9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Emotions & Ethics Building II, C6.10

What kinds of norms are "emotion norms"? Steps towards a taxonomy

In the scientific literature, "emotion norms" (or "feeling rules") are treated surprisingly ambiguous: sometimes as specific kinds of social norms, i.e. cognitive representations of what ought or ought not to be, their distinctiveness being the precise reference to components of emotion, e.g. motor-expression or subjective feeling. In this case, emotion norms explicitly demarcate instances in which emotions or specific components of emotion should or should not occur. On the other hand, emotion norms are invoked as more general explanations for the social and cultural construction of emotions. In this case, they are assumed to somehow shape emotional experience and cover an array emotion-related behaviors, e.g. the valuation or social sharing of emotion.
This ambiguity is surprising, since there is a variety of sophisticated concepts of norms, for example in sociology and philosophy, that can further inform emotion research. In this contribution, I discuss some of these conceptions and explore how they can eventually contribute to a more complete understanding of how norms and emotions go together. First, I will focus on the injunctive character of emotion norms and draw on the distinction between social and moral norms, thus exploring the question of the conditionality of emotion norms, i.e. whether they can be categorized along a continuum of moral-unconditional to socially-conditional. Second, I will focus on the descriptive aspects of emotion norms and also examine related constructs such as emotional habits and conventions. Third, I will discuss some peculiarities of the compliance with and the enforcement of emotion norms, as compared to other norms, which are assumed to be rooted in the internalization and the evolutionary and behavioral control functions of emotion.