Learning Personality, Morality, and Emotions

Sociology of Emotion

The sociology of emotions applies sociological theorems and techniques to the study of human emotions.

Learning Objectives

Examine the origins of the sociology of emotions through the work of Marx, Weber, and Simmel, and its development by T. David Kemper, Arlie Hochschild, Randall Collins, and David R. Heise

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Emotions impact society on both the micro level (everyday social interactions ) and the macro level ( social institutions, discourses, and ideologies ).
  • Ethnomethodology revealed emotional commitments to everyday norms through purposeful breaching of the norms.
  • We try to regulate our emotions to fit in with the norms of the situation, based on many, and sometimes conflicting demands upon us.

Key Terms

  • ethnomethodology: An academic discipline that attempts to understand the social orders people use to make sense of the world through analyzing their accounts and descriptions of their day-to-day experiences.
  • The sociology of emotions: The sociology of emotion applies sociological theorems and techniques to the study of human emotions.

The sociology of emotions applies sociological theorems and techniques to the study of human emotions. As sociology emerged, primarily as a reaction to the negative affects of modernity, many normative theories deal in some sense with “emotion” without forming a part of any specific subdiscipline: Marx described capitalism as detrimental to personal “species-being,” Simmel wrote of the deindividualizing tendencies of “the metropolis,” and Weber’s work dealt with the rationalizing effect of modernity in general.

Emotions operate on both micro and macro levels. On the micro level, social roles, norms, and feeling rules structure’s everyday social interactions. On a macro level, these same emotional processes structure social institutions, discourses, and ideologies. We try to regulate our emotions to fit in with the norms of the situation, based on many, and sometimes conflicting demands upon us. Systematic observations of group interaction found that a substantial portion of group activity is devoted to the socio-emotional issues of expressing affect and dealing with tension. Simultaneously, field studies of social attraction in groups revealed that feelings of individuals about each other collate into social networks, a discovery that still is being explored in the field of social network analysis.

Ethnomethodology revealed emotional commitments to everyday norms through purposeful breaching of the norms. In one study, a sociologist sent his students home and instructed them to act as guests rather than family members. Students reported others’ astonishment, bewilderment, shock, anxiety, embarrassment, and ange and family members accused the students of being mean, inconsiderate, selfish, nasty, or impolite.

Important theories and theoreticians relating to the sociology of emotion include:

  • T. David Kemper: He proposed that people in social interaction have positions on two relational dimensions: status and power. Emotions emerge as interpersonal events, change or maintain individuals’ status and power.
  • Arlie Hochschild: She proposed that individuals manage their feelings to produce acceptable displays according to ideological and cultural standards.
  • Peggy Thoits: She divided emotion management techniques into implementation of new events and reinterpretation of past events. Thoits noted that emotions also can be managed with drugs, by performing faux gestures and facial expressions, or by cognitive reclassifications of one’s feelings.
  • Thomas J. Scheff: He established that many cases of social conflict are based on a destructive and often escalating, but stoppable and reversible shame-rage cycle–when someone results or feels shamed by another, their social bond comes under stress.
  • Randall Collins: He stated that emotional energy is the main motivating force in social life, for love and hatred, investing, working or consuming, and rendering cult or waging war.
  • David R. Heise. He developed the Affect Control Theory, which proposes that social actions are designed by their agents to create impressions that befit sentiments reigning in a situation.

For more information on emotions, watch this video:

Emotions: Dr. Véronique Tran explains what emotions are and how they are linked to social interactions and social norms.

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Social Significance of Emotion: The sociology of emotion suggests that individual emotional reactions, such as this girl’s happiness and excitement, impact social interactions and institutions.

Informal Social Control

Social control refers to societal processes that regulate individual and group behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of the difference between informal and formal means of social control

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Informal control typically involves an individual internalizing certain norms and values. This process is known as socialization.
  • Formal means of social control typically involve the state. External sanctions are enforced by the government to prevent chaos, violence, or anomie in society. Some theorists, such as Émile Durkheim, refer to this form of control as regulation.
  • The social values present in individuals are products of informal social control, exercised implicitly by a society through particular customs, norms, and mores. Individuals internalize the values of their society, whether conscious or not of this indoctrination.
  • Contemporary Western society uses shame as one modality of control, but its primary dependence rests on guilt, and, when that does not work, the criminal justice system.

Key Terms

  • conformity: the ideology of adhering to one standard or social uniformity
  • sanction: a penalty, or some coercive measure, intended to ensure compliance; especially one adopted by several nations, or by an international body
  • compliance: the tendency of conforming with or agreeing to the wishes of others

Social Control

Social control refers to societal and political mechanisms that regulate individual and group behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social control – informal control and formal control.

Formal Control

Formal social control typically involves the state. External sanctions are enforced by the government to prevent chaos, violence, or anomie in society. An example of this would be a law preventing individuals from committing theft. Some theorists, like Émile Durkheim, refer to this type of control as regulation.

Informal Control

Informal control typically involves an individual internalizing certain norms and values. This process is called socialization. The social values present in individuals are products of informal social control, exercised implicitly by a society through particular customs, norms, and mores. Individuals internalize the values of their society, whether conscious or not of this indoctrination.

Informal sanctions may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, and disapproval, which can cause an individual to conform to the social norms of the society. In extreme cases, sanctions may include social discrimination, exclusion, and violence. Informal social control has the potential to have a greater impact on an individual than formal control. When social values become internalized, they become an aspect of an individual’s personality.

Informal sanctions check ‘deviant’ behavior. An example of a negative sanction is depicted in a scene in ‘The Wall,’ a film by Pink Floyd. In this scene, a young protagonist is ridiculed and verbally abused by a high school teacher for writing poetry in a mathematics class. Another example occurs in the movie ‘About a Boy. ” In this film, a young boy hesitates to jump from a high springboard and is ridiculed for his fear. Though he eventually jumps, his behaviour is controlled by shame, not by his internal desire to jump.

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Informal means of control: At funerals, people tend to comport themselves to look as if they are grieving, even if they did not know the person who passed away. This is example of a social situation controlling an individual’s emotions.