Philosophy of Emotion - Defending a Social Constructionism Theory of Emotion
Nevertheless, they point in somewhat different directions for further analysis, as I will try to illustrate briefly.
The internal approach attempts to provide a description of the emotion process itself. This article is organized around these three categories and will discuss the basic ideas that are associated with each. Some specific theories, as well as the main features of emotion will also be explained.Emotion is one type of affect, other types being mood, temperament and sensation (for example, pain). Emotions can be understood as either states or as processes. When understood as a state (like being angry or afraid), an emotion is a type of mental state that interacts with other mental states and causes certain behaviors. Understood as a process, it is useful to divide emotion into two parts. The early part of the emotion process is the interval between the perception of the stimulus and the triggering of the bodily response. The later part of the emotion process is a bodily response, for example, changes in heart rate, skin conductance, and facial expression. This description is sufficient to begin an analysis of the emotions, although it does leave out some aspects of the process such as the subjective awareness of the emotion and behavior that is often part of the emotion response (for example, fighting, running away, hugging another person). The early part of the process is typically taken to include an evaluation of the stimulus, which means that the occurrence of an emotion depends on how the individual understands or “sees” the stimulus. For example, one person may respond to being laid-off from a job with anger, while another person responds with joy—it depends on how the individual evaluates this event. Having this evaluative component in the process means that an emotion is not a simple and direct response to a stimulus. In this way, emotions differ from reflexes such as the startle response or the eye-blink response, which are direct responses to certain kinds of stimuli.
Rather, we are performing in a relationship, and the phrases themselves are only a constituent of more fully embodied actions, including movements of the limbs, vocal intonations, patterns of gaze, and so on. At the same time, let us not view these performances as purely individual. Rather, they are more adequately viewed as integers in more complex patterns of relationship. They cannot be performed at random, but require the actions of others as invitations; and once performed, they invite only a circumscribed array of actions on the part of the others. Let us view these extended patterns of interchange as emotional scenarios. In documenting emotional scenarios for anger, for example, we find that there are only certain actions that warrant anger as an intelligible response (e.g. insult, expressions of hostility). And, once anger has been performed, the other is not free to act in any way; convention requires that one react, for example, with an apology, with an exonerating explanation, or with anger. Or to put it more broadly, we find emotional expressions to be constituents of extended forms of interchange, somewhat like cultural dances, and they gain their intelligibility and importance only by virtue of their placement within such dances. Emotional performances are no more possessions of the single individual than are the words we speak. Although innovative theoretical formulations such as these are one means of contributing to a process of societal transformation, we find additional professional means of pursuing such ends. For example, constructionist psychologists have also pursued alternative forms of methodology, reasoning as they do that research methods also convey values and ideologies. Feeling that experimental technologies place a divide between the scientist and subject, privilege the scientist's voice over the subject's, and invite manipulation, they seek means of broadening the range of research methods. Qualitative methodologies (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994) are one significant step toward an enriched social psychology, as are discourse analytic procedures.
Because of the powerful and central role culture plays in shaping human social environments, behaviors, identities and development, there is ample room for continuing and even expanding the pursuit of social constructionist themes within a naturalistic framework.
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