The Social Nature of Emotions location:Amsterdam date:30-31 May 2013
Traditionally, affect has been studied as an individual-level phenomenon. However, recent attention has focused on group emotions, with the understanding that these emotions can be generated through social interaction. Little is known about the process by which group-level emotions are generated. In this study, we investigated the emergence of group-level emotions longitudinally from the inception of task groups. We were particularly interested in the role of group norms on emotions.
We followed 295 students of 68 task groups at four times in 13 weeks. To test the dynamics between emotion norms and emotional experience, we used multi-level cross-lagged path analyses. The research focused on gratitude and anger, because these emotions regulate social interactions: Gratitude credits other people for good outcomes, improving harmony, whereas anger blames other people for bad outcomes, creating conflict.
We found that group members’ gratitude and anger informed their norms for these emotions, such that increases in individual-level gratitude or anger respectively rendered gratitude more obvious, and anger more acceptable; these emotion norms in turn afforded group-level emotional experience. Our results thus suggest that emotion norms emerge from the emotional experience of group members, and that emotion norms themselves shape group members’ emotional experience.