Emotions and feelings – the essence

Feelings, emotions and feelings: the first step to profiling

Everyone who is interested in psychology, studies people and wants to learn how to influence them is surely aware of the importance of understanding feelings, emotions and sensations. These three mental processes are reflected in facial expressions, gestures, posture and other elements of body language. A person is an open book that can be learned to read.

After reading this article and understanding what feelings, emotions and sensations are, you can take our profiling course where you will learn to analyze people, their facial expressions, gestures and actions to better understand their motives and feelings. Let’s explore these concepts one by one and try to understand how this knowledge will help us better understand people and influence them.


Feeling is a human emotional process that reflects a subjective evaluative attitude toward real or abstract objects.

Unlike emotions and moods, the emotional processes described by the term “feeling” are tied to objects: they arise in relation to someone or something rather than to the situation as a whole. “I’m afraid of this person” is a feeling, and “I’m afraid” is an emotion.

Here is a small list of feelings we experience from time to time: love, hate, fear, gratitude, respect, loyalty, friendship.

Feelings differ in characteristics:

  • Intensity: this is the strength of feelings. The stronger the feeling, the stronger its physiological manifestations and impact on a person’s behavior. By observing him you can understand what feelings overwhelm him the most, what is important to him and what he pays attention to.
  • Valence: It’s tone. Feelings can be pleasant, unpleasant and ambivalent. If everything is clear with the first two, the latter may be of great interest to you. What does a person have mixed feelings about? Why? What are the root causes? All these questions you will need to answer if you want to make a correct psychological portrait of the person and learn to influence him.
  • Content: feelings reflect different aspects, peculiarities of meaning of objects and situations that cause them. People manifest feelings based on the context, so observe them carefully.
  • Stenic: feelings are divided into stenic and astenic. The first ones stimulate an active person to activity, mobilize human strength (hatred, love and others). The latter paralyze or relax (for example, fear).

Feelings are manifested differently in people because each person has his or her own set of individual traits and personality traits that affect feelings. The same feeling can be lived and manifested differently depending on what emotional state a person is in at the time. For example, feelings of friendship may be accompanied at different times by emotions of joy, interest, resentment, shame, and irritation.

Before drawing a conclusion about the person, you need to observe him and try to identify both the feeling he is experiencing now, and its underlying background.


Emotions are a mental process of medium duration, reflecting a subjective evaluative attitude toward existing or possible situations and the objective world. They tend to last considerably less than feelings. For example, feelings of devotion can last for years and joy for ten seconds.

Emotions, like feelings, are distinguished by the same characteristics: valence, intensity, stenicity and content.

From the physiological point of view, an emotion is an active state of a system of specialized brain structures that induces a change in behavior toward maximizing or minimizing that state. The emergence of emotion in humans goes hand in hand with physiological changes.

How can some emotions be recognized? Let’s look at the most common ones and figure out how to figure out when they have occurred in your interlocutor.


Anger occurs when we can’t achieve our goals for whatever reason. Signs:

  • Redness of the neck and face;
  • gnashing of teeth;
  • growling;
  • clenched fists;
  • leaning forward and invading your personal space;
  • strong, commanding postures;
  • general aggressive body language.

Fear, Anxiety and Nervousness

Fear occurs when basic needs are threatened. There are many levels of fear, from mild anxiety to blind terror. Many bodily changes caused by fear make it easy to detect.

Anxiety is a person’s anxious state caused by a disturbance of peace. At the same time, the person may be threatened by nothing, i.e. the experience will be senseless and irrational, or it may have a serious basis in fact.

Nervousness is a state of strong nervous system excitability, leading to sharp and acute reactions to minor stimuli.

Although these three emotions are different in some sense, they have similar manifestations in physiology and body language:

  • A cold sweat;
  • a pale face;
  • a dry throat (which leads to licking of the lips);
  • trembling lips;
  • change in tone of speech; ;
  • trembling voice;
  • visible high pulse (noticeable on the neck);
  • sweating;
  • muscle tension: clenched palms, intermittent movements;
  • urge to hold one’s breath;
  • fidgeting.


Sadness is the opposite of happiness and indicates a depressed state. Signs:

  • An exhausted body;
  • trembling lips;
  • “flat” speech tone;
  • tears.


Confusion can be caused by guilt or a violation of values. Signs:

  • Redness of face and neck;
  • desire to avert the eyes (unwillingness to look the person in the eye);
  • grimacing;
  • A fake, forced smile;
  • Change of subject and attempt to hide confusion.


Surprise occurs when something happens that was not expected. Signs:

  • raised eyebrows;
  • dilated pupils;
  • open mouth;
  • sudden backward movement.


Happiness occurs when goals and needs are met. Signs:

  • A general relaxation of muscles;
  • A smile (including smiling eyes);
  • open body language.

You can also identify a cheater from the information above. Such a person’s facial expressions and body language do not coincide in time with his words: they either precede them or are late. The head makes mechanical movements, the gestures contradict the meaning of the spoken words. Therefore, to understand a person, observe and listen.


Sensation – a mental process, which is a mental reflection of individual properties and states of the external environment, the subjects of internal or external stimuli and stimuli with the participation of the nervous system.

Properties of sensations are as follows:

  • Intensity: the classic quantitative characteristic of sensations.
  • Modality: a qualitative characteristic of sensations. Each type of sensation has its own modal characteristics. For auditory sensations they can be pitch, timbre, loudness; for visual sensations – color tone, brightness, saturation; for tactile sensations – hardness, roughness, etc.
  • Duration: characteristic of sensation in time.
  • Localization: spatial characteristic of sensations, information about the localization of a stimulus in space. In some cases (interoceptive, pain sensations) localization is difficult, uncertain.

Feeling is an instantaneous reaction of the body to an external stimulus. For example, it is cold, chilly, damp, light. This immediately triggers the emotion associated with it. If your interlocutor gets cold, first he feels it with his senses, and then he produces an emotion: surprise, anger, anxiety.

What does this mean for those who study profiling? You will be able to identify a person’s attitude to changes in the external environment. For example, understand:

  • Does he really like the taste of this soup?
  • Does this song annoy him?
  • How he feels about this or that smell?

Communication is a very complex process, involving body language, facial expressions and a whole range of physiological and mental manifestations. In order to learn how to read a person and influence them, it is important to understand what they are feeling inside, not what they are saying.

The feelings, emotions and sensations shown on the face and body will tell you much more than words. Therefore, take a considerable amount of time to understand the intricacy of a person’s inner feelings, and this will help you understand not only him, but also yourself, which will also have a positive impact on the development of relationships with others.

IX International Student Scientific Conference Student Scientific Forum – 2017

In humans, the main function of emotions is that through emotions we understand each other better, we can, without the use of speech, judge each other’s states and better tune in to joint activities and communication. It is remarkable, for example, that people belonging to different cultures can unmistakably perceive and estimate expressions of a human face, determine by it such emotional states as joy, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise.

Researchers such as C. Darwin (three principles of emotion expression), W. Wundt, P.V. Simonov, W. James and K. Lange (theory of emotions, in which the essential role of organic changes of peripheral character in formation of emotions is noted), S. Schechter and J. Singer (emotions are consequence of cognitive interpretation of multivalued physiological activation); W. Cannon and F. Bardard (the theory of emotions, in which the essential role of peripheral changes in formation of emotions is noted), and others were engaged in research of emotional states at different times. Cannon and F. Bard (thalamic theory of emotions) and others.

Attempts to separate the concepts of “feeling” and “emotion” have been made for a long time. Even W. MacDougall wrote that “the terms ’emotion’ and ‘feeling’ are used with great uncertainty and confusion, which corresponds to the uncertainty and diversity of opinions about the bases, conditions of appearance and functions of the processes to which these terms refer. True, he himself could not overcome this confusion either [10].

After years of systematic work to make his ideas on these issues clearer, W. MacDougall concluded that these terms can be separated “on the basis of their functional relationship to the purposive activity they define and accompany, since this relationship in both cases differs significantly. [10].

He writes that there are two primary and fundamental forms of feeling-pleasure and suffering, or satisfaction and dissatisfaction-that color and determine to some extent, if not to some extent, all the aspirations of the organism. As the organism develops, it becomes capable of experiencing a number of feelings that are a combination, a mixture of pleasure and suffering; as a result, such feelings as hope, anxiety, despair, hopelessness, remorse, sadness appear. Such complex feelings are called emotions in ordinary speech. Mac-Dougall suggests that it is appropriate to call these complex “derivative emotions” feelings. They arise after a person’s aspirations have been successfully or unsuccessfully fulfilled. Genuine emotions precede success or failure and do not depend on them. They have no direct effect on changing the strength of aspirations. They only reveal to the self-conscious organism the nature of the motives at work, i.e., the needs at hand.

Complex feelings, according to Mac-Dougall, depend on the development of cognitive functions and are secondary to this process. They are inherent only to humans, although their simplest forms are probably also available to the higher animals [9].

Genuine emotions appear at much earlier stages of evolutionary development.

Modern scientists considering the relationship between feelings and emotions can be divided into four groups. The first group identifies feelings and emotions or gives feelings the same definition as other psychologists give to emotions; the second group considers feelings as one of the types of emotions (emotional phenomena); the third group defines feelings as a generic concept that unites different types of emotions as forms of experience of feelings (emotions, affects, moods, passions and feelings proper); the fourth group separates feelings and emotions [6].

Feelings as emotions. В. Wundt, separating objective and subjective elements of feeling, designated the former as mere feelings, and the latter as mere feelings. His characterization of the latter, however, indicates that we are talking about emotional experiences, emotions, and not feelings. Despite this, emotional experiences began to be designated as feelings, dividing them into simple (lower) and complex (higher) [2]. For many psychologists the concepts of “emotions” and “feelings” are synonymous, for example, such as Ivanov P. I. and Schwartz A. M. [5, 11].

Feelings as a type of emotion . A. N. Leontiev considers feelings to be a special subclass of emotional phenomena. He distinguishes feelings from emotions by their subject character arising as a result of a specific generalization of emotions connected with a concrete object. The emergence of subject feelings expresses the formation of stable emotional relationships, a kind of “emotional constants” between the person and the object [8].

Emotions have a number of properties:

Universality. It consists in the independence of emotions from the type of need and the specifics of the activity in which they arise. Hope, anxiety, joy, anger can arise when any need is met. This means that the mechanisms of the emergence of emotions are specific and independent of the mechanisms of the emergence of specific needs [9].

Dominance. Strong emotions have the ability to suppress emotions that are opposite to themselves, not allowing them to enter a person’s consciousness. In essence, A. F. Lazursky wrote about this property, discussing the property of mutual coordination of feelings: “A person in whom the action of separate feelings is sufficiently coordinated with each other, is completely captured by a known mood or emotion. Being strongly upset, he will no longer laugh at a sudden joke; being in an elevated, solemn mood, he will not want to listen to platitudes. [7].

Summation and “consolidation.” V. Vitvitsky notes that the strongest pleasure “or displeasure” a person usually experiences not at the first, but at the subsequent presentations of the emotiogenic stimulus. V.S. Deryabin points out another property of emotions – their ability for summation. Emotions associated with the same object are summed up during one’s life, which leads to an increase in their intensity, a strengthening of feelings, as a result of which their experience in the form of emotions becomes stronger. A characteristic feature of the summation of emotions is the latency of this process: it occurs unnoticed by the person, who is not aware of what it is based on [8].

Adaptation. Emotions, and the emotional tone of feelings in particular, are characterized by blunting, a decrease in the acuteness of their experiences with long repetition of the same impressions.

Prejudice (subjectivity). Depending on personal (tastes, interests, moral attitudes, experience) and temperamental characteristics of people, as well as the situation in which they find themselves, the same cause may cause them different emotions. Danger causes fear in some, joy in others [6].

Contagiousness. A person experiencing this or that emotion may involuntarily transmit his mood, experience to other people communicating with him. As a consequence, there may be both general merriment and boredom or panic [6].

Plasticity. The same modality of emotion can be experienced with different shades and even as an emotion of different sign (pleasant or unpleasant). For example, fear can be experienced not only negatively, under certain conditions people can enjoy it by experiencing “thrills.” [6].

Memory retention. Another property of emotions is their ability to be stored in memory for a long time. In this regard, there is a special type of memory – emotional memory. Stability of emotional memory was well expressed by the Russian poet K. Batiushkov: “Oh heart memory, you’re stronger than reason memory sad! [1].

What is the role of emotions in our lives? According to B. I. Dodonov, “negative” emotions play a more important biological role than “positive” emotions. It is no coincidence that the mechanism of “negative” emotions functions in a child from the first days of its birth, while “positive” emotions appear much later. “Negative” emotion is a signal of anxiety, danger to the body. “Positive” emotion is a signal of returned well-being. Clearly, the latter signal does not need to sound for a long time, so emotional adaptation to the good comes quickly. The alarm signal, on the other hand, must be sounded until the danger is eliminated. As a consequence, only “negative” emotions may become stagnant. Under these conditions, one’s health really suffers. “Negative” emotions are harmful only in excess, just as anything that exceeds the norm (including positive affects) is harmful. Fear, anger, rage increase the intensity of metabolic processes, lead to better brain nutrition, increase the organism’s resistance to overloading, infections, etc. [4].

Emotions or feelings, like other mental phenomena, are various forms of reflection of the real world. Unlike cognitive processes that reflect the surrounding reality in sensations, images, representations, concepts, thoughts, emotions and feelings reflect objective reality in experiences. They express the subjective attitude of man to the objects and phenomena of reality. Some objects, phenomena, things delight a person, he admires them, others – upset or disgust, and others – leave indifferent. Thus the reflection in the human brain of his real experiences, i.e. the attitude of the subject of his needs to objects that are significant to him, is usually called emotions (feelings), i.e. in other words emotions (feelings) are a special class of subjective psychological states, reflecting in the form of direct experiences of pleasant or unpleasant process and results of practical activity, aimed at satisfaction of actual needs.

Batiushkov K. N. The Complete Works. The poet’s library. The Great Series. 2nd ed. – Moscow-Leningrad: Soviet writer, 1964.

Wundt W. Problems of the Psychology of Peoples. – Moscow: “Cosmos,” 1912.

Deryabin V. S. Feelings, drives, emotions. – Л., 1974.

Dodonov B. I. The classification of emotions in the study of the emotional orientation of personality // Voprosy psychologii. – 1975. – № 6. -С. 82.

Ivanov P. I. Feelings (emotions) // Psychology: The textbook. – Tashkent, 1995.

Ilyin E. P. Emotions and feelings. – St. Petersburg Moscow – Kharkov – Minsk, 2001.

Lazursky A.F. Essays on the Science of Character. – Moscow: Nauka, 1995. -С. 154.

Leontiev A. N. Needs, motives and emotions: Abstract of lectures. – MOSCOW, 1971 – http://psyjournals.ru/authors/a1810.shtml.

Mac-Dougall W. Basic Problems of Social Psychology. – М., 1916.

Mac-Dougall W. Distinguishing between emotion and feeling // The Psychology of Emotions: Texts. – М., 1984. – С. 103-107.

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