Affect and affordances: The role of action and emotion in social interaction

Thomas Wiben Jensen*, Sarah Bro Pedersen

*Kontaktforfatter for dette arbejde

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In adopting new theoretical advancements within cognitive science,
emotion studies, and ecological psychology, this paper explores how the notion
of affordances gains strength and explanatory power by being linked to the
notions of affect and emotion. In doing so, it is claimed that the notions of direct
perception and affordances can be used to analyse and understand the trajectory
of fast and on-going choices that underlies human interaction as an ecological
alternative to the micro-sociological perspective of Conversation Analysis.
This perspective is laid out in in-depth analyses of three real-life examples from
three different organizational settings: an emergency ward at a hospital, a
school for children with special needs, and a kindergarten. Inherent in each
setting one finds a pre-defined set of expectations of how specific actions are
carried out by the participants to achieve organizational goals. However, in each
example, slightly different and surprising actions are accomplished during
the on-going interaction. As the participants engage in the task, they use the
affordances of the environment – including other individuals – differently,
which highlights the complicated nature of affordances in relation to social
interaction. The situations all entertain a number of potential affordances; yet
only one (or at least few) is enacted. It is argued that this choice – a pull towards
certain aspects at the expense of others – is saturated by emotionality and
affective involvement. Finally, these findings are used to illustrate how emotion
and cognition can be re-thought, not as distinct processes, but as intertwined in
an organism-environment-system.

emotion, inter-affectivity, affordances, direct perception, social
interaction, embodied cognition, ecological psychology, decision-making,
TidsskriftCognitive Semiotics
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)79-103
StatusUdgivet - 31. maj 2016

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