How To Detect Emotion from Body Language

Emotions are based biologically in our brain as generated by the limbic system. One particular structure that stands out is the amygdala that controls the emotions that an individual feels in a certain situation. It processes our empathy towards other people and helps us react accordingly. Aside from the limbic system, the autonomic nervous system also controls emotions by manifesting them physically. In fact, autonomic responses are the most reliable indicator for measuring emotions in the absence of gestures. It is believed that different emotions elicit different patterns of brain activation, as there are different neurotransmitters involved in specific feelings.

Researchers have determined that body language is closely related to the emotion that the person feels. According to the catharsis hypothesis, the more that the person expresses his emotions, the more the emotions will be released. Relief from the release of emotions will allow the person to maintain psychological balance. However, according to the facial-feedback hypothesis, if a person makes a facial expression according to the emotion he wants to feel, it will happen. Studies conducted often point out that the latter hypothesis is often true in certain situations.

Detecting emotion from body language is dependent on certain factors. Equal gender roles often allow males and females to express their emotions equally. However, there are considerable differences as emotions are categorized differently, and a certain situation might evoke different emotions from diverse cultures. Nonverbal expressions of these emotions also vary from one society to another and tell people the norms for expressing certain emotions.

It is believed that despite the variations, six basic emotions are expressed similarly. They usually occur with similar gesture clusters that are easily determined.

  1. Anger occurs when frustration sets in. Characteristics include having a flushed face or neck, snarling, bared teeth, clenched fists, and leaning toward an aggressor.
  2. Fear happens when basic needs are threatened. Pallor, perspiration, dry mouth, varying voice pitch, muscle tension, fidgeting, and breath gasping are just some signs of this emotion.
  3. Sadness is a depressive state. A sad person has a body drooping, lip trembling, absence of intonation in speech, and tears.
  4. Embarrassment might be caused by guilt or lapse of values. Signs include flushed neck or face, avoiding eye contact, grimacing, and creating other means for covering up embarrassment.
  5. Surprise ensues when the unexpected happens. Eyebrows are raised, eyes wide open, and mouth is gaped when a person is surprised.
  6. Happiness is felt when goals and needs are met. A happy persona has relaxed muscles and an open body language.

Humans have come a long way in developing their communication skills in such a way that the other person would be able to detect what they really feel without saying anything. These feelings are more aptly termed as emotions, and these will usually manifest themselves either through verbal means or through body language. More often than not, people express what they truly feel about a certain situation through gestures, facial expressions and posture. These are essential for interaction so that it helps if one can understand how to use it to their advantage.


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