The Intricacies of Human Emotions: Decoding the Secrets of the Six Core Emotions

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Emotions, the intricate fabric of human experience, govern our perception, cognition, and behaviour. From the profound joy of personal achievement to the intense sadness in the face of loss, emotions shape the very essence of our lives. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of the core emotions: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, shock, and sadness. By delving into their multifaceted nature, we can unravel the complexities of human emotional experiences.

What are emotions?

Emotions are complex amalgamations of subjective feelings, physiological responses, cognitive appraisals, and behavioural tendencies. When we experience an emotion, it emerges due to the intricate interplay between these components. These multifaceted responses paint a vivid emotional landscape, allowing us to navigate the myriad of stimuli and events that unfold around us.

Emotions are subjective experiences involving a range of mental and physiological responses to different environmental stimuli. These responses can include changes in mood, feelings, and behaviour, as well as physiological changes in the body, such as changes in heart rate, respiration, and other bodily functions.

Emotions can be positive, negative, or neutral and can be triggered by a wide variety of stimuli, such as people, events, objects, or even thoughts or memories. Common emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise, among many others.

How are emotions different to feelings?

Emotions and feelings are often used interchangeably but represent distinct aspects of human experience. Emotions refer to the physiological and psychological responses triggered by specific stimuli. They are automatic, instinctual reactions that arise from the deeper regions of our brain, influencing our overall state of being. Emotions, such as anger, fear, or joy, are often accompanied by physical sensations and observable changes in bodily functions.

On the other hand, feelings encompass the conscious subjective experiences that emerge as a result of emotions. They involve interpreting and labelling emotional experiences, adding a cognitive and evaluative layer to our emotional state. Feelings are the mental representations and conscious awareness of our emotional experiences, shaping our perception and understanding of ourselves and the world. While emotions are more primal and instinctive, feelings are the cognitive interpretations and personal experiences that give meaning to our emotional landscape. Recognizing the distinction between emotions and feelings allows for a deeper understanding of the complexities of human emotional life.

Why do we have emotions?

Emotions serve a variety of functions, including communication, motivation, and adaptation to our environment. They help us to express our feelings to others, motivate us to take action, and help us to adapt to new situations and challenges. Emotions are an integral part of our daily lives and are essential in shaping our thoughts, behaviours, and relationships with others.

What are the six core emotions?


Anger is a powerful emotional state that arises when we perceive threats, injustices, or frustrations. It encompasses a spectrum of intense feelings, ranging from displeasure to outright hostility. Physiologically, anger triggers notable changes in our bodies, including increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, muscle tension, and the release of adrenaline. It compels us to react or retaliate, serving as a powerful motivation for change.


Fear is a primal emotion deeply ingrained in our evolutionary heritage. It acts as a protective mechanism, heightening our awareness in the face of potential danger or threats. When fear takes hold, we experience sensations of apprehension, anxiety, and an urgent impulse to avoid or escape. Our bodies respond with heightened alertness, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, and increased perspiration, readying us for action.


Disgust serves as a defence mechanism against offensive, repulsive, or contaminated stimuli. It elicits feelings of revulsion, aversion, and a strong desire to distance ourselves from the source of disgust. Our physiological response to disgust includes facial expressions, gag reflexes, and heart rate and respiration changes. Our bodies instinctively protect us from potentially harmful substances or behaviours by evoking disgust.


Happiness, the epitome of positive emotion, encompasses a vast spectrum of joy, contentment, and fulfilment. It arises from various sources, such as personal achievements, nurturing relationships, or delightful experiences. When happiness envelops us, it manifests as smiles, laughter, and an overall sense of well-being. Physiologically, happiness is associated with increased serotonin levels, lowered stress hormones, and improved overall health.


Shock, or surprise, is an intense emotional reaction to unexpected or novel events that momentarily disrupt our mental and physiological equilibrium. It encompasses a range of feelings, from astonishment to disbelief. Shock triggers physiological responses such as widened eyes, increased heart rate, and heightened alertness. It serves as a catalyst for cognitive restructuring and adaptation to new information.


Sadness is a poignant negative emotion often accompanying loss, disappointment, or grief. It engenders feelings of unhappiness, melancholy, and a reduced motivation to engage with the outside world. Physiologically, sadness manifests through tears, lethargy, changes in appetite, and a general slowing of bodily functions. This emotion plays a crucial role in processing and healing emotional wounds.

Emotions form the essence of human experience, weaving together subjective feelings, physiological responses, cognitive appraisals, and behavioural tendencies. The core emotions—anger, fear, disgust, happiness, shock, and sadness—provide us with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of human emotional landscapes. By comprehending these emotional states, we can navigate the complexities of our own emotions and develop empathy and awareness for the emotions of others. Emotions, with their inherent power and diversity, shape our lives, relationships, and, ultimately, our shared human experience.