Posted on: November 21, 2022 Posted by: H.J. Rangas Comments: 0
The 6 Basic Emotions and Their Expressions
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Paul Ekman developed the theory of the 6 basic emotions in the 1970s. He expanded this list, to include pride, shame, embarrassment and excitement. These different types of emotions influence how we live and interact with others; even how we communicate with ourselves.

As human beings, we are like a pendulum swinging from one emotion to the next throughout the day. We can even experience a combination of different emotions at the same time. Knowing our emotions is an important component in maintaining our emotional wellness. Learning about these basic emotions can help us better understand how we are truly feeling from one moment to the next.

Basic and Complex Emotions

Our expression of basic emotions are universally recognizable. As humans, we express these emotions automatically as soon as we feel them. Basic emotions are pure emotions and can’t be deconstructed. This is similar to the concept of primary colors.

Complex emotions requires cognitive processing as their expression varies across different cultures. It is hard to recognize complex emotions as they are made up of multiple emotions. For example, hate is a complex emotion combining fear, anger and disgust.


This is a pleasant emotional state and the emotion that people strive for the most. It elicits feelings of joy, contentment, gratification, satisfaction and well-being.

Smiling is the most common expression of happiness. Happy people are often shown with a relaxed stance. They speak in an upbeat tone of voice and in a pleasant way.


This is a transient emotional state. It elicits feelings of disappointment, grief, hopelessness, disinterest, and a dampening of the overall mood.

Sadness is often expressed through crying. It can also be felt by a dampened mood, lethargy and quietness. People who are sad often express this by withdrawal from others and at times, sighing.


This is a primal emotion that is important for survival. It is triggered by a fight or flight response. Fear helps to ensure that you are prepared to deal with threats in your environment.

When you feel fear, you widen your eyes and pull in your chin. It can be accompanied by rapid breathing and increased heartbeat. You physically try to get away or hide from the threat.


This is a primal emotion eliciting a sense of revulsion. It is often a result of experiences something unpleasant from taste, sight or smell. This may be the body’s way of avoiding things that may influence you negatively, or harm you in some way.

Wrinkling the nose and curling the upper lip is the most common expression of disgust. People often react to disgust by immediately turning away from the object of disgust. Vomiting or retching is also a reaction to feelings of disgust.


This is a powerful emotion where one feels hostility, agitation, frustration, and antagonism towards others. It is also an important emotion to ensure your safety, similar to fear. When people say you have a temper; it usually means you are in a state of anger.

Frowning or glaring are the most common ways to express anger. Angry people are often sweating or turning red, speaking gruffly or yelling. When you are angry, you can take a strong stance or turn away. You physically express it by hitting, kicking or throwing objects at the object of your anger.


This is a short emotional state. It results from experiencing something unexpected. This can be a positive or negative feeling, or even neutral, depending on the experience.

Raising the brows, widening the eyes and opening the mouth are some expressions of surprise. Some people jump back or even yell, scream or gasp. It can also trigger the fight or flight response depending on the situation.

There are other theories about the different types of emotions. Some theories suggest that there are only 4 basic emotions. On the other hand, most recent studies list down up to 27 emotions.

In the end, we are complex human beings. Complex emotional reactions are part of what makes us interesting to other people. We find other people’s emotional responses interesting to observe and interact with as well.

Feature Image: Original Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash.

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