Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

Main Difference – Emotions vs Feelings

Emotions and feelings are two words that we often use interchangeably. Although emotions and feelings are two sides of the same coin, there is a difference between them. It is important to learn this difference between emotions and feelings in order to understand our mental setup and how it affects our behavior. Emotions are considered as our bodies’ responses to external stimuli and feelings are mental associations and reactions to these emotions. The main difference between emotions and feelings is that emotions are physical states whereas feelings are mental associations.

This article covers,

1. What is Emotion? – Definition, Meaning, and Characteristics 

1. What is Feeling? – Definition, Meaning, and Characteristics 

3. Difference Between Emotions and Feelings Difference Between Emotions and Feelings - Emotions vs Feelings Comparison Summary

What is Emotion

Emotions are natural phenomenon. They can be considered as physical and instinctive since they arise from our bodies’ responses to external stimuli. For example, when you are in an unknown place, you may feel a range of emotions such as curiosity and fear.

Emotions originally helped our ancestors to survive on earth by producing quick responses to threat, reward, and all the external stimuli in the environment. Over the years, these emotional reactions have been coded into our genes. Emotions are generally universal across all humans although some slight variations can be found depending on the individual and circumstances. Emotions can even be seen in animals. For instance, your dog may always wag his tail when you call its name; wagging of the tail is a physical manifestation of its emotions.

Since emotions are physical states, they can be measured by physical factors such as facial expressions, body language, blood flow, etc. Let’s examine the emotion fear. It’s a response to imminent danger. You can also notice several physical reactions such as shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, tightening of muscles, etc.

It is important to know that emotions are considered to be irrational, illogical and unreasonable since they are carried out by the limbic system, which is separate from the neocortex, which deals with reasoning, conscious thoughts, and decision making.

Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

What is Feeling

Feelings are mental associations and reactions to emotions. Feelings are often influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories. The feelings associated with an emotion may vary from situation to situation or person to person since they are experienced by individual experience and memory. According to Dr. Antonio D’Amasio, “Feelings are mental experiences of body states, which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s responses to external stimuli. (The order of such events is: I am threatened, experience fear, and feel horror.)”Main Difference - Emotions vs Feelings

Difference Between Emotions and Feelings


Emotions are physical states that arise as a response to external stimuli.

Feelings are mental associations and reactions to emotions. 


Emotions are aroused before feelings.

Feelings are caused by emotions.

Mental vs Physical

Emotions are physical states.

Feelings are mental associations or reactions.

Physical Reaction

Emotions can be observed through the physical reaction.

Feelings can be hidden.

Image Courtesy: 

“Nicole’s Many Emotions” by Ally Aubry (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

“Emotion Cartoon” By Todd Atkins – (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.