another type of emotion is sadness, which describes a changing state of emotional distress characterized by disappointment, grief, hopelessness and disinterest.

People experience sadness from time to time, just as they experience other emotions. Sadness can sometimes turn into depression when it is prolonged and severe. There are many ways to express sadness, including:

  • Crying
  • Dampened mood
  • Lethargy
  • Quietness
  • Withdrawal from others

People cope with sadness in different ways depending on the root cause and type of sadness they experience.

When people are sad, they often will retreat into their own thoughts, avoid other people, and seek self-medicating methods. Feelings of sadness are actually exacerbated by such behaviors, which can prolong the duration of the emotion.


Survival is also often influenced by fear, which is a powerful emotion. When you feel threatened and fearful, you undergo a process known as the fight or flight response.

You begin to tense your muscles, increase the rate of your heart and breathing, and become more alert, so you can either run or fight the threat.

You can use this response to ensure you are ready to effectively respond to threats that arise in your environment. These types of emotions include:

  • Eyes widening, chin pulled back, etc.
  • Body language: fleeing or hiding from the threat
  • Rapid heartbeats and breathing are physical reactions

Fear is experienced differently by everyone. Some people are more prone to feeling fear and certain objects or situations can trigger it more readily.

A threat causes fear as an emotional reaction. We sometimes develop similar reactions to anticipated dangers or even our thoughts about potential threats, and we generally refer to this as anxiety. Among other things, social anxiety affects people’s reactions to social situations.

Alternatively, some people choose to be in frightening situations. Some people seem to thrive and even enjoy thrills such as extreme sports and other thrills, but many people find them frightening.

Experiencing a fearful object or situation repeatedly can help you become familiar and accustomed, and that can help reduce fear and anxiety.

A controlled and safe method of exposing people to frightful things is exposure therapy. Eventually, the fear decreases.

Related: Phobia Disorder


Eckman described disgust as one of the original six basic emotions. There are many ways to display disgust, including:

  • Angry body language: turning away
  • Reactions such as vomiting or retching
  • An expression of facial wrinkles or a curl of the upper lip

Revulsion can result from feeling disgusted by something they smell, taste, or see. Researchers believe that this reaction evolved as a reaction to potentially harmful or fatal foods. A typical reaction to bad-tasting or rotten foods is disgust.

Disgust can also be triggered by poor hygiene, infection, blood, and rotting flesh. The body may be trying to avoid transmittable diseases by doing this.

When others engage in behavior that they disapprove of, find distasteful, or find immoral, or find evil, individuals can experience moral disgust as well.

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It is an extremely powerful emotion that can be characterized by feelings of animosity, hostility, frustration, and antagonism toward others. A fear response can include anger as well.

Feelings of anger may lead you to fend off a threat and protect yourself. Angry expressions typically involve:

  • Frowning, glaring and other facial expressions
  • Body language: such as turning away or taking a strong stance
  • Voice tone: yelling or gruffly speaking
  • Physiological responses: such as sweating and turning red
  • Behaviors that are aggressive: hitting, kicking and throwing objects

Even though anger is often considered a negative emotion, it can sometimes be helpful. It can be helpful in clarifying your desires in a relationship, as well as motivating you to take action and find solutions to things that are bothering you.

However, excessive anger or expression in ways that are unhealthy, dangerous, or harmful to others can become a problem. Violence or aggression may result from uncontrolled anger.

Physical and mental health can be affected by this emotion. Anger that is not controlled can hinder you from making rational decisions and even lead to health problems.

There has been a link between anger and heart disease and diabetes. Smoking and aggressive driving are also linked to the disease, as well as excessive alcohol consumption and drinking.

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As described by Eckman, surprise is one of the six fundamental emotions of human life. Surprise is usually quite brief and is characterized by a physiological startle response following something unexpected.

There are three types of emotions: positive, negative and neutral. You might be scarred by a person jumping out from behind a tree while you walk to your car at night, for example.

Having your best friends gather around to celebrate your birthday would be a pleasant surprise. Usually, surprises are characterized by:

  • Expressions of the face: uplifted eyebrows, wide-open eyes and a smile
  • Responses to physical stimuli: such as stumbling
  • Verbal reactions: such as screaming, yelling or gasping

The fight or flight response can also be triggered by surprise. An adrenaline rush helps prepare the body for fighting or fleeing when someone is startled.

Human behavior can be influenced by surprise. The tendency for people to perceive unexpected events disproportionately has been demonstrated in research.

We tend to remember surprising or unusual news events more than other events. Additionally, research has shown that people are more likely to be influenced and learn from surprising arguments and information.

Read: Secure Attachment Style

Other types of emotions

Eckman described six basic emotions that are just a small representation of the many different kinds of emotions that we all experience. Eckman’s theory suggests that the core emotions we experience across cultures are universal.

The many types of emotions and how they are classified continue to be explored in other theories and new research. As Eckman later noted, not all of these emotions could be encoded with facial expressions, unlike his original six emotions. Later, he identified these emotions:

  • Amusement
  • Contempt
  • Contentment
  • Embarrassment
  • Excitement
  • Guilt
  • Pride in achievement
  • Relief
  • Satisfaction
  • Shame

Read: Disorganized Attachment Style

Other theories of emotion

It is not certain what the basic emotions actually are and how these are classified, as they are not completely agreed upon by all psychology theorists. The Eckman model is known as one of the best-known, but there are many theories that propose what emotions make up the essence of the human experience.

According to some researchers, emotion is basically limited to two or three types. The hierarchy of emotions has been suggested by others. It is possible to further break down primary emotions such as love, joy, surprise, anger and sadness into secondary emotions. For example, love is composed of secondary emotions such as affection and longing.

It is then possible to further break down secondary emotions into tertiary emotions. In addition to affection, tertiary emotions such as compassion, tenderness and caring are also included.

Recent studies suggest there are 27 distinct emotions, and that they are all intimately connected. Researchers created an interactive map to illustrate how these emotions are related based on the responses of more than 800 men to more than 2,000 video clips.

Dacher Keltner is a senior researcher and faculty director at the Greater Good Science Center. He explained that there were 27 distinct qualities that accounted for hundreds of people’s responses accurately to each video.

Therefore, emotions cannot be isolated from one another. Rather, it shows that emotions are gradations and that these shades of feeling are deeply interconnected.

UC Berkeley doctoral student Alan Cowen, a lead author of the study, believes that a better understanding of the nature of emotions can help scientists, psychologists, and physicians gain a better understanding of the way emotions affect brain activity, behavior, and mood. Researchers hope to improve psychiatric conditions by gaining a better understanding of these states.

Read: Anxious Attachment Style

Bottom line

It is important to remember that emotions influence how we interact with others in our day-to-day lives as well as how we make decisions. When you understand the types of emotions, you will be better able to distinguish how they are expressed and how they influence your behavior.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that no emotion can be isolated. You experience many different emotions that are nuanced and complex, working together to produce a rich and varied fabric of your emotional life.

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