Source: tomfoolery (on flickr)

This is the final part in the What is emotion? series. In What is emotion? (part 1) – 4 Affective states we discussed the different affective states of emotion. In What is emotion? (part 2) – 3 Perspectives on Emotion we saw that in the last 100 years psychologists have offered a variety of definitions of emotion, each focusing on different manifestations or components of the emotion.


There seems to be no empirical solution to the debate on which manifestation is sufficient or necessary to define emotions. At present, the psychologists most favoured solution is to say that emotions are best treated as a multifaceted phenomenon consisting of several components (1, 2). These components, i.e. behavioural reactions, expressive reactions, physiological reactions and subjective feelings, are discussed below.

1. Behavioural reaction

Behavioural reaction (e.g. running, or seeking contact) is the action or behaviour one engages in when experiencing an emotion. Emotions initiate behaviour in the form of action tendencies such as approach, inaction, avoidance and attack (3). Fear makes one want to run; love makes one want to approach or caress, and so on. Frijda (4) proposed that actions like “crying out, mama! when faced by danger, uttering insults when being slighted, or constantly thinking of the other person when seriously in love,” are also examples of emotional action tendencies.

2. Expressive reaction

Expressive reaction (e.g. smiling or frowning) is the facial, vocal and postural expression that accompanies the emotion. Each emotion is associated with a particular pattern of expressions (5). For example, anger comes with a fixed stare, contracted eyebrows, compressed lips, vigorous and brisk movements and, usually, a raised voice, almost shouting (6, 7).

3. Physiological reaction

Physiological reaction (activation or arousal, e.g. increases in heart rate) is the change in activity in the autonomic nervous system which accompanies emotions. Emotions show a variety of physiological manifestations, such as pupil dilatation and sweat production.

4. Subjective feeling

Subjective feeling (e.g. feeling happy or feeling inspired) is the conscious awareness of the emotional state one is in, i.e. the subjective emotional experience. Each emotion involves a specific feeling which is a basic, irreducible kind of mental element (e.g. Titchener (8)). In his famous work, Frijda (9) states that “feelings form the core characteristic that differentiates affective from nonaffective experience.” Note that also in daily life, feeling is commonly seen as the essence of emotion (10).


What did you think of the What is emotion – series?

We would like to hear your thoughts. Was it useful? And in what way? Also if you have any other comments, questions or ideas  – please let us know.



  1. IZARD, C.E. (1977) Human Emotions (Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy series) – affiliate link
  2. LAZARUS, R.S., KANNER, A.D. & FOLKMAN, S. (1980) Emotions: A cognitive-phenomenological analysis.
  3. ARNOLD, M.B. (1960) Emotion & Personality Volume 1: Psychological Aspects – affiliate link
  4. FRIJDA, N.H. (1986) The Emotions (Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction) (p. 70) – affiliate link
  5. EKMAN, P. (1994b) Strong evidence for universals in facial expressions: a reply to Russells mistaken critique.
  6. DARWIN, C. (1872) The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals – affiliate link
  7. EKMAN, P. & FRIESEN, W.V. (1975) Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Expressions – affiliate link
  8. TITCHENER, E.B. (1908) Lectures on the Elementary Psychology of Feeling and Attention – affiliate link
  9. FRIJDA, N.H. (1986) The Emotions (Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction) (p. 179) – affiliate link
  10. DALKVIST, J. & ROLLENHAGEN, C. (1989) Three aspects of emotion awareness: feeling, perceived bodily reaction and cognition.

9 thoughts on “What is emotion? (part 3) – 4 Ways of Manifestation

  1. Its funny to see, we are talking almost same subject and
    more or less in the same approach.
    My view for this was expressed about a week ago in
    my Blog; [ Emotion ]
    with a bit of Buddhist understanding.

    1. I just read your post… interesting! Funny how people sometimes think about the same things at the same time.

      I’ve been interested in Buddhism for a while now, but I’ve never considered it a source for my architecture research. Maybe I should… Thanks for sharing.

  2. Buddhist spent past 2500 years try to elucidate what is the mind and its owner / the Self.
    So that you may find many insights and the practices which conditioning one’s subconsciousness in Buddhism.
    – And my approach is ( one may say) Mind engineering—- and find the factual analysis of themind.
    – We seems in the same ship.

    1. May be not as heavy as endeavour, just keep detached clear eyes over the life and the mind. And picking up some minute signs.
      Buddhist is pretty good at this kind of practice. (Even worse I was trained as a Sociologist)
      You should try to make yourself as a guinea-pig :-D

  3. Hi Simon,
    Finally had a chance to read all the articles you have written. It’s a very interesting topic, and just as yoshizen says, it’s very Buddhist what you’re writing about :) Probably no coincidence! Topics such as esho funi (oneness of self and environment), and the 9 consciousnesses are very interesting. (the book ‘Buddha in your Mirror’ has very nice explanations.)

    However, I’m very very curious to read what implications these theories will have on architecture, and more concrete the design process. How will this consciousness about emotion influence the design. Did you develop tools, or did you do case studies for example, and extracted emotions from the archtiecture. Interesting, interesting! :) I will keep reading. Looking forward to your next post!

  4. i’m research on monumentality in architecture, in a context of experience. i read ur whole posts on emotion, its very helpful for me.
    how they evolve and how they led us to different situation.
    if u have any thing related to my topic plz share with my. ill be very thankful for helping me in my research.
    and u can also share topic related to How monument evolve without being a monument or in another words
    monumental with out a monument.

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