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This talk proposes that a central function of many emotions is to configure and reconfigure the relational positions of two or more social agents with respect to some intentional object. This process of relation alignment can proceed at two levels (often in parallel). At one level, there is implicit adjustment to the unfolding transaction on a moment-by-moment basis. At the second level, there is a more strategic presentation of a relational stance oriented to anticipated reactions from the other (and from the material environment). I contrast this relational approach to emotion with the appraisal account which sees emotions simply as reactions to apprehended relational meaning. In my view, appraisal often emerges as a consequence of the adoption of a relational stance rather than as its original cause. This distinction is illustrated with apparently anomalous examples of emotions such as embarrassment and guilt. Brian Parkinson lectures in social psychology at Oxford University, UK. His research focuses on how other people affect our emotions and on how our emotions affect other people. Current projects include investigations of relations and dissociations between explicit and implicit registration of emotion information (as part of the EC sponsored HUMAINE network of excellence), and of the role of social referencing in adult risk perceptions (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK). His books include Ideas and Realties of Emotion (1995), Changing Moods (1996) and Emotion in Social Relations (2005). He has served as Associate Editor for the journal Cognition and Emotion and is currently chief editor of the British Journal of Social Psychology. © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2006.


Conference paper

Publication Date



4133 LNAI