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Emotion As A Social Function Essay

1447 words - 6 pages

Emotion is a complex construct that has been explored for many years, yet there is still much to be learned regarding this multifaceted phenomenon. Given the pivotal role that emotion plays in our everyday lives, scholars have demonstrated a continued interest in describing and understanding its functional and structural properties. At its most basic level, emotion is referred to as a positive or negative response towards a given stimulus, which is accompanied by cognitive, behavioral, and physiological characteristics (Carlson, 2013). Although emotions are often perceived to be feelings rather than behaviors, it is often the behavioral mechanisms rather than personal feelings that have adaptive and reproductive significance (Carlson, 2013). In essence, emotion serves as a regulatory mechanism of daily interactions and social relations (Algoe, Fredrickson, & Gable, 2013; Keltner & Haidt, 1999).
Emotion as a Social Function
From a social perspective, emotions address the goal of relational survival at the “individual, dyadic, group, and cultural level” (Keltner & Haidt, 1999, p. 505). Primarily, emotion serves a function for the interpersonal relationship; however, emotions may serve a social function on the individual level as well (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). Specifically, emotional experiences allow individuals to assign meaning to their social interactions (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). For example, feelings of love may indicate one’s personal degree of commitment towards another individual (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). In addition to affective appraisal, the cognitive and physiological processes that accompany emotion prepare individuals for necessary action (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). This process begins at the autonomic level and involves cardiac response, smooth muscle movement, and glandular stimulation (Carlson, 2013). Particularly, the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system alerts an individual through the elevation of blood pressure and release of epinephrine (Carlson, 2013). Consequently, an individual is equipped to respond as needed.
Emotion Regulation
These physiological processes tend to elicit a subsequent behavioral response in the context of social interaction (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). In this regard, the reaction of one individual is likely to initiate a response from another, which results in an intricate pattern of communication involving a back and forth process of appraisal and reaction (Lopes, Salovey, Côté, Beers, & Petty, 2005). Accordingly, being able to regulate one’s emotions is directly related to the merit of one’s social functioning capacity (Lopes et al., 2005). Emotion regulation may seem like a simple task, however, it involves numerous strategies that may lead to both positive and negative outcomes (Gross, 2002). For example, the antecedent-focused strategy is one in which an individual aims to regulate their behavioral or physiological response prior to the full activation of an emotion (Gross, 2002). Another...

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