6 - Self-processes and emotional experiences  pp. 123-142

Self-processes and emotional experiences

By Morris Rosenberg

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In recent years there has been a veritable explosion of interest in the emotions among social scientists. Sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists are all involved in this intellectual ferment. Sociocultural processes have been shown to play a major role in the formation and expression of the emotions (e.g., Gordon, 1990; Hochschild, 1979, 1983; Thoits, 1985). The aim of this chapter is to show how processes centering on the self can add to our understanding of the emotional lives of human beings.

Reflexivity and emotions

By self-processes, I refer to all the processes involving the self as the object of its own cognition and regulation (Rosenberg, 1990). These processes are features of human reflexivity, that is, phenomena in which the subject and object have the same referent. By virtue of reflexivity, the human being is able to adopt a “third-party” perspective on the self. When one views oneself as an object, one looks at oneself from the outside, observing oneself as one might observe any other object in the world.

All cognitive processes (e.g., attention, classification, evaluation, judgment, reasoning) whose content involves any feature of the self are expressions of cognitive reflexivity. Human reflexivity is also expressed in the control or regulation of the self, called agentive reflexivity (Rosenberg, 1990). Just as human beings strive to affect the external environment in order to meet their needs, so do they strive to produce intentional effects upon the self. Cognitive reflexivity and agentive reflexivity are the chief self-processes.