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How Many Emotions Are There? Wedding the Social and the Autonomic Components

Theodore D. Kemper
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 93, No. 2 (Sep., 1987), pp. 263-289
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2779585
Page Count: 27
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How Many Emotions Are There? Wedding the Social and the Autonomic Components
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Abstract

Fundamental in the field of emotions is the question of how many emotion there are or there can be. The answer proposed here is that the number of possible emotions is limites. As long as society differentiates new social situations, labels them, and socializes individuals to experience them, new emotions will continue to emerge. But this view must be qualified by an understanding of the autonomic constraints that limit variability in the experience of emotions. It is argued here that there are four psychologically grounded primary emotions: fear, anger, depression, and satisfaction. They are evolutionarily important, cross-culturally universal, ontogenetically early to emerge, and link empirically with important outcomes of social relations. Secondary emotions, such as guilt, shame, pride, gratitude, love, nostalgia, ennui, and so forth, are acquired through socializing agents who define and label such emotions while the individual is experiencing the autonomic reactions of one of the "primaries." Hence, it is argued here, guilt is a socialized response to arousal of the physiological conditions of fear; shame to those of anger; pride to those of satisfaction; and so on. This integration of primary with secondary emotions incorporates the contributions of both positivist and social constructionist positions in the sociology of emotions.

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