Emotion in Social Relations: Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes

Emotion in Social Relations: Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes

Emotion in Social Relations: Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes

Emotion in Social Relations: Cultural, Group, and Interpersonal Processes


Within psychology, emotion is often treated as something private and personal. In contrast, this book tries to understand emotion from the 'outside' by examining the everyday social settings in which it operates. Three levels of social influence are considered in decreasing order of inclusiveness, starting with the surrounding culture and subculture, moving on to the more delimited organization or group, and finally focusing on the interpersonal setting. At all these levels, emotion is influenced by social factors and has an impact on the way social life proceeds. For example, there are no direct equivalents in many cultures for some of the particular forms of emotion experienced in Western societies, suggesting that not all aspects of emotion are universal or biologically determined. Further, our various social identifications and allegiances partly determine what is emotionally relevant in a situation and how we respond to ingroup and outgroup members' emotions. Finally, emotions are usually occasioned by things that other people say, do, or have done to them, and often change the way interaction with those others proceeds. The book provides a critical review of existing theory and research on these topics from a social psychological perspective, and develops its own distinctive approach by recontextualising emotion in an integrated cultural, organisational and relational world.


If you knew any of us from another time or place, in a different context, you may well not fully recognize the positions we take here. This collective project has changed us for now or for good, for better or worse, in all kinds of ways. Even our voices sound different. By some strange ventriloquism, we opened our mouths and heard one of the others speaking (or at least ran our fingers across the keyboard and read someone else's phrasing on the screen).

Of course, none of this happened instantly. Although consensus was intended from the start, it sometimes required a few back-and-forth exchanges to arrive. And even then it didn't always seem stable. Like emotions, opinions, judgments, and explanations adjust, and adjust to, the unfolding social relations that surround them.

To start at the beginning (or at least one version of it), Agneta and Tony convened a symposium on social aspects of emotion at the 1999 conference of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology in Oxford. We all met for lunch afterward. This was where the structure of this book first took shape-over chips, chops, pies, and burgers at Browns on Woodstock Road. Instead of taking individual experiences as the primary phenomenon, the idea was that we would start from the most inclusive social processes relating to society and culture and zoom in on emotion, taking in group and interpersonal factors on the way. That structure is one of the few things that remain from that original discussion.

A lot of things have happened in the mean time. All of us have new jobs or work roles. Tony moved from Amsterdam to Cambridge, Brian moved from Brunel to Oxford, Agneta was made Head of Department. Tw o of us had babies. The transitions we made set back our schedules but also gave us time and space to refine and reformulate ideas. We met up at conferences and during vacations in Winchester, San Sebastian, Cuenca, and Amsterdam. Imagine us sitting inside or outside, in a restaurant or bar, arguing the toss or in fervent agreement over coffee or beer. Tony's gentle corrections, Agneta's direct criticism or endorsement,

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