Chapter 3: Basic Emotion Theory and Social Constructivist Theory
The social constructivist perspective views emotions as learned constructs. Broadly, this view believes emotions are caused by the culture in which we are raised. But, more specifically, environmental causes of emotions could be our parents’ rearing strategies, relationship experiences, gender roles, and even the media.
Video on Differences in Emotion Expression in Eastern and Western Cultures
Social constructivists highlight the fact that languages include a varying number of emotion words. For instance, the English language contains about 500 to 2,000 emotions words, whereas the Ifaluk (Western Pacific) language contains only 50 emotions words. Further, languages include different words to describe emotional experiences that are not translatable to other languages (see Table 2 below).
Definitions of Emotion Words According to Each Language
a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
|Danish||Hygge||an intimate feeling associated with sitting around a fire in the winter with close friends|
|German||Sehnsucht||a desire for alternative states and realizations of life, even if they are unattainable|
the feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods, and a connectedness to nature
positive feeling when anticipating success
the anticipation you feel when waiting for someone (as demonstrated by repeatedly going outside to check if they have arrived)
a “dark, desolate sublimity” centered on the state of lasting only for a short time; imperfection in beauty
|Russian||Tocka||a great spiritual anguish, often with no cause; a longing with nothing to long for|
|Scottish (old)||Misslie||alone, lonely, and/or solitary because of the absence of some usual companion|
|Tagalog||Gigil||the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are cute or cherished|
the uneasy feeling you get when someone goes out of their way to help you, but you know it is a hassle
For more cross-cultural differences in emotions words, check out these two British of Psychological Society (BPS) articles:
- The first article can be found here
- And this article from the British Psychological Society reviews a 2019 study in Science.
The final evidence from language is that over time, some emotion words have been removed from languages all together, suggesting the emotions are not adaptive but instead are no longer felt! For example, in the 13th century, the English language included a term “accidie,” which was an emotion experienced when men believed they disappointed God.