Reading Emotions: Excitement

How can we tell the difference between someone simply enjoying something, on the one hand, and getting excited by it, on the other?

The answer lies in the movement of the body.


The way Lisa smiles as she talks about this exciting topic, tells us that she is experiencing pleasure. But the way she can’t keep still shows her excitement. And I do mean cannot keep still. When we’re in the grips of excitement – just like when we’re in the grips of the other extreme, distress – we have involuntary body movements. The energy released by Lisa’s emotion makes her shake her head and move back and forth.

Notice too, that her eyes are not fixed in a steady gaze. She looks at me, then looks away. Her gaze shifts around the room – she’s too excited to focus on anything in particular.

Her head is held up in a positive way (‘keep your chin up!’). Finally she gives herself a little hug of pleasure.

Signs to note

  • an alert gaze
  • looks ahead, to her right and back again
  • moves upper body back and forth
  • smiles widely
  • head held high

To see stills on this emotion visit our website: 

By Dr. John Habershon

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Dr John Habershon has spent many hundreds of hours conducting in-depth interviews during his career in consumer and social research. Over the last eight years he has analysed the nonverbal responses captured on video on a wide range of topics, ranging from favorite products and advertising on TV, to bereavement and stress at work. He became involved in work for those on the autism spectrum through friends with Asperger's in the family and has created Emotions Reader, ( an interactive program with quizzes to help users identify facial expressions. John has a long standing interest in understanding emotions, having gained his PhD on the psychological effects of unemployment at Imperial College, London University. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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