Human Emotion Facts
Human Emotion Facts

44 Interesting Facts about Human Emotion

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published March 20, 2017
  • Emotion is typically defined as a response to stimuli that involves physiological changes (increased pulse rate, increased body temperature, activity of certain glands, increased or decreased breathing rate), which motivate a person to act. Simply put, emotions are the feelings of the mind, the equivalent of what physical sensations are to the body.[6]
  • Ancient doctors believed that different organs controlled certain moods. Happiness, for example, came from the heart, anger from the liver, and fear from the kidneys.[6]
  • Studies show that connecting a brand to a consumer on an emotional level is one of the most powerful advertising techniques. For example, Nike’s pervasive theme of “success in sports” focuses on a key emotional trigger and that has built sponsorships, advertising, and business empires.[4]
  • In the 17th century, René Descartes viewed the body’s emotional apparatus as largely hydraulic. He believed that when a person felt angry or sad it was because certain internal valves opened and released such fluids as bile and phlegm.[3]
  • A study in the Journal of Consumer Research notes that people who think more abstractly respond better to ads that portray mixed emotions compared to those who think at a more concrete level.[4]
  • Pandora
    Pandora only managed to keep Hope locked in the box
  • In Greek myth, many of the ills that plagued mankind were creatures of emotion, such as revenge, spite, and envy. Released by the goddess Pandora, they sought to torment the world.[9]
  • The word “emotion” is from the Latin emovere, “to move out, remove, agitate: from ex-“out” + movere, “to move.”[6]
  • The word “instinct” is from the Latin instinctus meaning “instigation, impulse”—which is related to the Proto-Indo-European *steig-, “to prick, stick, or pierce.”[6]
  • Some researchers fear that technology, particularly social networking, is creating emotional disconnection rather than connection.[10]
  • Emotional abuse is similar to brainwashing in that it attempts to systematically wear away a person’s self-confidence, self-worth, and self-concept. Emotional abuse can take many forms, including using economic power to control, threatening to leave, degrading, belittling, continually criticizing, name calling, or shouting.[9]
  • Any emotion has three components: 1) physiological changes (e.g., acceleration of heart rate) 2) behavioral response, such as a tendency to escape from or stay in contact with whatever is causing the emotion, and 3) a subjective experience, such as feeling angry, happy, or sad.[9]
  • Historically, psychologists have disagreed as to whether emotions arise before an action, occur at the same time as an action, or are a response to automatic physiological process.[6]
  • In the English language, there are more than 400 words assigned to emotions and sentiments.[7]
  • I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.

    - James A. Michener

  • Most neuroscientists distinguish between the words “emotion” and “feeling.” They use “emotion” to describe the brain’s auto-programmed response to certain stimuli, and “feeling” to describe our conscious impression of that response.[9]
  • Charles Darwin believed that emotions were beneficial for evolution because emotions improved chances of survival. For example, the brain uses emotion to keep us away from a dangerous animal (fear), away from rotting food and fecal matter (disgust), in control of our resources (anger), and in pursuit of a good meal or a good mate (pleasure and lust).[7]
  • Types of triggers that humans are evolutionarily prepared to fear, such as caged snakes, evoke a visceral response even though humans know they are relatively harmless on a cognitive level. However, humans are less likely to react with fear to dangerous risks that evolution has not prepared them for, such as hamburgers, smoking, and unsafe sex, even though most people recognize the danger on a cognitive level.[6]
  • Research has shown that the expression and experience of negative emotions (e.g., depression and anxiety) show higher activation in the right frontal cortex and in the deeper brain structures, such as the amygdala, while positive emotions are accompanied by more left frontal cortex activity.[6]
  • Interesting Human Emotion Facts
    Clothing both affects and reflects emotional states
  • A recent study suggests a strong correlation between wearing certain clothes and emotional states. For example, it revealed that women who are depressed or sad are more likely to wear baggy tops, sweatshirts, or jeans. Women who had more positive emotions were more likely to wear a favorite dress or jewelry and generally look nicer.[8]
  • A 1980 study by Robert Plutchik proposed eight primary innate emotions: joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. He suggests that complex emotions such as guilt and love are derived from combinations of primary emotions.[6]
  • Most scientists believe that basic emotions are innate rather than learned. For example, people who are born blind and have never seen faces still display the typical facial expressions of the basic emotions.[6]
  • Colors can profoundly affect emotional responses. While not everyone experiences the same emotion in response to a particular color, most people find reds and oranges stimulating and blues and purples restful. In contrast, gray, brown, black, or white tend to be emotionally dulling. In fact, studies reveal that children playing in an orange room were friendlier, alert, creative, and less irritable than children in playrooms painted white, brown, and black.[9]
  • Only humans are known to express the emotion astonishment with their mouth agape. However, there appear to be more similarities than differences in the way animals, especially primates, and humans express such basic emotions as anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. In fact, because animals and humans express similar kinds of emotions, Charles Darwin believed the emotional difference between animals and humans is largely one of complexity and not of kind.[6]
  • Researchers note that when concealing a strong emotion, people tend to let out “micro-expressions,” or sudden leakages, of emotion unbeknownst to themselves very briefly, in as little as a 24th of a second.[6]
  • Studies show that mothers are less tolerant of crying in boys than in girls, suggesting that the way emotions are expressed by adults are instilled by mothers during the child’s infancy.[6]
  • Studies show that if people adjust their facial expression to reflect an emotion, they actually begin to feel that emotion.[6]
  • Interesting Facial Expression Fact
    Facial expressions control emotion

  • Studies show that men and women experience the same amount of emotion, but women tend to show it more.[9]
  • The visually appealing presentations of unhealthy food in menus subtly arouse emotions in consumers. Scientists argue that if people understood those emotions better, they would make better food choices.[9]
  • Many psychologists consider instinct and emotion similar in that both are automatic. For example, fear is both an emotion and an instinct. However, while instincts are immediate, irrational, and innate, emotions have the potential to be more rational and part of a complex feedback system linking biology, behavior, and cognition.[6]
  • While researchers have not found any culture where people spontaneously smile when disgusted or frown when they are happy, they have found some oddities. For example, the Japanese have a harder time discerning anger in a face and they tend to mask their facial expressions of unpleasant feelings more than did Americans.[6]
  • Researchers note that the emotion most associated with fear is interest. Some psychologists have gone so far as to suggest that fear has two invisible faces: one, the wish to flee and, second, the wish to investigate.[6]
  • Plato described emotion and reason as two horses pulling us in opposite directions. However, modern neurologist Antonio Damasio argues that reasoning depends on emotion and is not in opposition to emotion.[3]
  • Emotions are contagious. Negative or unpleasant emotions are more contagious than neutral or positive emotions.[6]
  • Facts about Emotions
    Emotions, especially negative ones, are contagious

  • Body language often reveals emotion. For example, a person standing with their arms on hips with elbows turned outward is an example of a territorial display. Someone with their hands folded and their thumbs popped up indicates that he or she has something positive to say. Touching the nose indicates someone is hiding something. A former FBI agent and specialist in nonverbal communication states that the “feet provide the strongest body language signals.”[9]
  • A human can make over 10,000 facial expressions to express a wide variety of subtle emotions.[6]
  • Studies reveal that people recognize and interpret the emotional facial expressions of those in their own race faster than those who are a different race.[9]
  • From silent films to cartoons such as Tom and Jerry to films such as Psycho and Jaws, music is a widely used stimulus that evokes a variety of emotional responses. Generally music in a major key is happy, while music in a minor key is sad. Spoken voices also reflect this tonality. Interestingly, certain emotional tones in music are cross-cultural.[9]
  • A study of those with amnesia found that the emotions tied to a memory outlast the memories that created them. Researchers note this has important implications for those with Alzheimer’s disease.[7]
  • Several scientists claim that there is always some emotion occurring in the body, but the emotion is too slight for us to notice or affect what we do.[6]
  • Interesting Smiling Fact
    Smiles are the most deceptive facial expression
  • Of all facial expressions, the smile may be the most deceptive. There are around 18 different smiles, including polite, cruel, false, self-effacing, and so on. But only one reflects genuine happiness; this is known as the Duchenne smile, in honor of the French neurologist who determined this phenomenon, Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (de Boulogne).[6]
  • Using its site, Stanford University analyzed around 13 million emotions that have been recorded on the Web since 2005. They found older people are usually happier, but for different reasons. Younger people are happy when they are excited, older people are happier when they are at peace. Additionally, women tend to feel more loved than men, but also feel more guilt. Men often feel happier, yet lonelier. They also found that the happiest time of day is lunchtime.[11]
  • BOTOX® injections may decrease the signs of aging, but do so at the cost of making the face less animated and more unemotional. Paradoxically, less animated people are less attractive to others.[6]
  • An "eccedentesiast" is someone who hides pain or sadness behind their smile.[5]
  • "Coulrophobia" is the fear of clowns. The word possibly originates from Greek word kolon, meaning "stilt" or "stilt-walkers."[2]
  • A klazomaniac is someone who feels like shouting.[1]

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