Emotional Competency

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Sudden Unexpected Event

You are unprepared for the unexpected event that suddenly unfolds and surprises you. Your attention is immediately focused.


  1. Sudden unexpected event

Related Terms

Synonyms for surprise include amazed and astonished. While Paul EkmanExternal Link regards surprise as an emotion, he distinguishes it from startle, which he regards as a reflex. Both are brief, but surprise is not as short as a startle. Also, you can be startled even if you are expecting the event, say a gun shot or other loud noise, however you cannot be surprised if you know what is about to happen. Finally, the eyes are wide open in a surprised expression and tightly closed in a startle reaction.


Surprise increases our alertness and focuses our attention. Surprise motivates us to find answers.

Facial Expression:

The facial expression of surprise has these distinctive features:
  • Eyes wide open,
  • Jaw dropped, with the mouth wide open.
  • The “surprise brow” appears with eyebrows curved and high as the brow is lifted to expose more skin below.

The wide open eyes increase alertness and broaden vision. The obvious and distinctive facial features may serve to alert others to the unexpected event.



[Ekm] Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life, by Paul Ekman

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