SOC327 2017 Tut3 – Thu 1030

When was the last time you felt something ambiguous? A feeling that you couldn’t name? Was it perhaps a mixture of two, three, or many other more familiar emotions? Are there basic emotions that everyone feels and understands? The evidence seems to suggest that there are at least four to six universal basic emotions, based on Paul Ekman’s analysis of facial expressions across cultures. These have a genetic basis, and are experienced by all humans. The great majority of emotions seem to be more complex amalgams of these basic emotions. Indeed, in 1980, the psychologist Robert Plutchik developed a fascinating ‘colour wheel’ of emotions to depict the various possible combinations and intensities of basic emotions and their resulting ‘complex emotions’.

However, many of the psychological studies into basic and complex emotions do not account for the inherently social way in which emotions are combined and experienced. Norbet Elias’ Civilizing Process, and Michel Foucault’s studies of discipline and punishment (compounded in the construction of Jermeny Bentham’s famous Panopticon as a vehicle for moral reform) are historical examples of how society engenders complex, socially constituted emotions such as shame and guilt to maintain social order and police the boundaries of class and status. Think about how the modern institutions of society – work, family, church, government, market, media, social networks – shape and assemble your emotions in ever more complex forms.

Reflect on your feelings right now. Are they basic or complex? Individual or social?

#S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030

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18 Comments

  1. Individual feelings are the emotions that make people most vulnerable, whereas social feelings are the emotions that I think people are more willing to express outwardly without thought. In society today, I feel as though the emotions we experience that make us vulnerable are the ones that are taboo to express in the public eye due to the fact that it makes other people uncomfortable and afraid. For example, if I am sad and start to cry in public, most people would probably walk by without asking me if I was okay or if I needed help with anything…they choose not to become involved. When we see other people experiencing emotions that are ‘deeper’ than the surface level we often times do not know how to handle those situations, thus we choose to ignore them, rather than choosing to understand them. When we look at Plutchik’s color wheel of emotions we notice that shame, guilt and loneliness are absent. These feelings along with others depend on social interactions with other people and with other societal structures. This idea coincides with the unique responsibility of human action that is described in Barbalet’s writing on Emotion and Rationality on how our ability to choose reinforces the notion that whatever one does is a consequence of what one thinks (Barbalet pg. 33). Therefore, our feelings and greatly influenced by our social networks and ties with the people and communities around us.

  2. In my opinion, there are a multitude of emotions that individual’s experience, many of which are complex. Some of these emotions may be so complex that we actually can’t put a name to it, and according to (Burkitt 2000), not being able to put feelings into words is a common experience. Could this perhaps be that there is no word for the exact emotion we are experiencing as it is a mixture of so many different emotions?. Plutchik’s ‘colour wheel’ of emotions attempts to help identify these complex and often ambiguous emotions. However, as was mentioned in the lecture, social emotions, such as shame, guilt and loneliness are absent from this colour wheel, further highlighting the complexity of some emotions.

    Our feelings and emotions are incredibly influenced by our social environments and certain institutions in modern society. Institutions can utilise a number of techniques in order to shape the emotions we experience, largely to maintain social control. An example of this is the use of CCTV cameras in majority of public spaces. CCTV cameras adopt a lot of the same ideas as Bentham’s panopticon in that they lead individual’s to thinking they are being watched all of the time, even if there may not be a person on the other end watching. This idea that they are being watched consequently leads people to repress the expression of certain emotions, such as anger. For instance, someone may be angry at someone in public and may want to take this anger out on the person, but they fear the consequences of being caught as they are being watched on the CCTV cameras. This may lead to the person experiencing a mixture of a few emotions at the one time, such as fear and anger, and illustrates how institutions constitute these emotions to maintain social control of citizens. This relates back to Burkitt’s (2000) idea that we make modifications in our feelings and emotions based on the connections we have to other people and things in the world around us.

  3. In some circumstances, it easy to decipher whether a particular emotion is basic or complex. It could be a complex series of events that lead to that emotion or it could be one simple thing that triggered a certain emotion. I think it is somewhat more difficult to decipher whether they are individual or social due to the complexity and overlapping factors that are included in these categories.

    Burkitt (2002) outlines how we tend to view emotions as individual processes, things that are purely contained within ourselves but when we actually look deeper into this concept we find that emotions are actually often relational to other bodies. An example of this might be feeling angry while waiting in traffic. We feel that emotion inside ourselves but it completely relational; our emotions are reacting to a situational set of circumstances.

  4. Mauss states that emotional control is valorised in modern society. We keep ourselves ‘in check’, to avoid feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment; the person who deviates from socially appropriate norms draws attention to themselves and finds themselves in a position of vulnerability. Symbolic interactionist theory holds that the way in which we express emotions is socially learned; through processes of making gestures, role taking, interpreting responses and adjusting based on negative feedback. This begins from an early age, is culturally specific and has morphed significantly since the rise of capitalism.
    In pre-capitalist Western societies, social order was maintained via the institutions of church and family as the sources of appropriate social behaviour. With the rise of capitalism, came more complex forms of government, social stratification and the individualisation of the social; globalisation of the market has escalated technological advancement to a point where society has become a virtual panopticon – we never know when we are being watched or by whom.
    Reality television shows, even current affairs and news programs, reveal the minutiae of our lifestyles; all forms of public torture, bringing to light deviant’s operating outside of ‘accepted’ social norms. Social networking sites allow us to judge and ostracise others without accepting accountability. The market gives us a plethora of consumer choice and convenience; simultaneously, it engenders narcissism, envy and the realisation of unattainable goals. Every day, we face a barrage of conflicting expectations of who we should be and how we should behave. How can we possibly measure up? Simultaneously, we feel shame for all of our own failings and criticize others for theirs; our human capacity for connection and empathy is diminishing.
    What are my feelings right now? Mine fluctuate between indecision and conviction, anonymity and vulnerability. They are complex and socially shaped. Vulnerability researcher and psychologist, Brene Brown, states that ‘shame is an epidemic in our culture’. Her research has shown positive correlations between the feeling of shame and instances of addiction, depression, aggression, violence, bullying, eating disorders and suicide. This exposes shame and guilt as mechanisms of social chaos, not the means of maintaining social order.

  5. I would say that the majority of my emotions are complex rather than simple. Fear and anticipation and excitement and doubt over my recent masters application comes to mind. Most of these are not ‘basic’ emotions in themselves. I think, though, that the complexity of modern life has an impact on the complexity of our emotions. Multitasking emotional states.

    Burkitt (2000) raised an interesting point in discussing a quote from Bateson (1973) when he said that we think of our emotions as being an object contained within ourselves, yet logically, emotions only become meaningful in the context of our relationships. The personification of the car ‘stubbornly’ refusing to start enriches this relationship context.

  6. @rpatulny feeling numb, is it a lack of emotion, or perhaps too much? #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thurs1030

    Complex emotions and our understanding of them seem to have evolved over time. However, is that because we have become more emotional and ‘complex’ or simply because our knowledge of emotion and feeling has increased? Despite the increase in feeling discourse there are still times in which we cannot describe our emotion, or perhaps experience ‘numbness’. I would suggest that the increase of ‘control’ (Deleuze 1992) within our societies has negatively impacted on our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, thus limiting our capacity to interpret cultural, social and emotional signs. This experience of ‘numbness’ is perhaps then characterised by an overload of emotional stimuli, and simply not knowing how to act or ‘feel’.

  7. There does exist a range of basic emotions of which all people experience, acknowledge, and understand (to a degree). In addition to these base emotions, I think there exists a large number of additional emotions that are made up of a mixture of two or more base emotions, or of other additional emotions. I do not believe emotions are just feelings which can be accurately labelled and that are immune to adaptation or variance among individuals, circumstances, societies, or cultures – as Plutchik’s colour wheel suggests. Burkitt (2000) also states that some of the emotions we feel may be so complex that we cannot identify or name them. Because of this, I believe it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to quantifiably and accurately assess the number of different emotions a person can feel. In addition, because the emotions we feel in certain situations are shaped by past experiences, memories, and social expectations or norms (in my opinion), this also makes assessing the range of human emotion available to our species incredibly difficult.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030

  8. When first considering emotions, it is easy to jump directly to the basic emotions based on Paul Ekmans original approach. These are universally felt throughout a common experience e.g. death of a family member, in which regardless of our social environment and influences, we would all suffer grief and sadness. However, while we can agree on these 6 emotions, we should not attempt to limit these to a particular number. Plutchik’s colour wheel expands further on these emotions, attempting to portray the complex elements of emotions and understand where they originate. Our everyday predictions of how one would react in a particular circumstance disregard the power of social influences, and neglect to consider that an individual acts differently according to the social environment and context. Bentham’s Panopticon is a key example of this, in which alterations to the physical environment acted as a social controller, modifying individual’s behaviour and feelings.

    Similar to this panopticon, current institutions have the power in also modifying behaviour. Embarrassment and shame are emotions that I have learnt socially and inherited, as a result of my social environment. Social Media has been a powerful tool, which as a result of the great attention it has received and the influence it holds can force me to censor my emotions and repress my natural response. This may alter what I choose to broadcast and how I choose to be perceived, due to protecting myself and as a result of these learnt emotions. Alternatively, posts made on Social Media by other significant institutions also have the opportunity to control behaviour, using their position of power and influence to maintain social control.

    Clearly our feelings are modified by the relationships established both with other people, and with the world around us. My emotions are intrinsically shaped, deriving genetically, being influenced socially, and constantly changing.

  9. Emotions are personal, however how l deal with them in public is different. They are complex and not always easy to explain.

  10. I believe that depending on the situation and people that you are around, or being on your own impacts the way we determine our feelings as basic or complex. Also the way we interpret these categories of our emotions impacts how we behave, whether or not we understand how to express it appropriately or not.
    “Without our cultures, we develop different emotion vocabularies to name these different feelings. Yet the emotion we verbally express is not necessarily what we ‘feel’ and it is also possible to have a clash of feelings, an ambiguity that is hard to express verbally” (Burkitt, 2002, p.160).

  11. Generally my feelings are basic, but I find that when I’m mentally exhausted or stressed, these seemingly basic feelings become more complex, confused and overwhelming. I found it interesting that Wouters looked at the effect that manners have on on emotions and this is a concept that would never had occurred to me, but it makes a lot of sense to me. In society , manners, have effectively been constructed to monitor and control emotions in a myriad of situations, from family life to public life in the workforce/school/university just to name a few. Was this what was originally intended of manners I wonder and were is the line drawn between respect and control?

  12. Emotions are a complex and intricate thing. They cannot be defined as one entity, rather they are fluid and evolving. I would say that one’s emotions are so varied, that sometimes the feeling cannot even be labelled or pin pointed. Depending on context and perceptions, the emotions experienced can change and vary. This overwhelming amount of possible understanding of feelings can be interlinked with modernity and an increase in trying to attach meanings to different emotions.
    A person’s emotions are partly responsible for the functioning of mainstream society. Foucault’s panoptic theory infiltrates all aspects of daily life, we regulate ourselves to fit into the norms expected from institutions. We follow the social norms to ensure our sense of emotion is externally presented as positive. Internally our emotions are also regulated to fit this mold and belong to the societal structure in place. This regulation occurs from large scale interactions between political parties to the emotion expressed when crossing the road or serving a customer. There is such an expectation across all platforms, that simply saying one’s expression is one emotion, is just too simplistic. For instance, happiness is a feeling experienced often throughout the day. Yet every time it occurs, it is different to the last, brought about by multiple scenarios. This feeling usually overlaps with a number of others and so that in itself is definitely not basic. Emotions are complicated and they will never have a definite, as they are a continuous evolutionary thing.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030

  13. To understand if ones feelings are basic or complex, it is important to understand the social circumstance which surrounds the individual. This applies most particularly in relation to modern institutions. Reflecting upon my own feelings currently, it is interesting to note that I contain a feeling that is quite normal and regularly felt, yet it is one that I cannot simply define. I would say that this current feeling is complex and ambiguous while in the comfort of my own home. In stark contrast, during my time at work today this was not the case as I exhibited a false feeling of basic joy to those around me whilst suppressing my mixture of boredom, tiredness and irritation, a complex feeling which society perceives to be unprofessional within the context of work.

    I believe that Michel Foucault’s studies of discipline and punishment within institutions like prisons and Jeremey Bentham’s ‘Panopticon’ watchman analysis provides an understanding as to whether the feeling I currently possess is individually or socially constructed. Keeping these works in mind, my false demonstration of the basic feeling of joy at work may have been socially constructed, especially considering the possibility that a power figure; my boss, may have been observing me via surveillance equipment as I worked earlier today, despite this being unlikely. Interestingly, Burkit (2000) argues that power works subtly “through social relations as a structure of actions that aims to affect a field of possible actions,” which explains why my boss has previously indicated that he can access this surveillance equipment whilst absent from the workplace. This is essentially done so to ensure that my work, among others is being completed in a ‘happy’ manner. This rationale does explain why someone like myself would present fake joy in this situation. That is, to avoid punishment for exhibiting complex feelings which may in turn affect the institution’s reputation. Once away from this work context however, I currently feel free to allow the individual and complex feeling that is not socially accepted to overcome me.

  14. Eckman’s taxonomy of emotions seems to suffer badly from a sort of science fetishism or physics envy common in 20th-century social sciences. The idea that sociologists or psychologists (or whatever else) could become in some way “emotionologists”, understanding emotion in terms of indivisible basic emotional states or particles in the same sort of way a chemist or physicist might understand the behaviour of matter in terms of atoms, molecules, or sub-atomic particles is immediately appealing to those who might seek an excitingly grand and unifying theory of emotion, or worry on some level about the legitimacy of more theoretical and/or qualitative sociological research, but both overestimates the importance of a universal ability to recognise several styles of facial affect (which is, of course, not the same thing as emotion) and supposes that a sort of pure or basic human spirit or human nature is measurable that is “before culture”, ignoring the essential interconnectedness and the the reciprocal social construction of “the self”, “human nature”, “emotion”, and “society”. Eckman’s approach appears or can appear objective or culturally neutral only because of a sort of invisibility that the precepts of liberal modernity can enjoy within the academy; absent the idea that society and culture are things that happen to and flavour the experiences of atomised human individuals (say, with the mindset that social interactions and structures are what makes the perception of “the self” as distinct from others comprehensible), the idea that a human tendencies to position their faces in certain recognisable ways implies that emotion is constructed from a set of identifiable “basic emotions” and that any social aspect is simply details or distortions falls flat.

    That said, Eckman’s research seems fascinating! What he does seem to have discovered is a sort of basic “vocabulary” of facial expressions, and what he does seem to have created is a system for analytically naming facial expressions. Observed in a historical way, or with the sort of analysis performed by linguists, (is this, in some way, a sort of a human language that has had less flexibility to grow than one based on the more dextrous and deliberately controllable tongue, lips, and glottis has had? To what extent could changing, say, one aspect of a facial expression changed the way it is construed and to which people?) this could be highly interesting, and a great springboard for all sorts of research and discussion.

    My feelings right now on “complex” emotions are, then, well, complex.

  15. Burkitt (2000) presents the point that due to the complexity of emotions themselves, it is sometimes impossible to directly identify the exact emotion that we are feeling. I can definitely identify with this as sometimes I can’t quite figure out which emotion is manifesting. Sometimes our emotions are felt in conjunction with each other (i.e two or more at same time) and this process can create an entirely new emotion different to the ones that instigated it.

    The socio-ecological model is an important variable in the expression of emotions. Our micro, meso, exo, macro and chronosystem circles each influence how we learn and show a particular emotion. If anger is always shown as a positive emotion, an individual will be socialised to think that this is accepted and therefore is less likely to suppress it. If anger is always denied or discouraged, especially in the microsystem, the individual may suppress and in turn become confused about what they are feeling and how they can express themselves.

  16. The complexity of my emotions are often due to an influence of reason when feeling basic emotions. If put in a very simple example, when feeling sad I might ask myself ‘why am I sad’, which will often shift how I perceive the emotion that I’m feeling.
    This influence of reason can be seen on the colour wheel of basic and complex emotions, as the emotions on the outside of the wheel involve more thought in combination with the emotion that is felt.

    This is also conveyed in the social aspect, with how we are supposed to interact in a social sense.
    Showing that you are experiencing complex emotions in early moments of a social situation may result in an unappealing demeanour, further impacting future social interactions between the two parties. Complex emotions may be felt, however, only simple ones may be easily conveyed.
    Burkitt writes of how the emotion that we verbally express is not necessarily what we ‘feel’ and it is also possible to have a clash of feelings which may be hard to express verbally.

  17. I believe humans are experiencing a few basic emotions which are comment and clear but they have the ability to combine the emotions and create hundreds of different emotions, some being very similar, with the same underlying ingredients and some very different. So there are an endless number of emotions to describe our feelings. Each of them is highly personal and related to the person who experiences it. Emotions give meaning to what we experience based our feelings (Burkitt, 2000). Every person feels things differently so that is why they are creating so many different emotions.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030

  18. I believe emotions can be both complex and basic depending on environments and situations.
    In some instances, emotions can be easy to decipher, such as feeling proud and happy you received a raise in a job. While other times they can be complex, an example of this would be if a friend or partner were to betray your trust. You would feel a range of complex emotions, some we can not explain.

    Feelings are something we sort through ourselves to try to find and portray, they can alter our experiences with different environments and individuals.

    #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030

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