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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

21 - Emotion Norms, Emotion Work, and Social Order



The social origins and functions of emotion norms are examined. Emotion norms both reflect and sustain the social structures in which they develop. Individuals undergo emotional socialization and are subject to pressures to conform, especially adults in service and professional jobs, who actively manage reactions that violate social expectations. Efforts at emotional conformity help to sustain the social order, maintain hierarchy, and build solidarity. Emotional deviants are usually stigmatized and subjected to social control, but under some conditions they can become agents of social change.

An experiment by Dutton and Aron (1974) is often used in psychology textbooks to illustrate the role of cognition in emotional experience. The study was intended to demonstrate that physiological arousal can be misattributed to the wrong cause. Men who were approached by an attractive experimenter after crossing a suspension bridge over a deep gorge were more likely to indicate romantic or sexual interest in the experimenter, in contrast to men who had crossed a low wooden bridge over a stream. Dutton and Aron concluded, consistent with Schachter's two-factor theory of emotion (Schachter & Singer, 1962), that emotions are in part determined by available cognitive cues, not by physiological reactions alone.

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Feelings and Emotions
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