Emotions and Emotional Expressions Meaning, Definitions & Functions

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 02:56 -- Umar Farooq


During the life course, we feel joy being in love and sorrow over someone’s death. All of us feel the strong feeling that accompanies both very pleasant and very negative experiences. Moreover we experience such reactions on a less intense level throughout daily lives, such as, the pleasure of seeing a friend or the sorrow of forgetting to return a borrowed pen to a friend. All these feelings have one thing in common they all represent emotions. The word emotion comes from the Latin word ‘emover’ meaning to ‘move out’ or to excite. In common usage emotion means subjective feelings.


  1. Emotions are feelings (such as happiness, anger, sorrow) that generally have both psychological and cognitive elements and that influence behavior.
  2. An activating and motivating state of an organism, subjective feeling state, often accompanied by facial and bodily expressions and having arousing and motivating state.

Emotional Expression

In psychology, emotional expressions are both verbal and nonverbal behaviors which describe internal state and take palace with or without self-awareness People express their emotions simultaneously across several channels like facial expression, laughing, crying etc.

Models of Emotional Expressions

There are different models research proposed in the last 200 years. All the theorist are agree that all the humans express their emotions with bodies, voices and faces. For example Charles Darwin a book on the expression of the emotions in man and animals in published in 1872 where he discussed different aspects of behavior. These models are:

  1. Basic model
  2. Appraisal model
  3. Psychological construction model
  4. Social construction mode

Forms of Emotional Expression


It is one of the channels of emotional expression. Screams denote fear or excitement, denote pain or happiness, etc. But what is actually being said is also important because the role of culture can change these channels to a great extent. We cannot be sure whether “oh” means “joy” or pain.

Bodily Movements and Facial Expressions

Movements of the body are also channels of expression and we use such body changes and facial expressions as cues in interpreting other people emotions. Not only facial expressions but also the context the situation in which an emotion occurs gives us information for judging what emotion is being expressed. Sometimes facial expression and the context give us conflicting cues. In this case, experiments have shown, we tend to rely more on facial expression or other non-verbal behavior than on the context in making our judgment.

Learning in Emotional Expression

There are only six universal emotions which are expressed in the same way. These are happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust and fear. Others are learned from specific cultures people may learn to suppress the expression of an emotion.

Functions of Emotions

Life would be much less interesting, even and dull, without the expression of emotions. But emotions serve more than making life interesting. Among the most important functions of emotions are the following.

Preparing Us for Actions

Emotions act as a link between vents in the external environment and behavioral responses that an individual makes.

Example. If we see a dog coming towards us, the emotional reaction (fear) will get us to move out of the way quickly or we may pick up a stone for self-defense.

Shaping our Future Behavior

Emotions serve to promote learning of information that will assist us in making appropriate responses in the future pleasant emotions act as a reinforcement and the individual acts similarly in the future. While the unpleasant emotions such as the case of threatening dog teach to avoid such situation in the future.

Helping us to Regulate Social Interaction

As we know that the emotions we experience are frequently obvious to observers as they are communicated through our verbal and non-verbal behaviors. These behaviors can predict our future behavior and in turn this promotes more effective and appropriate social interaction.

Acting as a Language

It is on important function of emotion that it facilitates our social interaction by acting as a non-verbal language.

Example. Through eye-contact we can judge the emotions of love or hate in the eyes of a person without exchanging words.