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Emotional Expression

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Emotional Expression

Have you ever felt something, and it seemed like someone could read your mind? Chances are you were expressing your emotions without even knowing it! We communicate our feelings in various ways; verbal, non-verbal, and sometimes our facial expressions can give away what we are feeling inside.

  • What is an emotional expression?
  • How do we express emotion when we communicate?
  • What are some examples of emotional expression?
  • Why is emotional expression important?
  • What are the benefits of emotional expression?

Definition of Emotional Expression

We all have them, but they can be tricky to pin down and trickier to define fully. Psychologists don't all agree on how to identify our basic emotions, but many agree that there are a minimum of four basic emotions that other emotions stem from; happiness, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust. Emotions are typically understood as the experience of feeling that generates both physiological and cognitive responses that impact our behavior. In other words, emotions result from our feelings that manifest in both mental and physical ways. Our behavioral responses to experiencing emotions are emotional expressions.

An example of emotional expression is when you see someone blush out of embarrassment or grimace out of frustration.

Emotional Expression in Communication

The way we express our emotions is a huge part of communicating with others. There are two main ways we express our emotions to others: verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal

Verbal emotional expression is more or less how it sounds; using words and language to communicate our emotions to others. This is often done in a way to seek help or share our experiences.

Non-Verbal

Non-verbal emotional expression is when we communicate our feelings through physical actions and expressions without using language. This is often done through facial expressions, hand gestures, or body language. Sometimes non-verbal emotional expressions can be as subtle as a glance or a slight cough during a conversation to let our friends know we are bored, annoyed, or ready to leave that situation.

Emotional Expression, facial expressions, StudySmarterFacial Expressions, Pixabay.com

Researchers have discovered that statistically, women are much better at picking up on subtle emotional cues. It has not been determined if this is due to a biological difference in perception or social and societal expectations for women to be more nurturing and social.

Emotional Expression Examples

The way we express emotions can vary widely from cultures and even from individuals in the same family. However, some expressions of emotions are the same across cultures, languages, and families. Examples of emotional expression look like:

An example of a verbal emotional expression is identifying a feeling with words. Saying things like "I feel disappointed" or "I'm so excited!"

Another example of how verbal emotional expression is used is a tone of voice. It is possible to identify emotions even when we do not know the language. When we hear someone loudly scream in a harsh tone, we can determine that the person is likely angry.

An example of non-verbal emotional expression that can cross cultures is a smile or even a laugh. This form of emotional expression is recognized across cultures and languages and shows how some forms of expression are innate or physically integrated into who we are as humans.

Another example of non-verbal emotional expression is gestures. Gestures, like a nod or handshake, are not the same across cultures but can still signal emotions to others around us. An example of this is that in some cultures, a middle finger in the air is a strong (and often inappropriate) signal that a person is very upset, while it might not mean anything at all in other cultures.

Often, when we listen to others, we start to mimic their facial expressions. When we do this, it can help us empathize with that person's emotions. This points to the effects of the facial feedback loop. The facial feedback loop is how not only do our emotions trigger a facial response, but our facial expressions can also trigger us to feel certain emotions.

Importance of Emotional Expression

Emotional expression is a fundamental aspect of communicating with others. There are three main functions of emotions vital to our survival and bring purpose to our lives. When we can share these emotions with others, it can enhance our lives and help us build even stronger relationships. The three primary functions of emotions are:

Preparing Us for Action

This function shows how emotions act as a link between what we experience and how we respond to it. For example, if you were lost in the woods and saw a bear, you would feel fear; that fear would drive you to run away or find a way to escape the bear and hide. So the emotions prepared you for the action of running away.

Shaping Our Future Behavior

This function highlights how emotions can help us make smarter choices in the future to avoid what we don't want to feel and achieve what we do want to feel. An example of this is after you escaped the bear and felt the fear, you would likely avoid situations that would put you in a similar position.

Helping Us Interact with Others

This function of emotions is to express to those around us how we are feeling and what we have experienced. Think of the following example - after finally making it home from being in the woods with the bear, you tell your partner about your experiences or show them by running in, screaming or yelling in fear, or even shaking your head and hands to show that you are distressed. This information helps your partner know how to respond to you after having a scary experience. Otherwise, they would not know you are distressed and would act as if nothing happened.

Emotional Expression, running away, StudySmarterRunning away, Pexels.com

Benefits of Expressing Emotions

As we mentioned earlier, the expression of emotions can help us in practical ways, like helping us share our experiences with others and get help. Emotional expression can also benefit our mental and physical health.

Mental Health Benefits

Expressing our emotions can help our mental health by allowing us to make sense of our own emotions. Sometimes our emotional responses don't make sense to us, or they can feel out of our control. Maybe you don't want to be feeling jealous or upset; expressing how you feel to others, or even yourself, can help you understand what is making you feel the unwanted emotions, and then you can use that knowledge to avoid them in the future.

Physical Health Benefits

Expressing emotions also brings physical health benefits. Emotions are signaled in our body through the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions and emotion regulation. The amygdala is an almond-shaped inner part of the brain that is part of the limbic system responsible for emotional perception and response. The amygdala also helps us form memories. It makes sense why memory and emotions seem to work closely together.

The limbic system uses brain chemicals to feel emotions, which means that an increase in stressful emotions also means an increase in stress hormones released in the body. Emotional expression is one of the ways you can help reduce the amount of these hormones in the body, helping you feel better physically and emotionally. The effect of stress hormones and the connection between our emotional selves and our physical health is studied further in what is called health psychology.

Expressing Emotion - Key takeaways

  • Emotional expressions are our behavioral responses to experiencing emotions.
  • Verbal emotional expression is more or less how it sounds; using words and language to communicate our emotions to others.
  • Non-verbal emotional expression is when we communicate our feelings through physical actions and expressions without using language.
  • The three main functions of emotions are: preparing us for action, shaping our future behavior, and helping us interact with others.
  • Expressing our emotions can help our mental health by allowing us to make sense of our own emotions.
  • Emotional expression is one of the ways you can help reduce the amount of these hormones in the body, helping you feel better physically and emotionally.

Frequently Asked Questions about Emotional Expression

Emotions result from our feelings that manifest in both mental and physical ways. Our behavioral responses to experiencing emotions are emotional expressions. 

There are both verbal and non-verbal ways to express emotions. 

  • An example of verbal emotional expression is identifying a feeling with words. Saying things like "I feel disappointed" or "I'm so excited!"
  • An example of non-verbal emotional expression that can cross cultures is a smile or a laugh. This form of emotional expression is recognized across cultures and languages and shows how some forms of expression are innate or physically integrated into who we are as humans. 

Emotional expression:

  • Helps us prepare for action
  • Shapes our future behaviors
  • Helps us interact with others 

Gestures, languages, and tone of voice are all ways that culture can influence the different ways we express our emotions. 

Final Emotional Expression Quiz

Question

Our behavioral responses to experiencing emotions are ______ ______.

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Answer

emotional expressions

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An example of emotional expression is

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blushing

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True or False: Non-Verbal emotional expression is when we communicate our feelings without language, through physical actions and expressions.

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True

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Question

True or False, Men are better at picking up on emotional cues. 

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False: Researchers have discovered that statistically, women are much better at picking up on nuanced emotional cues. It has not been determined if this is due to a biological difference in perception or social and societal expectations for women to be more nurturing and social. 

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Question

An example of non-verbal emotional expression that can cross cultures is


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a firm handshake 

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The ____ ____ ____ is how not only do our emotions trigger a facial response, but our facial expressions can also trigger us to feel certain emotions.


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Answer

facial feedback loop

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True or False: There are four main functions of emotions

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False: There are THREE main functions of emotions

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Choose the three main functions of emotions 

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Preparing us for action

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The _____ _____ is the part of the brain responsible for emotions and emotion regulation


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limbic system

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True or False: The limbic system is apart of the amygdala.

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False: The amygdala is one part of the limbic system.

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Question

The effect of stress hormones and the connection of our emotional selves and our physical health is studied further in what is called ______ ______.  

    

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health psychology

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What is an example of non-verbal emotional expression that is not the same across cultures?

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A middle finger when upset or other hand gesture.

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What is an example of emotions preparing us for action?

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Feeling fear and running away

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Who laid the framework  for the widely shared belief that humans possess basic emotions.

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Charles Darwin

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______________ are the basic emotions experienced by humans including anger, fear, disgust, sadness, happiness, and surprise

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Primary emotions

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What are secondary emotions?


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Secondary (complex) emotions are the feelings a person experiences in response to their feelings.

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True or False? Primary emotions do not come naturally but are learned either through familial or social influences.

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False

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True or False? Cognitive processing is required for secondary emotions whereas primary emotions require no second thought.


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True

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While ____ often has negative connotations, it is key to our survival as a species and it's what triggers our fight or flight response.


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fear

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_______  is an emotional state in which a person feels mistreated or hindered from pursuing a goa


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Anger

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_________ often arises from repulsive or aversive feelings towards something.


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Disgust

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__________ is an emotion that is characterized by hopelessness, disappointment, or grief that may be triggered by the loss of a valued person or object.


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Sadness

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A pleasant emotional state characterized by feelings of enjoyment, satisfaction, and contentment that is the most desirable of the six primary emotions is _______

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Happiness

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True or False? Surprise is always a brief emotion.

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True

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Feelings of neglect or loneliness may be extensions of what primary emotion?


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Sadness

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Feeling purplexed or astonished is an extension of which primary emotion?

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Surprise

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How did Carroll Izard identify his 10 primary emotions?


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Facial expressions of babies

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While watching a movie in class, you notice that your friend Jackson's eyebrows are pulled together, his eyes are drooping, and the corner of his lips are slightly angled downward.  What primary emotion might Jackson be experiencing?

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Sadness

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True or False: Emotions result from our feelings that manifest in both mental and physical ways. 

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Answer

True 

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What is the number of ways we express our emotions to others? 

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Answer

Two 

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