Fun Facts about Emotions: What does it mean to feel?
August 26, 2020
Fun Facts about Emotions: What does it mean to feel?
Can you imagine how your life would be if you cannot feel anything anymore? There will be no more joy and sorrow, love and fear, amazement and annoyance – we will be no different from an android. Yes, emotions have painted and decorated our lives, and surely it is also a powerful and complex media to help us make sense of experiences.
Therefore, psychologists and scientists have long been carrying out experiments to find out how emotions play an important role in influencing our behaviours, especially in terms of physiological and cognitive elements. However, emotions are not all about biological theories and science, they can be fascinating and interesting as well. So, let’s get acquainted with these fun facts about emotions, shall we?
#1 Emotions are neutral.
Generally, almost all emotions are not inherently good or bad or designed to be served as a good emotion or bad emotion3;5. You may disagree of course, because who wants to feel sad or angry when you can be happy and content all day? Well, no……and yes!
Indeed, almost everyone wants to feel good. But to be honest, emotions are neutral5. Every emotion is just an electrochemical signal in the first place, with the only purpose being to deliver a message for survival needs3;5. What makes emotion precious, is how you interpret and make sense of the message.
What makes some emotions “pleasant” and the other “unpleasant” is that each emotion serves a different function, with different focuses and different motivations3. Thus, those emotions that we perceive as “negative” are just because they are oftentimes tied to problems or threats3.
#2 Emotions can be physical!
Although more experiments and evidence are needed to validate the idea, psychologists and scientists have proposed that emotions can be felt not only in the brain but also in the rest of the body, unlike what we have seen in the movie Inside Out1. According to a team of scientists in Finland, when people were asked to map out which part of their body felt differently as they experienced different emotions, it was found out that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures2.
As shown in the diagram, hot colours represent the regions that are said to be stimulated for that particular emotion, whereas cool colours show deactivated areas2. For example, the upper half of the body seems to be heavily stimulated during emotions such as happiness, love and pride, while the lower half of the body is oftentimes numb, especially during sadness and depression1;2.
#3 Emotions are contagious – we “catch” emotions.
Have you ever noticed that you can’t help but laugh along with your friends? Or have you ever been crying along with the characters in a tragic film? Yes, emotions are like viruses, we can be “infected” with a smile when someone is smiling, or dwelling in a pool of tears when someone cries1;5!
Why is it so? Well, the truth is simple enough – humans are social animals5. We survive in groups, and hence, whether being consciously or unconsciously aware, we tend to pick up or even mimic the emotional expressions of one another1;5. This is extremely critical and helpful in times of crisis. For example, when you see fear on someone’s face, you will probably quickly shift into the fight-or-flight mode and get your body ready for whatever that is coming. After all, the ability to perceive emotional contagion can decide you either to be sensitive to the environment, or being eaten by a lion5.
#4 Emotions, feelings, and moods are different.
When you say “I am happy to meet you!”, are you expressing your emotion, your feeling, or your mood? Well, emotions, feelings, and moods are often used interchangeably in our daily lives4. And yes, they are talking about the same thing, but…they are not really the “same” thing. Emotions, feelings and moods are interrelated, but they are also different in terms of time and the cognitive thoughts involved4;5.
❶ Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger4. They are released throughout the body, and the whole chemical process happens very quickly4.
❷ Feelings are something we sense, and they are more cognitively saturated as they take place when we begin to integrate the emotions4. Feelings last longer than emotions, and they are sometimes the mixture of several emotions4.
❸ Lastly, moods last longer among the three states, which can be minutes, hours, or even up to days4. Moods are more generic, and it is affected by the environment, the physiological state and the mental state4.
#5 Emotions happen in about 6 seconds.
As mentioned above, the whole process of emotions happens very quickly, in fact, it may take just 6 seconds for the completion of each burst of emotion chemicals5. Six seconds – it is the time taken for chemicals to be produced in the hypothalamus, until the chemicals are broken down and absorbed5. For anything longer than this magical 6 seconds, we are, more or less, at the process of recreating and refuelling those feelings, which in other words, we are interpreting the emotions and assigning meanings for them5.
For most of the time, it is good to prolong the feelings, they can keep stimulating your amygdala and help you to flee away from danger, or they can boost your confidence and you may have a good day ahead. But sometimes, it is not the case, as risks lie behind prolonged feelings here and there. For example, one may be dwelling in grief and never move on to a new journey of life, or become too cocky for one-time success and never to humble down again.
Thus, recognizing our emotions is important, as well as to manage our emotions well. Some say emotions are the slaves to thoughts, but we should learn to not let ourselves become the slaves of our emotions!
Cohen, Y. (2014). 7 astonishing facts about the science of emotions. Goodnet. Retrieved from https://www.goodnet.org/articles/7-astonishing-facts-about-science-emotions-list
Doucleff, M. (2013). Mapping emotions on the body: Love makes us warm all over. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/12/30/258313116/mapping-emotions-on-the-body-love-makes-us-warm-all-over/
Freedman, J. (2011). Integrated emotions: Rethinking the way we evaluate our feelings. Six Seconds. Retrieved from https://www.6seconds.org/2011/07/26/integrated-emotions/
Freedman, J. (2015). Emotions, feelings and moods: Does anybody know the difference? Six Seconds. Retrieved from https://www.6seconds.org/2017/05/15/emotion-feeling-mood/
Miller, M. (2018). 7 amazing facts about emotions you should know. Six Seconds. Retrieved from https://www.6seconds.org/2018/02/19/7-amazing-facts-emotions-know/
Be❦Live In Psychology is a mental health clinic at Ecosky, Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur. Our services consist of therapy, assessment and training. WhatsApp us at +6018 – 206 7313 to make an appointment.
I am Teng Wen. I am currently an undergraduate student at HELP University, pursuing a major in Psychology. During my studies, I have found the elements of psychology fascinating, particularly in the field of research, counselling and clinical psychology. As I believe that “what is essential is invisible to the eye”, thus I see that time and value are two important pieces that truly help people to explore their inner self and then connect with each other emotionally.