SOC327 2017 Tut3 – Wed 1730

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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19 Comments

  1. While reflecting on my own emotions, I consider my feelings to be made up of complex emotions which are feelings which we are not sure about and we are not able to find words to describe what we are feeling, for example that feeling when you are not happy, but you are not sad. (Burkit 2000, p. 152) Feelings and emotions are considered to be different but individuals tend to think that our emotions such as envy and grief are items inside of our bodies in which we must accept and are expected to work with. (Burkit 2000, p. 151). Even though our basic emotions such as anger, fear and surprise are still present, different complex emotions expand and develop depending on the situations occurring within an individual’s life. For example, when an individual is feeling the basic emotion of sadness, their feeling of sadness can be experienced as complex emotion such as anxiety and sorrow. Especially in modern institutions within society such as work, media and family our emotions are socially constructed and shaped as individuals feel the need to relate to other people from different religious backgrounds, age and genders to gain a mutual trust from one another. (Wouters 2004, p. 209)

    #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Wed1730.

  2. The idea that there are several basic emotions, from which the complex emotions derive, is quite interesting. For these basic emotions to be able to span across different eras and cultures, there must be something about them which are inherent to the human psyche. What seems more difficult is the way in which some emotions are conceived in societies but not in others. Whilst this might be because the way in which we live and exist differs across cultures and time, it seems strange that the same (complex) emotion cannot be identified from the existence of some other interaction and corresponding feeling.

    For example, the emotion of self-loathing or hatred is sometimes evident today because of the influence of social media on young girls striving for the perfect body image consistent with that seemingly presented by celebrities. Whilst this was not the same kind of complex emotion –depression, anger at what they do not have and fear for social rejection (3 of the 4 basic emotions depicted by Kemper) – that would have been evident in the 20th Century or even in less developed countries today, the emotion of self-loathing may still arise within a different social context. This aligns with what Harré, 1986 (in Burkitt, 2002) seems to be suggesting in his explanation of ‘emotional vocabularies’ as a way of giving cultural meaning to different emotional states depending on the social context. It is conceivable then, people in different cultures still experience these emotions but they just cannot label it as self-loathing for example, because the emotion is yet to be prescribed to that particular social context.

    As we continue to exist within an ever-modernising society, one might expect our emotions to continue to become more and more complex, attaching to each new social schema as it arises. I understand my own emotions, particularly as I have grown up, to be more complex than basic. It would be unrealistic to believe that I am ever experiencing only one emotion at a time – within every thought process, my underlying emotions are always grouped alongside others.

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  3. Ambiguous emotions are common throughout day to day life. It isn’t a rarity that I will come across a situation and not be certain how I actually feel about it. With this comes mixed emotions. For example, I could be told the news of a colleague’s recent promotion. I could be happy for this person and their success. However, I could also feel jealous. These mixed feelings could then have the outcome on my work ethic. Where I could try harder to have the same results. When looking at Ekman’s theory of the six basic emotions I think it is safe to say that they are the most common ones seen daily. These emotions are easily identified with facial expression, tone, and stance. However, when regarding ‘social emotions’ there is a much more complicated outlook. Within today’s society, certain emotions are not accepted to be portrayed alike others. If I’m feeling emotions of rage, it wouldn’t be acceptable for me to show that in a social setting. I could end up with a criminal offense and seen as an outcast. When reflecting on my feelings now I am calm but also feeling overwhelmed with a workload. These are complex feelings. But when looking at emotions in society and its institutions they become even more complex. The media, for example, is a big thing today. It is well known for its influence on how people think and feel. I may be watching the news and have mixed feelings purely on what they present. Media producers have a strong understanding of how structure and content of Media can affect their audience’s (H. Detember, 2010 pg. 278). They can alter my emotions entirely on how they present their story.
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  4. In reflecting upon my own emotions I do identify with Burkit’s theories of complex emotions and that they differ based on the social experiences you have had throughout your life. Many complex feelings may not be universal as they require specific situations for them to be ‘engaged’ what may be confusing, shameful or intimidating to be may cause another individual to feel completely differently. In saying this however I do believe we share the ‘root’ feelings are inside us. I also I particularly lean towards Jonathan Turner’s of basic and complex emotions, and that the complex emotions I feel do come from those root emotions and the social experiences around me. I believe Burkits description of emotions is extremely relevant, that they are fluid and subject to change with era’s and cultures and therefore it is totally normal that we feel emotions we cant identify or that others cannot relate to.
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  5. Burkit mentions in his chapter “feeling and emotions then, while in a complex relationship to one another, are not always identical: they can in fact diverge giving rise to the ambiguous nature of much emotional experience” (Burkit 2000, p.151). Up until I opened this blog and saw the questions at hand, it did not cross my mind how complex our emotions can be nor how influenced they may be too.

    In Burkit’s chapter he notes that “within our cultures we develop different emotion vocabularies to name these different feelings” (Burkit 2000, p. 160). I believe that the complexity of our emotions, and our interpretation of emotions can vary in immense ways depending on a number of factors such as personal experience, culture, social status, education etc. No two people feel the same emotion, what might make me happy..may not make the person next to me happy. Our social surroundings such as work, government, media, church, the market, family etc. play a major role in our emotions, especially in regards to how we may express them. I am well aware that when I feel angry or jealous.. that rather than acting upon those feelings in public, I should suppress them and therefore act appropriately in the social context. It’s truly captivating to know how much of our lives are constructed by society and its’ norms and expectations.

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  6. In reflecting back on my emotions that I’ve felt so far today, they most defiantly are complex. Though I do believe that there are universal emotions such as what Ekman describes that are felt by people world wide regardless of their life experiences. The same event may happen to two people both living on opposite sides of the world and their emotional response to the incident could be vastly different. But also could be the same.
    Emotions are also social. People express their emotions in front of people such as acceptance and happiness for someone winning a prize for example. But on the inside may be feeling disappointed or jealous that they did not win. It would not be socially acceptable to start crying in that situation, instead applauding is.
    I still find myself as an adult feeling a variety of emotions that can change quickly, some which i have to hid from others depending on the situation. Emotions will continue to evolve with people I believe.

  7. There are definitely emotions I’d not be able to name from this situation. But I believe I would have been able to determine them if I took the effort in that certain situation to identify the emotion and feelings I have. At least it is possible to name a few emotions that are there influencing the current mood. To me we just don’t go through life with the consistent motivation to register every perticular emotion we experience. As therefore I am convinced that we all have a certain pool of emotions we drag from, but the way they are combined are regulated by the individual personality, culture and situation.

    Raymond Williams explanation in my opinion is a good way to explain the influence of current social institutions and why we believe it is such more complex. The present is “open and fluid” (Burkitt 2002: p. 154), which means that it is constantly adjusted to the changing circumstances. When it changed present becomes past and gains the feature that is can be reflected and the conclusion can be included into present and future decisions. In our current environment the ammount of social institutions are permanently increasing and the intercept points in which we (can?/want?/should?) interact with those institutions are more likely to appear. So in our “2017-Society” we are constantly called upon to reflect the past and since the variables we need to take into account when reflecting the process appears to be increasingly complicated and complex. I think that also results in having a tough time to determine emotions.

    I believe that the social institutions have a growing influence in the socializing process, too. In the first abstract of a person’s socializing process the conventional (and close) institutions like family, school and peer groups have the biggest impact and we learn social prohibitions and self-control (Wouters, p. 199). But when we enter the second abstract I believe that trough the growing variety of choices we can make between more and more social institutions shapes the socializing process from this point even more individual. This, I am convinced, adds to the complexity of our society and also to the determination of our emotions.

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  8. I sometimes listen to this one specific playlist when I am studying for an exam or composing an essay. I used to listen to this playlist frequently throughout my first year at university — a year of new experiences and exciting memories. Now, when I turn on that playlist, I am overwhelmed with an emotion that I can never directly pinpoint. As I listen to the playlist right now, I find that there is at least one basic emotion behind this feeling: happiness. However, I find that feelings of sadness and longing come over me as I reflect on experiences and moments I wish I could re-do again. In short, I am a strong believer indescribable and ambiguous emotions do in fact exist. After going over it in lecture, I believe that Plutchik’s ‘colour wheel’ of emotions accurately reflects just how deep and confusing our emotions can exist within us.

    This week’s readings navigated how emotions and behaviors have been ‘policed’ and reconstructed throughout our history. Wouters narrates the complex story behind how emotions and manners have developed and evolved into our present day. Burkit, on the other hand, shows how power relations continuously work to control and confine our bodies through the use of our emotions. Overall, I believe that we often are blind in seeing how the social structures and power structures within our society act on us through our emotions. The societal norms that surround me are constantly telling me how to act and what I’m supposed to be doing. Eat healthy and workout. Go to church. Complete your homework. Get an education. Get a steady job. Start a family. Never take anything for granted. Essentially, the environments we surround ourselves in tell us the tasks we must complete in order to fulfill a happy, meaningful life. The show us which successes will make us feel content and which failures will leave us ‘down in the dumps’. To make things worse, the power relations in today’s society tell us that we are constantly being ‘policed’ and surveillanced. If we don’t feel remorse or regret for doing that certain bad thing…we become an outcast. Society tells us no one wants to be the outcast…

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  9. I believe that emotions are complex. Plutchik’s color wheel is something I really like-the idea of basic emotions, or primary colors, being blended in endless different ways to create palates of vivacious emotions that are indefinite and unique. This is a complexity that makes specific emotions hard to articulate in exact scenarios for an individual, besides generalizing it to a common definition that is well known and used in a society or culture. That is also a similar ideology to statements in Wouters’ piece. Emotion is also social. Wouters explains examples of how different emotions like shame were socially constructed. I align with this theory, because without social interactions and social hierarchy, emotion wouldn’t be very necessary. Without other human interaction, it may be safe to say that complex emotions would not come across the radar of an individual. Not all emotions are a social construct, such as how Wouters describes shame and guilt, because the large amount of emotions that exist all may not play a role in social gain, but they do result from from interactions in a social setting a majority of the time. Not all emotions were socially constructed over time for a specific purpose in social advancement like Wouters’ examples, but emotions are side effects of social interactions. Putting my opinions on the matter all together and reflecting, I do have emotions I can’t completely define quite often, some which change the way I behave in a social setting and some which don’t change my behavior but lie beneath the surface.
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  10. Numerous times in my life I have found myself questioning my own feelings. Sometimes I get a feeling in my gut that I can’t quite define or relate to a specific emotion. However, this feeling of the unknown can cause me to feel specific complex emotions like confusion or weariness. These ambiguous feelings, although not necessarily definable, can cause numerous basic and complex emotions to arise. For example, when I was on my plane ride here for exchange, I had an empty feeling in my stomach. I didn’t necessarily know how to define this feeling, but it caused complex emotions to form, including excitement, anxiousness and optimism. I think it is fair to agree with the accuracy of Eckman’s six universal basic emotions and how these basic emotions can lead to the creation of Plutchik’s ‘color wheel’ of emotions, which shows how these simplistic basic emotions can combine to make us feel more complex feelings and emotions.

    I agree with Ekman’s idea that there are 6 expressed basic emotions that can be apparent in numerous societies across the world. I also believe that it is fair to call these sic basic emotions universal. However, I believe that we see different complex emotions in different societies. For example, the feeling of hunger and the complex emotion of emptiness to a child in Africa can be drastically different than the feeling of hunger and the complex emotion of frustration to a spoiled child in the states. By this analogy, I mean that to different societies, emotions and feelings can be constructed and portrayed very differently depending on the societies experiences, social class, religions, social networks, influence of the media and much more.

    According to Burkitt, complex emotions tend to emerge out of social combinations of the simpler emotions, allowing these ambiguous emotions to create new meanings. He also believes that these complex emotions can differ depending on specific social personal experiences (Burkitt 2002) Within our modern society, the media and communities we associate ourselves with tend to shape much of what we think we should feel and how these feelings can cause complex emotions to arise. When reflecting on my feelings right now, I can admit that I feel somewhat exhausted and bored, however due to my surroundings and societies’ expectations, I feel the need to express enthusiasm and appreciation for learning and school in general. This example represents the idea that we may feel something within our bodies, but due to modern social expectations, we form complex emotions that we feel we must emote.

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  11. Throughout my life, emotions have played a major role in my life. Ekman’s idea of 6 basic emotions is relevant within society, but it is along with Burkitt’s idea of more complex emotions that makes it more relevant today. I believe that our emotions are complex due to our social status and our interactions within society which supports Burkitt’s ideas (Burkitt, 2002). It is a hard thing to do; to be able to pinpoint one exact emotion in a situation. Usually happiness comes with others emotions, such as excitement or nervousness.

    Cas Wouter’s produces the idea of the historical development of manners. Manners has slowly become ‘informalised’. This informalisation of manners has seen etiquette and rules within society alter. These manners have shaped punishment and controlled society for hundreds of years. It is easy to identify the differentiation and alterations in these manners, however it is difficult to pinpoint why these changes took place over time. This is due to the fact that it was a slow process (Wouters, 2004). However, I can even see the differences in reactions from people of my grandparents generation to ours. It is interesting to compare how our reactions would differ to certain situations in varying times. Our social control and the idea of shame within society has allowed those in power to control society.

    I find both readings extremely relevant to how I interact within society and the reasons for this. Both Burkitt and Wouter’s ideas compliment each other and provide good insight into the complexity of our emotions.

  12. Having also done the cultural studies class, Culture of Emotion, Burkit’s notion of complex emotions resonated quite well with me. I especially liked the description of how some feelings “may not be expressible in words or there may be resistance to their verbal, conscious articulation” (Burkit, 2000: p. 161). Other students also mentioned a ‘gut feeling’ which I feel ties to this very nicely. Recently I had something of a ‘gut feeling’ when given the opportunity to move to Queensland with my best friend and his girlfriend. Even though on the face of things I felt happy at the idea of starting another chapter of my life, with much better employment opportunities and cheap housing, however there was just a feeling I couldn’t shake. It literally felt like it was coming from the pit of my stomach, and in best efforts to describe it, you could say it was a mixture of excitement and unease, but even that does not do it justice. Although some could see this as form of adrenaline fueled ‘leap of faith’ moment, I decided that this was some part of my subconsciously telling me that this was not not the right decision, and lo and behold, a few days later the house we were looking at fell through and the jobs we had lined up were not such a sure thing we had initially believed. Although complex motions stem from well-rooted universal emotions, complex emotions can have completely different outcomes on different individuals from different societies. What I saw as a major red flag could quite easily be the push someone else needed, as Kate noted in her comment, different complex emotions expand and develop depending on the situations occurring within an individual’s life.

  13. Having also done the cultural studies class, Culture of Emotion, Burkit’s notion of complex emotions resonated quite well with me. I especially liked the description of how some feelings “may not be expressible in words or there may be resistance to their verbal, conscious articulation” (Burkit, 2000: p. 161). Other students also mentioned a ‘gut feeling’ which I feel ties to this very nicely. Recently I had something of a ‘gut feeling’ when given the opportunity to move to Queensland with my best friend and his girlfriend. Even though on the face of things I felt happy at the idea of starting another chapter of my life, with much better employment opportunities and cheap housing, however there was just a feeling I couldn’t shake. It literally felt like it was coming from the pit of my stomach, and in best efforts to describe it, you could say it was a mixture of excitement and unease, but even that does not do it justice. Although some could see this as form of adrenaline fueled ‘leap of faith’ moment, I decided that this was some part of my subconsciously telling me that this was not not the right decision, and lo and behold, a few days later the house we were looking at fell through and the jobs we had lined up were not such a sure thing we had initially believed. Although complex motions stem from well-rooted universal emotions, complex emotions can have completely different outcomes on different individuals from different societies. What I saw as a major red flag could quite easily be the push someone else needed, as Kate noted in her comment, different complex emotions expand and develop depending on the situations occurring within an individual’s life.
    This was also shown in the lecture when analyzing the emotions of the selected images. Emotions, especially complex ones can not be so easily determined by looking at someones facial expressions or body language alone. Like right now, in reference to Roger’s question, if someone were to ask right now what was I feeling, they might on face value say distraught, or at unease, when in truth, I am just hungry.

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  14. What if emotions are not only created through experience, interaction, culture and images. Many theories disregard the idea, which many psychologists have regarding the nero-chemical element of emotions. Yes I agree there are many factors, which contribute to how, we feel and how we express emotions, though the neuro chemical element needs to be recognized as a main contributor. This is in fact why some people have no control over their depression or anxiety, which may appear regardless of experience or interactions or culture, and why medications are so widely used to help people facing mental health issues. So what if someone’s emotions are not formed from any of these factors?

  15. The wheel of complex emotions by Robert Plutchik with hold the basic emotions that we can inflict on ourselves. The complex emotions are many different combinations of the base emotions but sometimes with all these different combinations you can misread the different base emotions within. Therefore, feeling that something that you are unable to identify within a complex emotion doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be able to identify in another state. The last time I felt like I was unable to identify an emotion was about three weeks ago within an anxious moment. From experience with anxiety I always find it hard to identify the other contributing emotions which have led to anxious feeling. The strong feeling of anxiety has an emotion supressing reaction to other base emotions. When your young I think everyone only has basic emotions but as you develop the day to day emotions are complex and socially constructed. But I also find that although our emotions are socially constructed they are also different levels on the level of construction and different levels are revealed to different people. For example, when feeling high levels of sadness socially in large masses of people you will withhold and place a “retail smile” on your face whereas if around maybe your family or best friend you may express exactly how you feel. To seek help or some other reaction. #S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Wed1730

  16. My feelings right now. Always complex, definitely social. Maybe I feel confused? Trying to understand how the idea of ambiguous emotions fits in with the hyperawareness of how I feel almost every minute of the day.

    My understanding of this complex/ basic emotions thing is that by the institutions of society our feelings are only somewhat manipulated. Say for instance the feeling of disgust. For someone to openly flatulate at the dinner table would now erk me to the core however it may not have in the middle ages. Maybe watching someone being beheaded in France during the Reign of Terror would have delighted me, when it now is the most horrific act of violence I can think of. So across society it certainly seems to be that there is a guide, literally in the form of a handbook of some sort or theoretically through language passed down and around across family, government, media and the rest that determines which emotions on the spectrum that are felt by citizens. However, my interpretation which resembles some aspects of the phenomenological approach is that despite this influence, it is more so the interpretation of our emotions that is guided by institutions within society and less about what is actually felt. It is the way we understand what we are feeling, how we contextualize the physiological response to situations and what we feel we have a right to feel that is manipulated by the expectations of that society and culture within that specific time.

  17. I find the idea of basic emotions somewhat intriguing. The human has become almost inherently social in nature, with the social directing how they experience their lives through the relationships they maintain through life (or lack thereof). To argue that there are four basic emotions instead of six, on account of, for example, fear and surprise using the same muscles, is to be decontextualising the discussion of emotions from its intrinsically social context. Burkitt (2002) seemed to discuss this social context at length in his article, with focus on the articulation of feelings through one’s ’emotional vocabulary’. He even states in his opening paragraph that “emotions only have sense and meaning in the context of relations to other bodies” (p. 151). To be looking purely at the physiological formations of muscles in whether to decide the number of emotions that are universal seem to ignore their context. This isn’t to say that fear and surprise don’t actually share muscles, but it seems deprived of proper social meaning. The sheer fact that fear and surprise were held as separate is because they were interpreted as separate in social experiments (beginning with Darwin and carried forward). Maybe ‘four biologically-possible emotions’ might stand a bit more firmly in my mind.

    I don’t think you can draw a line between individual and social ideas of emotion. I am feeling things individually, but interpreting them through means given to through my socialisation. Moreover, these emotions which may be given a simple “angry” label (for example) doesn’t not mean it’s a simple feeling. I’ve experienced this in fights before: “I am so….. MAD!” It’s almost like for lack of a better word. But other cultures have these words, but lack others. This can be seen in this link I also tweeted:

    https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiTnvPssenSAhWJXrwKHZdOB7sQFggZMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzfeed.com%2Ftabathaleggett%2Fwords-for-feelings-we-dont-have-in-english&usg=AFQjCNEAmPc8w0te-99p7zQhLImQ3eONyw&sig2=ObQKFpqO2Ck_gmRcHI660w&bvm=bv.150120842,d.dGc

  18. As I sit surrounded by individuals I don’t know whilst I wait for a class I have a mixture of emotions. These are built from previous happenings of the day that has been so far. I make connections to these emotions by reflecting on the day so far; stress, elatedness, guilt, anxiety and frustration. Together I can identify this mixture to make my body feel shaky and uneasy, but on a holistic level I can’t pin point one specific emotion that I feel. I identify this as a complex emotion.
    This can link to Turners suggestion through psychodynamic theory that some emotions are derived from other emotions.
    Burkit (1997), discusses that “emotions have meaning only in the context of relations, involving active bodily states or feelings and the speech genres through which we attempt to articulate those feeling”. I relate to this and understand this to explain the use of referring to specific times where I am “ambiguous” to what I am feeling in regards to emotions, yet I can verbally identify and articulate how I feel physically.
    The readings have identified that over time our behaviours have been modified and “policed” to be socially ‘acceptable’ and ‘appropriate’. Society shapes each individual in many ways and it is clear that over time the display of specific emotions in a particular setting is not socially ok.
    My question is; is there any wonder mental health issues have sky-rocketed over time? I know it is now something more spoken about, however social construct has enforced a “way of being” as to not demonstrate specific emotions, bottle it up and hide it, don’t show any weakness to anyone.
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  19. The first emotion that i felt today was tired. It was the first thing i felt when i woke up. This is an emotion that arose from a bodily feeling, it is very much perceived as a negative emotion, because i should be feeling content/happy if i in-fact had a good sleep. If my sleep met my body needs then i wouldn’t be tired and i would have a positive emotion (more than likely). This is an example an action (waking up) sparking an emotion (annoyed) from a bodily feeling (tiredness).

    If i think about how i’m feeling at this point in time i would say content/satisfied. The tiredness has left and i’ve had hours to adjust my body to positive feelings. My question is when people say they’re feeling OK, what is that exact emotion really? it’s as if we have created this in-between feeling of “not the best, could be better, getting there.”

    #soc327 #wed1730 #tut3

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