The Seven Human Emotions

Social scientists agree on seven emotional expressions basic to all cultures. Our faces often reveal multiple emotions at the same time. That’s why we might see a person smiling while their eyes are sad.

A renowned psychologist, Dr. Paul Ekman, says we can recognize these emotions, and hidden ones, by reading someone’s face. We have listed the seven emotions and their signs below:


Sadness has unique traits. Often eyebrows curve down near the ends and are upward in the middle. There is a small upright wrinkle between the eyes. Together, this is known as Darwin’s grief muscle. Also, the mouth turns downward, and the corners of the mouth point downward.


With anger, we often press our lips together, sometimes so hard that the upper lip nearly disappears. Eyes may widen across the upper eyelids, and the lower eyelids contract. Inner eyebrow corners pull downward, and the brow becomes furrowed.


With fear, eyebrows may become horizontal, and there are wrinkles across the forehead. Like with anger, frightened people open their eyelids widely and show the whites of their eyes. Mouth corners tend toward a horizontal line.


Happiness shows rising cheeks, and the muscles around the eyes tighten. This is why frequent smiling can lead to permanent lines around the eyes. A Duchenne smile, also known as an authentic smile, was first noted by neurologist Guillaume Benjamin Amand Duchenne. Duchenne smiles have eye wrinkles, while forced or phony smiles do not.


In addition to exposing the whites of the eyes, surprise also has raised upper eyelids. The jaw or mouth may open as a part of the reaction.


Have you seen someone rolling their eyes? This is a common expression of contempt. Additionally, the left corner of the lip pulls asymmetrically, creating a dimple.


Disgusted people may wrinkle their nose like a reaction a bad smell. They may also have wrinkles at the top of the nose between their eyes. The upper lip may also raise.  


What do emotions communicate?

You must understand the situation that caused the emotion. You need to see how your own emotions affect the situation to understand them. As you try to understand emotions you witness, remember that emotions are neither positive nor negative. What we do with the emotion dictates the outcome.


It Communicates …


Loss of something of value


Get out of my way, or I have blocked the way


Be prepared – possible threat


The way is safe – gained something of value


Something unexpected happened


Not worthy of care, hardening of feelings


Violated rules


Emotions Positives and Negatives


Positive Use

Negative Use


A positive use of sadness is it lets people know you need help. In many communities, people take care of others who have experienced a death in the family.

A negative use of sadness is when people don’t manage it, and it turns into depression.


A positive use of anger is when someone uses the emotion to promote a cause. It was anger over discrimination that spurred reforms.

A negative use of anger is when people hurt others through verbal abuse.


A positive use of fear is when people spend more time preparing for an event because they fear the consequences.

A negative use of fear is when people don’t act or don’t live a fulfilled life because they fear failure.


A positive use of happiness is the positive effect it has on connecting people.

A negative use of happiness is when people ignore responsibilities because they are more interested in having fun.


A positive use of surprise is creating excitement for a new product.

A negative use of surprise is not informing people of changes that affect their livelihood.


A positive use of contempt is when people see the consequences of crime or socially unaccepted behavior.

A negative use of contempt is bullying to negatively influence others.


A positive use of disgust (like contempt) is to inform people of unacceptable behavior.

A negative use of disgust is when it is used to hurt others in a social situation.






Reading the Emotional Map


 There are eight primary emotions at the heart of the emotional map. Opposite emotions reside directly across from each other in a circle

This image shows how emotions can combine to create more complex emotions.

For example, grief and loathing combine to form the complex emotion of remorse. The complex emotions in the open spaces are a mix of the two primary emotions next to each other.



o   If you changed one of the emotions, how would it change the skit?

o   How does this apply in your life?

o   If you changed one of the emotions in one of your interactions during the day, how would it change the outcome?

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Begad Kadous

Marketing Expert in marketing data solutions and search engine optimizations


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