Physical Changes during Emotion (External & Internal)

Physiological and Psychological Changes during Emotion

Changes during emotions are divided into external and internal changes

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External changes during Emotion

There are many external or observable changes during Emotion.

§  The voice changes according to the type of Emotion. Experiments have proved that emotions can be identified based on voice.
§  Facial expressions change. We can locate the Emotion experienced by a person by looking at his face.
§  There will be changes in the body language like the stiffness of muscles, twisting of fingers, movements of hands and legs.
§  Sweating.
§  Wrinkles on the forehead.
§  Redness of eyes.
§  Erection of hairs on the skin, etc.


Internal changes during Emotion

Many internal changes take place during emotions. These internal changes are the result of the stimulation by the Autonomic Nervous System. The ANS has 2 subdivisions. The sympathetic division prepares the body for facing an emergency either by fight or by flight, i.e. fights if possible, otherwise, escapes from the situation. It stimulates the adrenal glands and causes the excess release of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Adrenaline gets circulated all over the body and stimulates vital organs leading to following internal changes.

§  Increase in heart rate thereby increase in BP
§  Increase in rate of respiration
§  Increase in blood sugar level
§  Decrease in the functioning of GI tract-that is why we do not experience the feeling of hunger during emotional states
§  Changes in frequency of brain waves
§  Dilatation of pupils
§  Decreased secretion of saliva and dryness of the mouth.

After the emergency or emotional situation is over, the next step is to restore the energy spent during Emotion. This work is carried on by parasympathetic division.


Read: Emotion in Psychology

Read: Emotion and Autonomic Nervous System: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic

Read: Theories of Emotion: Evolutionary, Cannon-Bard, James-Lange and Schachter-Singer Theory

Organic (Physiological) Changes During Emotion

The experience of Emotion is associated with a variety of bodily changes, both overt and covert. Overt physical manifestations of emotions are apparent and observable. But the covert organic changes are detected only by special procedures and modern recording devices, including computers. Following overt and covert changes occur in the body at the time of Emotion:

§  Eyes are protruded;
§  Face becomes red with excitement or anger;
§  The pupils of the eyes are dilated.
§  Respiration becomes more rapid;
§  The electrical resistance of the skin decreases;
§  The blood clots more quickly at the time of injury;
§  Blood sugar level increases to make the organism energetic;
§  Gastrointestinal activities fall or even stop totally;
§  Blood is canalized from the stomach and intestine to the motor organs and brain;
§  The hairs stand on their roots.

All bodily changes during emotions result from several complex underlying processes originating in and integrated by the Autonomic Nervous System, the endocrine glands and the cerebrospinal system. (Activities of the Autonomic Nervous System have been described in detail later in this chapter), these internal reactions are pretty complex and challenging to measure.

The outward bodily changes include changes in facial expression, vocal expression, sweating on the body's surface, accelerated motor activities, etc. The internal physiological changes involve changes in the electrical activities of the skin, respiratory movements, blood pressure, pulse rate, sweat glands, reactions of the endocrine glands, the chemical activities of blood etc.


Emotion and the Brain

a)   Emotion is associated with the limbic system

b)   The brain structure most closely associated with fear is the amygdala

c)   When the Emotion of fear first materializes, much of the brain's processing is nonconscious.

d)   Researchers using electroencephalographs to track mood changes have found that reductions in both anxiety and depression are associated with a shift in electrical activity from the left to the right side of the brain

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