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Social regulation of emotion: messy layers

Emotions are evolved systems of intra- and interpersonal processes that are regulatory in nature, dealing mostly with issues of personal or social concern. They regulate social interaction and in extension, the social sphere. In turn, processes in the social sphere regulate emotions of individuals and groups. In other words, intrapersonal processes project in the interpersonal space, and inversely, interpersonal experiences deeply influence intrapersonal processes. Thus, I argue that the concepts of emotion generation and regulation should not be artificially separated. Similarly, interpersonal emotions should not be reduced to interacting systems of intraindividual processes. Instead, we can consider emotions at different social levels, ranging from dyads to large scale e-communities. The interaction between these levels is complex and does not only involve influences from one level to the next. In this sense the levels of emotion/regulation are messy and a challenge for empirical study. In this article, I discuss the concepts of emotions and regulation at different intra- and interpersonal levels. I extend the concept of auto-regulation of emotions (Kappas, 2008, 2011a,b) to social processes. Furthermore, I argue for the necessity of including mediated communication, particularly in cyberspace in contemporary models of emotion/regulation. Lastly, I suggest the use of concepts from systems dynamics and complex systems to tackle the challenge of the “messy layers.”

Arvid Kappas
Arvid Kappas
Jacobs University Bremen
Key research interests:

Expressive behavior in social context (often measured using facial EMG) :: Perception of emotion :: Appraisals :: Physiological responses associated with affective processes :: Empathy and facial feedback :: Psychological underpinnings of the uncanny valley :: Collective emotions in Cyberspace :: Face-to-face communication over the Internet :: Emotional reactions to press photography :: Social neuroscience

Kappas Social Regulation Emotion Frontiers 2013.pdf — PDF document, 1738Kb

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