Emotions are not only human



From “Emotional Awareness” by Paul Ekman and Dailia Lama

Ekman: “It seems, however, that the emotion system is not fear specific, in that we can become angry in an instant, without thought or consideration, just as we can become afraid in an instant.

So that is my third defining characteristic of an emotion: the initial lack of consciousness when experiencing it.

Another characteristic is that if it is an emotion, it is not unique to humans.

Other animals have emotions.

If it is something that is unique to humans, it is probably not an emotion.

The only emotion that I thought was unique to humans was contempt,

but it turns out that if you have a juvenile chimpanzee make a threat toward an alpha male,

the alpha male shows the contempt expression.”

Still another characteristic of emotions is that an emotion can be as short as a few seconds.

Sometimes it lasts minutes or even an hour, but an emotion never lasts a whole day. If it does, it is actually a mood.

Emotions come and go. People differ in terms of how fast they recover from an emotional episode.


Matthieu Ricard, as you know, has now been studied in different laboratories, I think four—my collaboration with Bob Levenson; Richie Davidson’s lab in Wisconsin; Steve Kosslyn’s lab at Harvard; Jonathan Cohen’s lab in Princeton; and Tania Singer’s lab in Maastricht.

Matthieu has a very fast recovery from emotion. That is not a surprise; you would expect that would be so after his many years of meditation. There are some humans who have never meditated in their life who also have a fast recovery, and we need to find out more about why they are like that.




4 responses to this post.

  1. I always considered how long it took to recover from an emotion as a measure of our ability to be mindful about that topic, situation, or person. Great post as always! Have a nice weekend!

  2. These are good goalposts we can improve which allows us to be present, empty of thought and a chance at happiness

  3. We seems like we’re trained that we need to achieve happiness through accomplishing things

    Like college
    Successful career
    More approval

    All in the future

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