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  • Valentina Solci

How Mood Differs from Emotion

Understanding the difference between these two similar concepts

Mood and emotion are common words to reference our internal feelings and state of being. Because of some similarities between the two, one may not know the exact difference in meaning that these terms hold.


Let's start off with emotions. According to Psychology Today, emotions can be scientifically explained in two ways. According to the cognitive appraisal theory, emotions are judgments about the extent to which the current situation meets your goals. Alternatively, William James and others have argued that emotions are perceptions of changes in your body such as heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and hormone levels. Understanding the brain and how it functions - through cognitive appraisal and physiological perception - can help formulate a more complete account of emotions. (PT)

In simple terms, emotions are referred to as "psychological states" that last for short periods of time and are extremely intense. There are three main components to emotions: (1) the subjective experience, (2) the physiological reaction, and (3) the behavioral or expressive response.

In 1972, psychologist Paul Ekman identified six emotions which he deemed as universal. The world of psychology accepted his findings and called them the "six universal emotions". These consist of: happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and disgust.


Now let's move on to mood. Generally speaking, mood refers "to an emotional state" that last for longer periods of time and are mildly intense. Due to the fact that moods tend to last longer, they directly impact our behavior and personalities. According to Psychology Today, "Being in a mood is having processes going on in your body, and in your brain’s unconscious appraisals of situations, that together produce particular kinds of emotions in response to particular kinds of situations."

The following are the three main difference between moods and emotions: (1) moods are long lasting (they may last for hours or days, whereas emotions may last for just a few minutes), (2) moods are more vague and are not caused by specific people/situations like emotions are, and (3) moods are not very intense and you may only be consciously aware of your mood once you have done internal reflection. (PT)

Knowing the difference between these linked terms, we can move forward by describing our current feelings and states of being with greater awareness and precision.

1 Comment

Nov 02, 2020

So thought provoking!

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