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However, while the image suggests a clean hierarchical structure, in reality non-adjacent layers interact in complex ways in the generation and regulation of affective processes. While emotion regulation is seen as a recent topic, most of the current empirical work in individuals goes straight back to Lazarus' notion of and empirical research on appraisal and reappraisal from the early 's e. With regard to expressive feedback Darwin wrote in the conclusion of Expression:. The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it. On the other hand, the repression, as far as this is possible, of all outward signs softens our emotions.

He who gives way to violent gestures will increase his rage; he who does not control the signs of fear will experience fear in a greater degree; and he who remains passive when overwhelmed with grief loses his best chance of recovering elasticity of mind. These results follow partly from the intimate relation which exists between almost all the emotions and their outward manifestations; and partly from the direct influence of exertion on the heart, and consequently on the brain. Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds , p. This is a rather remarkable list of proposals that foreshadow much of what current research on feedback and embodiment suggests.

However, later reviews were more positive that feedback effects from expression on subjective experience and physiology Adelman and Zajonc, ; McIntosh, exists and can be reliably demonstrated empirically. There is no doubt that Darwin held already the view that volitional modulation of emotion components—particularly expression, would lead to modulation of the other components. This view is often erroneously dated later, for example, linked to William James or other authors later in the 20th century.

Particular interest in recent years regarded how automatic emotion regulation processes might be e. I have argued in the past that these often cannot be distinguished Kappas, and specifically in discussing the case of auto-regulation in the case of negative emotions Kappas, a , b where the actions motivated by the emotion lead to its own termination by modifying the eliciting situation. Given that emotions typically involve a strong motivational component that involves modulation of the emotional state itself decrease, increase, change, prolong the current state , this is not surprising.

Whether or not a scientist wants to grant emotions the power to auto-regulate depends on how thin one slices the situation that is under study. Consider the following scenario: The child starts to cry. The parent gives in and postpones bed time by 15 min. The child stops sobbing and smiles through the tears.

For the sake of avoiding conceptual discussions about where the emotion here might be, I will frame this scenario for three different types of readers in three theoretical contexts: Based on the context and the interpretation of the situation, the parent, and possibly the child view this as an episode of sadness for a modern constructivist view see Barrett, In other words, the emotion auto-regulates itself by generating and modulating behaviors in both participants of the interaction.

To me this is an example of auto-regulation—and it also nicely segues into the section how emotion regulation is often social and does not often permit to distinguish generation and regulation processes. To be clear, I do not argue that all instances of emotion regulation could be reduced to auto-regulation. Instead, I hold that in many instances auto-regulation serves to terminate or modify the eliciting situation to self-terminate the emotion. In the case of pleasant states—positive emotions—there is a tendency to maintain or increase aspects of the situation to maximize pleasure.

The voluntary regulation via cognitive or behavioral routes is the exception if auto-regulation fails. For example, if going to the dentist induces anxiety then avoiding the dentist auto-regulates the anxiety in the moment. However, because this is dysfunctional in the long-term voluntary emotion regulation strategies are employed to follow through with the anxiogenic situation, unless the fear is too intense. This is a case where auto-regulation does not help the goals of the individual, but I believe that these situations are less frequent then typically held in the literature and that emotions take care of themselves, metaphorically speaking.

The neurocultural theory proposed by Ekman and his colleagues is particularly elegant in that it accounts for biological universals as well as cultural variants. I have argued earlier e. For example, if a given theory predicts that individual A, confronted with Situation S should show behavior X 1 then this should allow a simple empirical test of the theory: The theory might need revision.

However, this is not what happens frequently in emotion research apparently. All too often behavior X 2 is explained ex post facto as the consequence of variability in appraising S appraisal theory , or X 2 being the consequence of display rules e. I argue that if 1 display rules are potentially interfering with displays, and 2 a theory is primarily regarding the relationship of displays, feelings, and other emotional components, then 3 the rules must be part of what needs to be modeled.

Note, that the notion of display rules is an instance of social regulation of a component of emotion that is present in all social situations. In other words, there seems to be a large agreement that there are social rules governing displays in all social situations! If Fridlund is right, then there is always a social context that influences expressive behavior, even if humans are physically alone. This would mean that one cannot interpret any display without taking social regulation into account. There is no expressive behavior that is not affected by social regulation. Furthermore, if feeling rules exist Hochschild, , , then we are almost constantly affected by beliefs of what is proper and what is not.

In fact, Scherer has embedded a comparison with social and own norms into his popular Component Process Model of emotion. According to this theory, every event, every situation, is also evaluated with regard to social norms. Taking these theoretical approaches seriously implies that the social aspect cannot be divorced from studying any emotion generation see also Parkinson, If regulating displays, be they facial, vocal, or postural, impacts subjective experience and physiology, then automatic or effortful regulation in the sense of display rules will also affect other emotional components.

For example, if a culture holds that boys do not cry then this will via feedback processes impact feeling and physiological arousal. This is why it is important to conceive of emotions as embodied processes. Even if the effect sizes of such influences might be small, they might tip systems to go into particular states if they are not at a steady state.

How can the social regulation then be denied to be part and parcel of all affective processes? Communication pathways are indicated in black, expressive regulatory pathways in blue. Yellow arrows indicate erroneously perceived displays, for example due to stereotypes and expectations. The intersection symbolizes the situationally shared context including all aspects that affect transmission, such as distance or noise.

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If there are mimicry and imitation processes in interaction regardless of the role of mirror neurons; see Decety, ; also Parkinson, and these in turn affect how we feel—again, it is not conceivable to imagine emotional processes in interaction that would not be potentially affected by social processes. Based on the notion of implicit sociality we can assume that even participants who are physically alone in an experiment are subject to social influences and like a free monadic radical will link to whatever social synapse that is available, e.

Similarly, there is no situation in which an individual could be non-cultural. Instead, there are likely situational features that can prime and shape how culture affects mental processes and behavior. But we are always embedded in a cultural and social context. In many settings more complex interaction topologies exist.

Social regulation of emotion: messy layers

Seven hypothetical individuals interact in a communication structure that involves several dyads and triads—for example in the context of a party. The color of the context circle suggests here two different groups participating. Hence, some interactants share a more similar context than others. The social regulation of emotions is a messy affair to analyze. It is all too easy to capitulate and argue that there is, speaking exaggeratedly, simply no sense in considering everything that ever happened as a cause of emotion and regulation. This sounds like a reasonable comment. However, the question is where one should delineate the boundaries of episodes in a way that we can really describe, explain, and possibly intervene in real life situations.

Layers are messy because they are not organized like an onion. Different layers of emotions and different layers of regulation interact in complex ways—whether this is the impact of cultural display rules on intraindividual regulatory processes via facial feedback or the fact that family-idiosyncratic use of facial gestures interacts with cultural rules when visiting another country.

Nowhere perhaps is the situation as complex as when interpersonal communication and mass-communication intermingle in cyberspace. Here e-communities come into being, develop new rules of n etiquette that are constantly in flux and that cause easily miscommunication. Sudden flaming wars can easily erupt based on the subjective experience of being insulted without any bad intention. In the past, such misunderstandings would be considered a case of codes that are not shared between all participants.

However, considering the dynamic unfolding of the emotional exchanges online can be seen as an instance of a complex, multipersonal interaction with different goals on the one hand, and different effects on the other. Certainly, there is much to do here, because of the ubiquity of mediated communication that is rather increasing than decreasing in years to come. Social regulation is one important facet of auto-regulation in that expressive behavior not only informs others, it moves them to do something, it biases their decisions, in this sense, negative emotions can impact others with the consequence of these emotions being terminated, as in getting support, or positive emotional states can impact others to reinforce themselves, as in amusement or desire.

In this sense we are always embedded in social networks with different life-cycles from the life-time of a family, to the brief minutes of a shared bus ride where emotions are generated, moderated, regenerated, terminated, or reinforced as a function of how individuals affect each other in socio-cultural fields. It is because of this, that social layers should not and cannot be ignored in emotion research and that if the function of emotions involve their own regulation then generation and regulation of emotion are difficult to separate.

Scenarios such as this appear messy because they do not easily lend themselves to the isolation of causes and effects that clean experimentation demands. However, they might help to understand the limitations of much of present emotion research, such as the challenges of low coherence between emotion components and the relationship of phenomena studied in the laboratory and those observed in the real world.

I argue that there are many reasons to consider emotions not only a property of individual brains or bodies but of couples, families, cliques, teams, clubs, parties, companies, or e-communities. In my mind, this is one way in which emotions can be social. To study these types of emotions it is useful to take an interdisciplinary approach and collaborate with disciplines that naturally deal not with individuals, but with larger aggregates von Scheve and von Luede, In this view, it is natural that social forces are generative and modulating—in other words, the elicitation and the regulation of emotions are difficult to separate see also Gross and Barrett, I have made this argument before in the context of individual emotions e.

Typical counter arguments involve cases where generation and regulation can be somewhat cleanly separated Gross et al. However, I do not argue that all instances of emotion that we observe, whatever the mix of dependent measures is used, must be clearly linked to regulation. Because of this, theories of emotion should include these layers of regulation to permit the type of empirical testing that is necessary for a theory to be scientific. If any emotion theory is leaving regulation outside of their scope, there is no possibility to conduct proper tests regarding its validity.

My colleagues and I have tried to achieve this either by manipulating social context in the laboratory, or by branching out into cyberspace and trying to assess the emotional behavior of large aggregates of individuals in e-communities Chmiel et al. Dealing with nested layers is messy because all layers can potentially influence emotional components e. Research programs are required that can attempt to disambiguate the interaction of these layers.

On the one hand, in the context of social neuroscience, there is much discussion of how to deal with the mutual interrelations of different layers e. On the other hand, as we start to deal with networks of people, we also need different ideas how to deal with these dynamic systems, and this calls for the science of complex systems e.

Combining these two approaches might be particularly fruitful in disambiguating the messy layers of emotion and emotion regulation. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Part of this research was supported by a European Union grant in the context of the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 3: Science of complex systems for socially intelligent ICT. It is part of the CyberEmotions project contract National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Published online Feb Manstead, Cardiff University, UK. Received Jul 31; Accepted Jan This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Emotions are evolved systems of intra- and interpersonal processes that are regulatory in nature, dealing mostly with issues of personal or social concern. Social regulation of emotion: Where is the emotion? The social nature of emotion Darwin's contribution to the concept of social functions of displays and feelings Central to any discussion on the social nature of emotion is expressive behavior. The development of emotions in face-to-face and mediated social interaction Darwin already hinted at the possibility of a joint process of emotion elicitation in the interaction of mother and infant.

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Open in a separate window. Interpersonal emotions Above I argued that we could think of instances, where the emotion process should be located in the body as a whole. With regard to expressive feedback Darwin wrote in the conclusion of Expression: The social regulation of emotions The neurocultural theory proposed by Ekman and his colleagues is particularly elegant in that it accounts for biological universals as well as cultural variants.

Summary I argue that there are many reasons to consider emotions not only a property of individual brains or bodies but of couples, families, cliques, teams, clubs, parties, companies, or e-communities. Conflict of interest statement The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Acknowledgments Part of this research was supported by a European Union grant in the context of the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 3: Facial efference and the experience of emotion. The future of social constructivism: Social cognitive theory of mass communication , in Media Effects: Routledge; , 94— Barrett L.

Social regulation of emotion: messy layers

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The concept of visual competence as seen from the perspective of the psychological and brain sciences. Status, Power, and Ritual Interaction: The short-circuiting of threat by experimentally altering cognitive appraisal. Towards a cognitive theory of emotion , in Feelings and Emotions: The Loyola Symposium ed Arnold M. Academic Press; , — Lazarus R. Stress, Appraisal and Coping. Effects of reading on knowledge, social abilities, and selfhood , in Directions in Empirical Literary Studies: Benjamins; , — Matsumoto D. Psychology Press; , — Mauss I. Compass 1 , — Mauss I.

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