Difference Between Emotion and Sentiment

Emotion vs Sentiment

The words emotion and sentiment are used interchangeably by most of us, even though, there exists a difference between the concepts of the two. These terms, emotion and sentiment, are widely used in psychology. Emotion refers to a complex psychological state such as happiness, anger, jealousy, grief, etc. Sentiment, on the other hand, can be defined as a mental attitude that is created through the existence of the emotion. This highlights that an emotion and a sentiment are different from one another. Through this article let us examine the differences between an emotion and a sentiment.

What is an Emotion?

Emotions play a key role in human life as they operate as motivators. These emotions can be defined as complex psychological states. Emotions can be positive or else negative and have a great impact on us. According to Paul Eckman, there are six basic emotions which are universal. They are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. However, later on, psychologists have included other emotions to this list such as pride, excitement, embarrassment, contempt, shame, etc.

Emotions consist of three main components. They are the subjective experience, the physical response, and the behavioral response. Subjective experience highlights that even though emotions are almost universal, the individual experience of each emotion can be different. The way one person experiences anger may not be identical to another. In this sense, emotions are subjective. The physiological response involves bodily changes such as sweating, racing heartbeat, feeling nauseated, etc. as a part of the emotional experience. The behavioral response involves expressing the emotion. For example, if a person is smiling, we have the ability to comprehend that the individual is happy. This description of the emotion allows us to comprehend that emotions are very complex and can be formed due to environmental cues such as the situations that we come across in daily life or else even individual conditions.

Difference Between Emotion and Sentiment

Smile shows the emotion of happiness

What is a Sentiment?

A sentiment can be defined as a mental attitude. It is a thought that has been influenced by emotion. A sentiment allows the individual to convey his emotion through expression. For example,

He expressed his sentiment on the subject.

The example above highlights that the word sentiment is used to convey the opinions or thoughts of the individual which derive from his emotion.

Some psychologists and sociologists believe that unlike emotions, sentiments are a sociological concept because it creates a link between the cognitive and physiological aspect with the social and cultural aspects. In this sense, unlike emotions, which are mostly confined to the psychological dimensions, sentiments go a step further. Sentiments are usually not primary emotions but are highly organized. McDougall states that sentiments usually connect primary emotions with action. This is why psychologists consider sentiments as organized dispositions. Sentiments are formed as a result of a relationship with a social object. For example love, jealousy, contempt, grief all revolve around another individual, making that individual the social object which gives rise to the sentiment. This clearly presents that emotions and sentiments are two different yet interrelated concepts.

 Emotion vs Sentiment

A sentiment allows the individual to convey his emotion through expression

What is the difference between Emotion and Sentiment?

• Definition of Emotion and Sentiment:

• Emotions can be defined as complex psychological states.

• A sentiment can be defined as a mental attitude; a thought that has been influenced by emotion.

• Connection:

• Sentiments are the expression of emotions where they become tied to a social object.

• Dimension:

• Emotions are mostly confined to the psychological dimensions.

• Sentiments go a step further capturing the social dimension.

• Nature:

• Emotions are very raw and natural.

• Sentiments are highly organized.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Man smiling via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Paul Graham talking about Prototype Day at Y Combinator Summer 2009 by Kevin Hale (CC BY-SA 2.0)