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Emotions in the wild: The situated perspective on emotion

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  • Psychology/Psychiatry
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Psychology


This chapter describes a perspective on emotion, according to which emotions are: 1. Designed to function in a social context: an emotion is often an act of relationship reconfiguration brought about by delivering a social signal; 2. Forms of skillful engagement with the world which need not be mediated by conceptual thought; 3. Scaffolded by the environment, both synchronically in the unfolding of a particular emotional performance and diachronically, in the acquisition of an emotional repertoire; 4. Dynamically coupled to an environment which both influences and is influenced by the unfolding of the emotion We draw heavily on ‘transactional’ accounts of emotion proposed by some contemporary psychologists. Although these authors do not, to our knowledge, conceive their work as a contribution to the ‘situationist’ literature that is the focus of this volume, we contend that their proposals constitute a fairly exact, affective parallel to situationist ideas about cognition. The primary aim of this chapter is to demonstrate that a situated approach to emotion already exists and is backed by a substantial experimental literature.

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