Are Emotions Socially Constructed?

Jesse Prinz

Modern emotion research was heavily influenced by Darwin, and subsequent efforts to show that emotions are universal recognized and grounded in physiological responses.  Against this, there have been some efforts to show that emotions vary across-cultures, suggesting that a purely biological view won’t suffice.  In the 1970s this led to the rise of social constructionist theories and these have recently been reformulated, backed by elaborate empirical critiques of studies linking emotions to physiological changes.  Both old and new constructionists have tried to sever the connection between emotions and the body, suggesting that disembodied concepts are the source of emotional meaning.  Here an alternative biocultural model is proposed that takes embodiment seriously and characterizes the body as a locus of social influence.