SOC327 2017 Tut3 – Wed 1530

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?

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  1. Emotions impact our daily lives as we witness, interpret and respond to others emotions as well as dealing with our own emotional experiences. Evidence suggests there as at least four to six universal basic emotions, and as Ekman discovered six facial expressions common around the world.
    It was interesting to read about the Panopticon designed by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham – an institutional building that allows a single watchman to observe inmates without them being able to tell if they are being watched. The result is the prisoners act as though they are being watched at all times. A fascinating design created to trick them into behaving/conforming. Having an audience certainly makes people think twice about their actions.
    Institutions in our contemporary society such as the work place, or in the media, influence and dictate what is socially acceptable when it comes to displaying our emotions and feelings. Those who do not comply with the unwritten rule, tend to be ridiculed or criticized. Gender also plays a large part in the process. Men are seen as ‘weak’ if they cry in public and women are seen as being ‘hormonal’ if they show signs of being in a bad mood or are overly emotional.
    Right now my feelings are basic as I am at home, alone, trying to complete some University work. It would be different if I was out and about, socializing and interacting with others, as I would be responding to what was going on around me. Whether it be negative or positive I would be forced to control my emotions to a certain extent. Someone laughing uncontrollably in public can make people uncomfortable, in the same way someone crying can, although there would be more sympathy involved for the latter.
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  2. Ambiguity in terms of a emotions can be a commonly recurring element in my life, mostly due to the fact that it is because of the universal attempt to label complex emotions; Ian Burkitt’s idea of ’emotional vocabulary’ builds on this – the more labels and descriptions placed on emotions, the less likely we are able to describe what we are feeling in that moment, especially complex emotions. Similarly, a complex emotion arises out of the combination of (at least) the four basic emotions as Theodore Kemper has suggested, in conjunction with the emotional colour wheel (of eight basic emotions) as described by Robert Plutchik.

    The historical approach to understanding emotions is vital when it comes to an analysis of the way in which we carry ourselves and live through daily life. The examples of ‘manner books’ by Norbert Elias in ‘The Civilising Process’ shows the distinctions based on outwardly expressing (body) emotions (emotions) in order to fit in with the upper class in order to be viewed as more upper class. Relaxation of these norms came in during the latter 20th century, but have come back into society and will get stricter in the coming years. This checking and balancing on your behaviour are also in the ‘Panopticon’ created by Jeremy Bentham and further analysed by Michel Foucalt illustrate the purposes of how governing societal bodies are controlling and surveilling our life.

    Currently, my emotions are falling into a basic satisfaction/happiness umbrella term, but the ambiguity towards complex emotions are making me unsure of what I am actually feeling to be honest. As this is an individual task and I am by myself, this further adds to the idea.

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  3. Emotions have a huge impact on the way we feel, the way we interact with others and how we interpret situations. Over time, researchers have discovered that some emotions have a universal meaning across cultures and play a huge part in how we communicate feelings through bodily action. However, they have also realized that there are more complex emotions formulated from basic emotions that become less universal across cultures.

    Paul Eckman analysed facial expressions to determine if there are specific basic emotions and bodily actions people share across cultures. Eckman, “…created what is known as the Facial Action Coding System…that measures the movements of all facial muscles” to find if people shared universal emotions across cultures (Cherry 2016). Through this process he found that there were six basic human emotions – happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger and disgust- and later added a seventh, that being contempt. From this research, he was then able to distinguish that the human face is able to create seven thousand complex facial expressions that are established from the seven basic emotions. Similarly, Robert Plutchik’s colour wheel of emotions shares similar basic human emotions as Eckman. Plutchik’s, “…wheel of emotions… identifies eight basic emotions –joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation” (Cherry 2016). The emotions wheel acts similarly to a colour wheel, in the sense that each basic emotion is displayed by a primary colour, and when combined with other emotions on the chart, it creates secondary colours and therefore secondary/complex emotions.

    Within the lecture we discussed how Foucault studied power, discipline and punishment within social institutions and how this constrains human behaviour and emotions. Foucault recognises that power is everywhere within our society, regulating how people should feel within specific social settings or how one is made to feel in certain institutions such as prison, universities or schools. This can be seen through the example of the Panopticon, which surveils society without people knowing when they are being watched. This subvert interaction, keeps people in check, maintains social order and enforces class boundaries through status. This concept can be extended to represent macro society, and how modern institutions of society, such as work, family, church, government, the market, social media and social networks have a subvert power over people and can maintain proper societal expectations, as well as have a hand in controlling their emotions. For example, the social media and social networks I follow have a daily impact on the way I want to see myself, how I want others to see me, what I aspire to and how I emotionally feel. This is because, “…when we are envious it is because others have what we cherish and feel that we deserve” (Burkitt 2002, p.152). By following these social pages and interacting with certain brands I feel joy and happiness that I am slightly part of these worlds through another person or through a brand. Yet I also feel envious of what they have as it gives them a higher status through consumerism over myself.

    In western society today, Wouters believes we have become less formalised and disciplined with our emotions and manners. Wouters uses the term ‘third nature’ to describe how people in modern society have “…developed a more reflexive and flexible self-regulation” of their emotions (Wouters 2004, p.210). We no longer have books on etiquette and manners to govern how we should act in society, but self regulate how we should act through acculturation, following others actions in society and behaving in a way that is socially acceptable. However, through following this process some emotions can become distorted by society being restricted with the amount of emotion they are “allowed” to show within society. In turn, making self-regulation of human emotions in today’s society a difficult process, in not being able to show how we really feel within certain circumstances.

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  4. Sitting at my computer, reflecting on emotions, I can safely say that it would be only on very few occasions that I would feel a basic emotion in its pure form. Most of my emotions are complex, and indeed ambiguous. An example of an ambiguous emotion is the way I felt upon hearing the recent news that I was successful in attaining my current job. I was a ‘boiling pot’ of many emotions. I was feeling; joy, elation, excitement, pride, satisfaction, relief, fear, apprehension, anxiety, a feeling of being undeserving, guilt, nervousness, and to a certain extent, panic! Ironically, these emotions were felt both consecutively and simultaneously. Each emotion taking turns to rise to the surface to dominate my mind and body, but just as quickly subsiding and allowing another to take its place. Interestingly, I was also feeling all these emotions at once.

    According to Burkitt, emotions are relational to both the body and to the language which we adopt to describe them. However, as they are not objects, these complex emotions cannot be reduced to mere words or bodily feelings. Burkitt says that although we try to describe these complex emotions in this way, it is nonetheless fundamentally flawed. Therefore, to understand complex emotions we must look to the social context in which these emotional states arise.

    Power structures in society impact on all complex emotions. Take me and my new job for example; I am influenced by the market. This social structure determines both mine, and my family’s wellbeing. For example, I must work to pay for our education, health care, leisure activities, housing, child care, and the list goes on. This may help explain where my feelings of anxiety stem from. Furthermore, I am heavily influenced by my gender, and my role as a mother. Enter; Guilt. I feel guilty. Guilty for not spending enough time with my children, for not always cooking a healthy meal, for having a messy house, and for my children having to get up early and go to daycare centres where tears are shed because “Mummy has to go now”. But when analysing my complex emotions from this perspective it becomes easier to understand why I am feeling the way I am. Although, I realise that I am playing a small part in upholding a patriarchal society, I know that I cannot help feeling this way; Therefore, I have internalised these feelings, and am thus ‘policing’ myself. However, all is not lost as guilt is only a small part of this ambiguous emotion! Phew!

    Overall, by looking at my ambiguous feelings in a social context allows me to gain an insight into how and why they arose in the first place. In this way, they are much, much easier to understand.


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  5. Burkitt states that emotions are practiced mainly as creations of feeling which give significance to relational experience. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to name an emotion that we are feeling. As the movie Inside Out points out to us, we need all our five basic emotions: joy, anger, sadness, fear and disgust for us to live a normal happy life. Sometimes we do feel apathetic and during these circumstances, we are never able to express and identify the correct emotional feeling of our body. Even today psychologists who are studying emotions tend to search for the neural-chemical element of a feeling as if the feeling is actually the cause of emotion rather than part of a bodily response to relations. Emotions and feelings develop our current lifestyle. We are expected to act accordingly in a public place. A human cannot be violent towards another person or hurt another person physically as he or she will have to suffer severe repercussions from the law. Humans are not allowed to be envious or disgrace other people in public.
    It is extremely difficult to define if one is having basic or complex feelings. Currently I feel like I am having complex feelings as I ponder over all the activities that I have done for the whole day. Raymond Williams (1977) has communicated of ‘structures of feeling’ to specify the sense people have of varying social meanings and values as they are actively live in the present moment. Williams did not want to specify the social in the past tense as something that has already been reinforced in the institution and ideologies about which people have clearly formed ideas. Society has continuously been changing over the years. In past centuries, Wouters states it was impolite to speak to someone who was urinating or defecating. Wouters also states that the lower class people of the Victorian Era began to follow the Middle Class people while the Middle Class people began to follow the upper class people, hence the lower class learnt how to eat at tables with cutlery and not to burp in public.

  6. I am constantly greeted with “Hello, how are you?”; reflecting back, my answers are never to in accordance with Ekman’s six basic emotions, hence; my emotions are complex. I often experience a multitude of emotions and have difficulty defining how I am feeling. Plutchik’s wheel of emotions is a good depiction of this, however; I still struggle to identify my feelings as they are attributed to numerous factors.

    Emotions are social and are always connected to something. Burkitt identifies emotions as “an active response to a relational context” (2002, p. 152). The way we express our emotions is dependent on the situation. For instance, I could be at work dealing with an unruly client. I must stay composed and polite, even though I am feeling frustrated and embarrassed. I must self-regulate depending on the situation, thus; as humans, we are not blank slates and are highly influenced by the environment (Burkitt 2002).

  7. As we change and grow as individuals, there are certainly days in which some emotions can feel like a combination of two or more emotions. Paul Ekman puts forward the concept that there are six basic emotions that all humans can feel and will understand from their own personal level (Cherry 2016). Ekman concluded that these six basic emotions are disgust, anger, happiness, fear, sadness, and surprise (Cherry 2016).

    During last week’s lecture, we built on this topic through our discussion in relation to Robert Plutchik’s ‘wheel of emotions’, which identifies eight primary emotions. These are anger, trust, anticipation, joy, fear, surprise, disgust, and anticipation (Cherry 2016). Essentially, Plutchik’s argument is that combinations of these primary emotions form the basis of secondary emotions in the same way that the primary colours on a colour wheel would produce secondary colours. It is through these emotions that a wide range of feelings are produced and felt by individuals (Cherry 2016).

    In addition to emotions which feel like a combination of two or more emotions, Ian Burkitt highlights how common it is for individuals to struggle with expressing the feelings they are experiencing at a given time (Burkitt 2002, p. 152). Furthermore, Burkitt also discusses how common it is for individuals to identify an emotion that they might not actually be ‘feeling’ and that individuals often find their emotions clashing, which is just as difficult to communicate to other individuals (Burkitt 2002, p. 160).

    Last week’s lecture also revolves around how the manners and emotions that individuals experience have become much more informal over time (Wouters 2004, p. 194). Rather than relying on books about correct manners and etiquette, we have become much more self-aware of our emotions, and the ways to manage them, through personal observations and moments of reflection (Wouters 194).

    Social media networks definitely shape and assemble emotions in much more complex forms. On a social network such as Instagram, it is often far too easy to fall into a variety of emotions. Commonly, a person’s profile will display their favourite moments of joy and happiness and there are certainly days in which a combination of, say, both happiness and envy are experienced (Burkitt 2002, p. 152). This is further reinforced by Burkitt’s argument about how we are generally envious because “others have what we cherish and feel that we deserve.” It is a situation in which one feels joy for another person’s success or specific moment but also wishes they too could have a similar moment (Burkitt 2002, p. 152).

    Reference List

    Burkitt, I 2002, ‘Complex emotions: relations, feelings and images in emotional experience’, Emotions and Sociology, pp. 151-167.

    Cherry, K 2016, How Many Human Emotions Are There?, Very Well, 9 May, viewed 21 March 2017,

    Wouters, C 2004, ‘Changing regimes of manners and emotions: from disciplining to informalizing’, The Sociology of Norbert Elias, pp. 193-211.

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  8. An individuals emotions, whether they be collected from Ekmans analysis of the six basic emotions, or whether they are felt through Burkits exploration of complex emotions, are extremely significant and influential to ones daily life. I personally find it rare to feel one single basic emotion at any certain time, as my emotions are complex and at times ambiguous. An example being, the recent promotion I received at my place of employment of 5 years now. If I were to observe Plutchiks ‘colour wheel’ of emotion , I could choose multiple emotions that I felt at that one period of time, further proving as Burkit states, emotions are complex.

    Society is indeed a significant component, to the way we feel our emotions, physically express these emotions and furthermore, act out on these emotions. These factors can be experienced within certain social groups, forms of employment and within certain cultures. Teachers for example have a certain image in which is expected to be played out day to day regardless of what may be present within their social life. It would not be socially acceptable for a teacher to come to work and yell, cry or be hysterical in front of/or towards children seated in their classroom. Nor could a judge show personal emotion towards a case.
    Moreover, the emotions I am feeling at this point in time are complex, and derived from social and individual components. The stress and anxiety caused by a multitude of academic work closing in on a due date, the knowledge of long tiresome, frustrated filled days at work, the excitement and fear of moving out of home, and the joy and fulfillments knowing that soon I can rest and it will all pay off in the end, just to name a few. However, due to being in a shared space, most of these emotions are hidden from others, further accentuating the idea that your social setting has a significant influence over your emotions.
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  9. Plutchik and the colour wheel of emotion discusses basic emotions used as function to build complex emotions upon e.g. anger and disgust. However, being unable to deconstruct the complex emotions back to their basic. Emotion is created partly by individuals cultural conditionally within a micro culture as university students we attach emotion to academic success. Currently reflecting on my feelings I feel envious to complete my work to a satisfactory manor – this being a complex emotion yet unable to clearly define the ‘basic’ emotion in which it stems.

    It is commonly accepted that human emotions have evolved in response to ecological challenges faced by ancestors and are so primitive that they are almost considered hardwired. To which each basic emotion being a universal with survival value.

    Peter Stearns concept of the Enlightenment during the 19th Century effect towards attitude of the emotions during the Victorian era. The constraint of emotions within social circles has influenced cultural development as many individuals control their emotions to some degree in social situations as to adhere to the norm.

    Emotions can be discussed on both a basic and complex level yet in combination with culture, society and conditioning many of these emotions in many aspects of an individual’s life are suppressed.

    Sarah King, @sarrrbearrrr58
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  10. Cas Wouters argues that human behaviour and self-regulation among the upper-class and nobility was increasingly formalised and disciplined up until the 19th century with good manners and integrity acting as an expression of superiority. Such displays of behaviour had a trickle-down effect upon the social ladder as citizens often tried to emulate the class above them. Norbert Elias argued that it was social norms and competition over status which gave rise to complex social emotions such as shame and embarrassment.

    This historical example illustrates how the institutions of society can account for the complex emotions we experience. Although the hierarchical display of stringent self-regulation had dissipated by the 20th century with the onset of class mobility, it could be argued that in some ways, modern society is experiencing a revival of class differences with the pursuit of status driving our aspirations of elitism.

    Modern institutions of society such as media and social networks put in place frameworks which drive these aspirations. For example, the rise of the social media buzzword, #Goals, is a perceived quality of life that many consider to be the height of success and achievement. Our fascination with the fortunes and lifestyles of those who share desirable aspects of their life online provide us with standards from which we can measure and compare our current circumstances against.

    In the same way that hierarchical class structures shaped the complexity and expression of emotions in the 19th century, the ways in which people engage with social media sharing platforms in today’s society can engender a whole array of socially constituted complex emotions, such as inadequacy and validation, which go beyond Robert Plutchik’s colour wheel of emotions.

  11. When reflecting on emotions, that have been difficult to define, I was able to understand that often they were emotions that were against what was expected of me in a social context. My individual emotions are easy to understand they are visible to myself and others. If Im upset generally others will see that I am displaying emotions that relfect that.

    When I thought about times when I couldnt clearly identify what I was feeling it was when I felt something other than what i should. An example that came to mind was when I interviewed for a job that I didnt really want. At the time I believed that I was heading in the right career direction. That was until I was faced with the actual interview. I panicked inside with the dreed of being successful in my interview and I started to give answers that were going against everything I was displaying. So I decided to say that I was feeling unwell and asked to reschedule. Reflecting now it was a way of self policing, I was not allowed to simply say I had changed my mind. I had to maintain a professional persona and behave like I was totally devoted to the role. This is similar to the panoptican that Foucault was so interested in. Even when no-one was there to police my emotion I did it automatically because that is what is expected in a corporate enviroment.

    The emotions that were overwhelming me at the time were the ones I was trying to hide.

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  12. Several theorists like Kemper, Turner, Eckman and Plutchick suggest that there are core emotions, or primary emotions, and then secondary emotions. Our secondary emotions are thought to be more complex, made up by a mixture of the primary emotions. For example, I may feel overwhelmed by an anxious emotion, but deeper, the core emotions I am feeling are smaller elements of anger, sadness, and largely fear. Eckman found that all humans experience these core emotions alone (fear, anger, sadness), but, as Kemper put it, have emerged as a secondary emotion (anxiousness) out of social combinations of these core or primary emotions.

    Burkitt however, may say that anxiousness is a feeling and not an emotion. One feels a tightening of the chest, shortness of breath or heavy breathing. Although he goes on to say that emotions are from both bodily feelings and cultural discourse. This relates strongly to Kemper’s theory of social combinations, in that emotions are culturally specific, like words and labels that create the emotion.

    Society engenders these more complex, socially constituted emotions. The example given of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (a institutional building designed to allow continual observation by a single watchman without inmates being able to tell if they were being watched) is a prime example of how society engenders complex emotion. Inmates were made to feel fear, guilt and shame by the thought of possibly being watched, which enabled the watchman to maintain social order.

    More modern institutions nowadays shape and assemble my emotions in more complex forms. Church may engender feelings like guilt or shame for missing a Sunday mass, or not going to confession, which enables those churches to maintain a stronger following. Some may also force feelings of fear on parents who don’t baptise their child. Another example is social media, where posting an instagram picture may shape and assemble emotions in more complex forms, bringing on feelings of pride, happiness, joy, and acceptance from the ‘likes’ or comments one receives. Instagram thrives from the experience of these complex emotions.

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  13. Emotions are complicated things. There is a general agreement that there are two aspects of emotions, these being: basic and complex. The complication comes from the basic emotions and dispute about how many there are. Theorists over the years have identified anywhere between four and 14 basic emotions with all different reasoning as to why each emotion should be included and excluded as being basic. The complex emotions on the other hand are considered to be any number of emotions mixed together to feel one thing.

    With all the confusion created around basic emotions there seems to be a general consensus that there are four to six basic emotions and this is confirmed by Paul Ekman’s study on facial expressions across different cultures.

    To fully understand the way in which we act in our lives, both public and privately, today an understanding of how people were expected to act in societies of the past is needed. Norbert Elias’ Civilising Process, is just one of the texts that allows us to look at how emotions can socially construct behaviours. This process sees the way people’s behaviour has changed over the generations and saw the addition of class and social structure take rise. It is here when the way emotions shape how we act in public (as well as private) really came to point. Emotions such as pride, guilt and shame became a way of maintaining social order and making sure that the lines separating social classes weren’t blurred.

    Today different institutions impact our emotions in different ways. For example, if you’re working and a customer/client is making you angry/upsetting you, you have to hid that emotion and remain the happy professional you are. Different situations and places all require different displayed emotions. The emotions you feel on the inside may not be what you are showing on the outside but because of the situation/place you are in you have to hide how you are feeling and portray the emotion/feeling that everyone is expecting of you. When these expectations are broken people often don’t know how to react, either ignoring the situation or staring like you’re an alien.

    Currently I am experiencing an individual, basic emotion; happiness. This would have a lot to do with me grooving along to Ed Sheeran, almost being done me work and everyone else being asleep. In saying this though it is possible that I am feeling a whole heap of emotions and just don’t realise it. As Burkett (2002) suggests emotions can be part of the subconscious or felt subconsciously. And now that I think about it I am also feeling worried about the amount of work I need to do tomorrow and a number of other things. Perhaps, with the idea of subconscious emotion, people never truly feel a pure basic emotion, instead only express them in their actions and expressions.
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  14. There are so many times throughout a week where I have no idea what my emotions are. Often when these emotions are negative, I spend a good amount of time trying to deconstruct and analyse my feelings so I can work out how to feel better and overcome them. But often I am left not being able to properly identify the emotions. Instead, looking at the reasons (i.e social context) for why I came to feel like that helps give me a better understanding of my emotions more so than trying to identify the emotions specifically.

    This realisation ties in with Burkitt’s idea that by trying to label every emotion, particularly complex and ambiguous ones, the less likely we are able to describe it (2002:160). This sounds almost contradictory, but I think that it is impossible to define every emotion because every emotion is experienced differently in different circumstances in an infinite amount of ways. Thus trying to label all emotions squashes them into a tiny, succinct, labelled box that does not truly describe or represent what we feel. Instead, looking at the social structures and context where emotions take place provides insight into why and how they are felt, which seems much more important than knowing exactly what was felt.

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  15. As someone who has a mental illness, I experience very ambiguous or mixed emotions quite frequently. For example, excitement and doubt may occur at once, creating anxiety. These basic emotions struggle and compete with one another based on individual aspects as well as social ones.

    I agree with Burkitt who argues that “emotions are experienced primarily as structures of feeling which give meaning to relational experience” (p. 151). In the same essay it is suggested that “people have [a sense] of changing social meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt in the present moment… We are talking about characteristic elements of impulse, restraint, and tone…[a] practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and interrelating continuity” (p. 153). This is definitely evident in viewing how inmates react in the Panopticon. The structure which makes people feel as though they are being watched ultimately manipulates how people feel and behave.

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  16. Emotions vary in complexity due to the situation you are experiencing, i agree to some degree that we have a set amount of basic emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness and those emotions can be combined together to create a more complex emotion. I feel as if your emotions can be shaped by the environment around you such as religious ways, values towards family rules etc.. an individual may mask their true emotion to conform with society as it is what they have learned, the individual may not ever express their true emotion for example the father of the house is always seen as the tough alpha, if he is feeling sad or distressed he may have to mask that emotion and put on a front to up hold his alpha appearance to his family

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  17. Emotions can be both basic and complex feelings that inhabit our minds that help us to understand how we feel about things and why.
    It is interesting in considering emotions that there are some basic emotions that are universal to all people across the world despite not all sharing the same cultures and thus we all share some commonality in how we feel. In the lecture we learnt about Thomas Kemper’s view on emotions which are that we have four primary emotions: fear, anger, satisfaction/happiness and depression and secondary emotions which are extensions of those four primary emotions. For example, pride, nervousness, rage and grief.
    Plutchik’s wheel of emotion which consists of eight basic emotions depicted by the use of circles and the colour wheel. The further the emotion is from the centre; it is to be considered weaker whereas if it is in the centre then it is considered intense. It shows us basic emotions blooming into complex emotions and what happens when we combine them together. For example, anticipation and joy leads to optimism.
    In investigating emotions, it is interesting to consider how society is socially constructed and therefore impacts upon how we make sense of our emotions and how we should display them to others within our society. Jeremy Bentham’s design concept for a Panopticon prison was to enable a single watchman to observe all of the inmates within the prison but not at the same time. The idea was that the inmates within the prison did not know whether they were being watched by someone or not at any given time. The consequences of this were that the inmates needed to behave a certain way at all times just in case that they were being watched by someone else that they could not see. This allows the Panopticon prison create a level of social order by controlling the inmates, their emotions and resulting behaviours to ensure they conform to what is expected of them.
    Modern institutions that exist in society do impact upon our emotions and how we behave. It can dictate how we show our emotion and be considered socially acceptable amongst society. For example, how we show emotion if something is troubling us and whether we put on a ‘face’ and hide our emotion from others because of secondary emotions like shame as society makes people believe that there is some topics that you don’t discuss openly such as mental health issues.
    In reflecting on my own feelings at this point in time I think they are both basic and complex. They mainly revolve around university, being my last year and all the emotion that brings with it such as excitement in finishing and worry about what the future holds for me.


  18. Basic emotions as identified by Ekman has become universal in the way we identify and interpret conditions surrounding us. These basic emotions have evolved into complex emotions, whether derived by socialised emotions (Kemper), meeting or failing to meet expectations (Turner), or in combination with unconventional cues/signs/tones e.g. sarcasm (Burkitt). Further combinations are apparent in Plutchik’s ‘Wheel of Emotion’ (1980), via the composition of two emotions, other complex emotions emerge. However, with complexity, it can become difficult for one to identify, or stipulate how they are feeling.

    Burkitt further theorises that ‘emotional vocabularies’ (emotions identified through labels and words – giving cultural meaning), has come at a cost of the “bodily aspect of emotion” (Burkitt, 2002, p.152). Hence, he contends that due to this discourse, theory is unable to interpret the “ambivalence of human feeling” (Burkitt, 2002, p.152). Given this explanation, there have been situations where I have been unable to identify what emotion I am feeling in times of uncertainty. Although I am experiencing basic feelings at the moment, I know my ability to experience a range of complex emotions, which can be altered depending on the social setting I am in.

    Furthermore, the above theories do not account for societal influences, in the way emotions are constructed and experienced in society. Foucault’s work surrounding discipline and punishment theorises that various institutions and their ability to maintain order and regulate how people behave (e.g. the development of the Panopticon). Through surveillance, people regulate their behaviour to meet the expectation of societal expectations. For instance, say there was a dispute between two individuals in a public area, out of fear of being filmed (for the purposes of shaming on social media), the individuals can alter/suppress their emotions until out they are out of surveillance, thus maintaining social order.

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  19. For myself it is often that I am not sure of my feelings or cannot name the exact feeling. I relate to Burkit description of the complexity of the process to which feelings become emotions. Feelings are complex and they are not in isolation, a lot of the time feelings are social.

    Wouters’ ideas of emotions becoming informalized since the 1980s when our society was somewhat egalitarian were extremely interesting. In the lecture Roger Patulny discussed the rise of this class struggles appearing once again in Western society and impacting emotions. He used the example on Hipster males who are now focused on their appearance. Expanding from this I think that since the 2000s we have become more envious there is even more emphasis on material goods. The price of luxury handbags can be an example of this for women. The famous 2.55 Chanel handbag has increased over 70% in just the last 7 years due to popularity and now retails for more than $6,000. Many upper and middle-class women envy those who have luxury bags and aspire to owning similar luxury goods themselves and women who own these products may feel a sense of superiority, similar to Wouters’ depiction of emotions in the formal 19th early century. Capitalism and social-medias representation of wealth has impacted how many people in society feel.

    Wouters, C 2004, ‘Changing regimes of manners and emotions: from disciplining to informalizing’, The Sociology of Norbert Elias, pp. 193-211.

    Twitter: nattworthington
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  20. When asked the question “how are you feeling?” I struggle to think of a way to actually describe the complexity of my emotions.
    How am I feeling right now? I will attempt to answer this question: I can identify a few emotions which form part of how I am feeling but don’t entirely encapsulate nor describe accurately my entire feeling at this moment. This is often the case, and I would argue that (especially with my own experiences) emotions are often hard to measure and describe when it comes to experiencing them. Does my ability to sometimes recognise certain parts of my feelings, i.e. recognising certain emotions, mean that I understand the base emotions at play within my experience? This idea may be in line with the viewpoint made by Paul Ekman’s study.

    However, I feel it is more important to look at how our social interactions promote complex emotions. Ian Burkitt (2002) highlights how our vocabulary affects our understanding of emotions. For Burkitt (2002), the process of describing our feelings is rooted in cultural practices, which in turn impacts how we should act concerning the feelings we have due to the social reactions. Therefore, words and the cultural elements held within our vocabularies, influences our understanding of our emotional experiences. Furthermore, our actual experiences in turn also impact the social behaviours around us because our emotions change and so do their complexity, which means we need new words and ways of describing our feelings.

    Ultimately, it is hard to confine our emotions and to explain our feelings and emotions simply.

  21. A really interesting proposition of a fundamental question for many different fields, is it nature, nurture or both? The inherent complexity of emotions often lead the layperson toward simplistic or intuitive results, however, I imagine a complex areas such as bodies, emotions and society would require a complex response. It is often the case, particularly in the social sciences, to deter from evolutionary explanations. Understandably so, scientific inquiries provide a rather dry expose of a what it is to feel and why it is we do so.

    If we isolate the evolutionary purpose of emotions as necessary physical reactions to external stimuli which position us to react in a way which best ensures our immediate survival we can form a foundation upon which further inquiries supervene.
    In this instance we have a range of emotions provided by last weeks readings which are acultural. Where then does the plethora of feelable emotions originate, if not similarly to the established acultural emotions?
    Foucault’s radical approach diametrically opposes this way of thinking in the proposition that emotions are strictly a matter of nurture of nature. To this I would suggests a softened hybridisation of both approaches.

    If we can identify which emotions we are genetically predisposed to experience, and unify it with which emotions we learn,create and amalgamate through socialisation we can imagine that our emotional states are not special in spite of their potential uniqueness.

    Are my emotions complex? Of course! But is complexity indicative of any approach? Not particularly. I believe, and am eager to explore the position, that whilst nature provides a framework, nurture provides the nuance.

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