Emotions, fear or surprise: what are the differences?

Émotions, peur ou surprise : quelles différences ?

Emotions, fear or surprise : what are the differences?

We continue our exploration of the emotions linked to this Halloween period, focusing today on a frequent confusion of two primary emotions: those of fear and surprise.

What are their differences ? How do we distinguish them, and above all, how can we help our children to distinguish them and live with them?

So, scared or surprised?

A start when hearing a door slam, a cry when seeing a spider, stepping back when passing a Santa Claus in disguise, distrust of a stranger, fear of entering a crowded elevator... these are all situations where fear and surprise mingle, until they merge. And yet, they are very different!

Contrary to what one might think, surprise is a neutral emotion . It is brief, instinctive and follows an unexpected event (noise, vision, etc.). It is only later that it will become “positive” or “negative” and will therefore give way to a second emotion… which can be fear!

Fear is a deeper emotion. It is moreover often an anticipation or an apprehension, and it contains multiple variants, ranging from simple fear to crippling anxiety.

Take two situations that start the same way: you go home on your birthday and all your friends are there to celebrate you; or, you come home on your birthday and a mouse rushes across your driveway. The emotion of surprise will be the first (and the same) you will feel, but immediately afterwards, it will give way to very different emotions from one situation to another!

You will also notice the misuse of language that we all make when we meet someone unexpectedly: “Oh! You scared me !". In reality, it is not fear that prevails at this time, but surprise. The fear will only come later, but only if this person has not been pleasant to meet.

If we go back to Halloween, you may be surprised to come across a zombie on a street corner…! Then be scared, or find it funny, exciting, be amazed… as many emotions as possible from your original surprise.

How can we accompany our children to distinguish between fear and surprise?

For children, the boundary and the expression of emotions are much more tenuous than for adults. That's why it's important to teach them from an early age to name and recognize what they feel… and it's a long way!

It is towards science that we must turn to understand the frequent confusion of children between fear and surprise. Recognition of emotions in toddlers begins with what they detect in adults. The first emotions he understands – thanks to facial expressions – are those of joy, sadness and anger. However, in non-verbal communication, fear and surprise are very difficult to distinguish on a face, and even more so for a child. The more he or she will grow, the more his analysis will be refined and the nuance will be made, but it will take him or her a lot of time.

Pipouette helps children make nuances . By showing the face of fear and that of surprise side by side, your child will quickly spot the differences in the faces but also in all the bodily sensations associated with the emotion:

When Pipouette feels fear , Pipouette's face is deformed, especially her mouth, her features are frozen , we read concern in her eyes. Depending on the situation, you can hide Pipouette's face with his hands or with his ears, hide him to make himself very small. Or you can make him run away if, for example, a dog is running after him.

When Pipouette is surprised , Pipouette has her big wide eyes , her mouth a little open, cheeks that can turn pink. But also you can raise Pipouette's arms in the air in surprise or open them...

Mirroring emotions on an interactive medium like Pipouette, allows children to materialize on the other what they feel in their body but which they sometimes find difficult to recognize or identify.

The goal is that it helps you, too, as an adult, and in your relationship with the child , because we ourselves sometimes have trouble distinguishing the fear and the surprise of our little ones when they express! Wide-eyed, startled or even crying, the expressions they then have are so similar that we quickly tell them “Oh sorry, I scared you!” when they were just surprised…! Don't hesitate to ask them about their feelings: were you scared or were you surprised? The questioning will lead them to reflect on the nature of their emotions as they grow up.

What if we used Halloween to help our children sharpen their perceptions? Let's start with a simple (small) “boo” behind them with a witch hat followed by “Ah, I surprised you. Did you see! ” … then wait a few seconds before adding “Does my hat scare you?”

This is an opportunity to walk this path together to make them feel these notions of different temporalities and nuances that we find between fear and surprise.

Up to you !

You will like also

Discover Pipouette's tools to support you.