SOC344 2018 Tut3 – Mon 12.30pm

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?

#S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1230

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

8 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut3 – Mon 12.30pm

Teagan Starr said : Guest Report 7 months ago

Emotional ambiguity is not something that’s easily identifiable. To detect moments of happiness or sadness are often simple and previous post have addressed Ekman’s theory of the six basic emotions. Perhaps, as suggested, complex emotions are a blend of four universal and physiological emotions as Pluchik suggests, that when combined form an array of more complicated feelings. Nevertheless, we should explore the unavoidable connect between society, institutions and our emotions. Previous posts suggest the modern institution of social media embodies Elias’ and Foucault’s observations of discipline and punishment to maintain social order and police the boundaries of class and status, to create the perception of a ‘perfect life’ through an online profile is to spark competition and jealousy between users. What is even more interesting are the complex interactions that are produced from a fake profile, where users create an anonymous profile to shame and bully their peers, avoiding complex emotions of shame and guilt. Interestingly, it has emerged that the Chinese government proposes the introduction of social currency where emotional suppression or expression has tangible impacts on access to health care and job opportunities (Jing Zeng 2018). Reference Jing Zeng, M 2018, ‘China’s Social Credit System put its people under pressure to be model citizens’, The Conversation, 24 January, viewed 19 March 2018,

Bridgitte Slinger said : Guest Report 7 months ago

Psychologist use the ‘colour wheel of emotions’ to provide a visual representation of how more than one basic emotion can be experienced and felt at the same time. Kemper argued that there are four basic emotions that are universal and physiological, and these basic emotions are ‘rooted in our evolutionary nature’ (Kemper, T., 1987). The combinations and the intensities of these basic emotions result in ‘complex emotions’ which Kemper claimed are socially derived amalgams or offshoots of these (Kemper, T., 1987). The colour wheel doesn’t list emotions such as guilt, anger and envy, this is because these emotions are socially constituted. Socially constituted emotions are diverse and change over time and vary across all different cultures. They are extremely complex constructions that capture cultural relations, labels and imaginings. Norbert Elias identified that socially constituted emotions can be changed from “increased diversion of social functions, increased competition over status, and changing norms or class, sex and age” (Wouters, C., 1986). Within today’s society their social institutions that are in place to assemble your emotions in more complex forms then ever before. Social Media is a social structure that allows thousands of other people to delve into the aspects of your life and have their own opinions about every thing one does. one major socially constituted emotion that has arisen from the use of social media comes from the accessibility to look into the perfect lives, perfect bodies, perfect relationships of others. Comparison between one’s life and another’s can consume individuals and spark emotions such as envy and jealously. The number of likes, followers, subscribers or comments someone gets creates this distorted perception of who is relevant and who has status within our society. These complex emotions are formed from society’s expectations and the nature of social media. References Kemper, T. (1987). How Many Emotions Are There? Wedding the Social and the Autonomic Components. American Journal of Sociology, 93(2), pp.263-289. Wouters, C. (1986). Formalization and Informalization: Changing Tension Balances in Civilizing Processes. Theory, Culture & Society, 3(2), pp.1-18. #S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1630

Matilda Harriman said : Guest Report 7 months ago

The development of emotions and the way in which these emotions are articulated is a heterogeneous system forming a complex whole in every individual’s existence. Paul Ekman examines the ways in which emotions regulate human behaviour in both positive and negative aspects. Ekman established “nine paths for generating emotion” that he believes are fundamental to understanding the reason we react the way we do and the process of our conscious doing so. Ekman successively conveys that there are at least six basic emotions that we all commonly express, although the force of intensity behind these emotions vary depending on the person. This is where Plutichik’s (1980) ‘colour wheel’ plays a fundamental role when considering these complexities. Thus, highlighting the different forms the basic emotions can hold, however this doesn’t give an explanation on how our emotions are formed socially e.g. reasons why we act in certain ways during a social setting. I am currently sitting in the library on a Monday morning with a massive week ahead of me. I am feeling quite overwhelmed and anxious about all the tasks that I have due this week and work that I must catch up on from last week. It wouldn’t be appropriate to cry in the quiet space I’m sitting in but maybe if I was alone in my room I could. This is influenced socially because of the predetermined structures that fabricate my existence. But we must ask who developed these rules and why do they apply so heavily on our actions? Lastly, it is the complication of ambiguity and emotion of what we sense that verifies the relationship between mind, body and society. #S344UOW18  #Tut3  #Mon1230

Christina Chhay said : Guest Report 7 months ago

I believe as Eckman proposed, that there is a foundation of emotions that we all have in common that influences a complex spectrum of other emotions. However, as humans we are social beings, we rely heavily on society; the way we interact with others, certain facades we may have to put on for work and how we're expected to behave at specific events such as weddings or funerals. While we may all feel similar emotions under given scenarios, not everyone experiences the same thing. Emotions are always relative from one another, based off individual's as well as their interactions with others and their environment, meaning emotions can also be a social construct. Our emotions are complex because there are no definite boundaries standing between each emotion that allows us to readily define each one we experience. A few days ago, I was admitted into hospital to get some hardware out of my leg after breaking it over the summer holidays. There wasn't one single emotion I was feeling in relation to my upcoming surgery, but rather a mixture of anxiousness in regards to possible pain, nervousness in regards to possible effects of the anaesthetics, excitement to finally have proper movement of my leg again as well as others that would be difficult to pinpoint. It can be said that these complex emotions are social constructs based off other people's experiences and how mine compare to them.

Samantha McAuley said : Guest Report 7 months ago

I believe there is many times when individuals are feeling a mixture of emotions and these can be hard for everyone to interpret just by looking at someone. I think there are basic emotions that everyone feels as Ekman (1992) suggests and these are easily read through facial and body expressions, but once you start mixing these emotions it can be confusing what emotion one is trying to display and it can translate differently within various cultures. It also needs to be considered how society can influence other emotions such as shame and guilt because you can really only feel these emotions when you have other people commenting or looking at you in possible judgement and disgust. Norbert Elias suggests that self-restraint is needed in society because people were becoming dependant on each other and in order to achieve their daily tasks and goals, society needed stability, regularity and supervision, creating the civilizing process (Cultural Reader 2012). I think that this concept is still followed today as many individuals will not express extreme degrees of emotion as it would be seen as not normal and embarrassing, for example, if you were in a shopping centre and you started screaming and yelling as if you were at a sporting match, this would raise eyebrows and confusion, probably leading to the conclusion that something was wrong with that person. I also think that in today’s society with social media, emotions are much more ‘surface’ emotions as we never go into depth about how we feel and we make profiles look a certain way so other’s will have a good perception of us instead of really showing all the emotions we may feel throughout the day. Not only this, communication over devices instead of face to face interactions has made it much harder to read people’s emotions as they can be misinterpreted. #S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1230

Carley Phillips said : Guest Report 7 months ago

Emotions complex both in their formation and our expression of them. As evidenced by Ekman (2011), there are at least six basic emotions that we all express. However, most individuals experience these basic emotions in different intensities, or a mixture of multiple. These complexities can be depicted in Plutichik’s (1980) ‘colour wheel’ of emotion in which shows the different forms the basic emotions can take. This does not, however, explain how our emotions are formed socially (i.e. why we act a certain way in different social situations). Reflecting on my emotions, I know that I am between anxious and relieved, but I have no exact word for the feeling, other than to know it is not a basic emotion. This is an emotion that has been formed socially. I am anxious because I know that this post must be completed by a certain time, something that wouldn’t have occurred if it were not instilled into me through socialisation via family and schooling that deadlines must be met. I am also relieved as I know that this will be completed in time and so I will not be subjected to feelings of guilt and shame for not doing so. The social aspect of emotions can be explained by Wouters (2004) who explains Norbert Elias’s ideas that the way people displayed emotion is socially formed. Emotions are complex and ambiguous and are formed through our social interactions, not just what we are born with. #S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1230

Abby Tozer said : Guest Report 7 months ago

The complexity of emotion and the understanding of such, is indicative of the power societal discourse can have over mankind. Eckman (et a. 2011, pg. 365) proposed the idea that there are 6 basic emotions, evident from facial expression research amongst cultures, however, to build upon this we must understand the ambiguity of emotion. As discussed in the lecture, Kamper, somewhat furthers this by saying the greater variety of secondary emotions are socially derived. Personally, emotions are never a singular phenomenon, instead my emotions are dictated primarily by relations to those around me and the social setting the emotion is experienced in. As discussed by Burkitt (2002, pg. 159), ‘emotions… stem from relations between two or more people’, it seems only right to consider this point, that the social situation one experiences see emotions centred around interaction and expectation, thus creating complex socially constructed reactions to situations. Following on from this we must understand the idea that emotional expectation very much shapes the ‘cohesiveness’ of our society. As I write this I am sitting in a library, a quiet space, if I were to get an ambiguous and overwhelming feeling, it would not be socially acceptable to begin yelling and crying, but we must ask, why? Who has constructed these rules, that if broken, bring with them an intense feeling of shame and embarrassment? With this in mind, I believe the social influence, whether it be on basic or complex emotions, is of the utmost importance when analysing the emotional response of an individual. Finally, it is the complexity of emotion and ambiguity of what we feel, that proves the mind, body and society are connected in a way we will never completely be able to fathom. #S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1230

Serena Barsby said : Guest Report 7 months ago

When considering how the modern institutions of society today shape and assemble my emotions the most prominent example from my own personal experience is the actions my high school took to essentially prevent student’s basic emotions intensifying to become more complex emotions like Plutchik suggests via his colour wheel of emotions (1980). My high school followed suit of hospitals by painting the walls of every classroom a pale green that has become synonymous with medical centres. There is a science behind how colour affects people’s mood and emotions, with green specifically renowned for its calming affect on people. It would be safe to assume that my high school painted the walls green in an attempt to calm, relax and soothe the 4-6 basic universal emotions (especially anger) and to prevent them from developing into their resulting complex emotions. In the Cas Wouters essential reading this week, he suggests that “Manners have become more lenient, more differentiated and varied for a wider and more differentiated public…” in twentieth century society and that this in turn has created an acceptance and expectancy of a larger variety of emotional and behavioural responses (194, 2004). I mostly agree with Wouters that manners have become more lenient, but I disagree that different behavioural/ emotional responses are more accepted. I personally work in clothing retail which I believe attains a specific set of expectancies and etiquette from both the customer and me as the retail assistant. For example, I expect customers to be respectful of the clothes and the way that they have been folded, arranged and hung. When customers throw unwanted clothes on random racks or on the ground it angers me greatly. However, this anger doesn’t primarily come from the fact that I must clean up the mess that other people make. Most of my annoyance, anger, frustration comes keenly from the disregard that these specific customers have towards the etiquette of being in public and shopping as a customer which include being respectful and treating my store and clothes as they would their own home and belongings. From my perspective the unspoken social agreeance that everyone acts appropriately and respectively in public spheres is broken in such situations. I definitely think people expect a more varied behavioural and emotional responses from others in todays society but considering the example I have given, I believe there are still fixed, strong-held expectancies of etiquette and how people are expected to act and respond socially. It is this clash between acceptance and expectancy of varied responses from people which create complex emotional responses. #S344UOW18 #Tut3 #Mon1230

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