Peer Reviewed

Language of emotion is vague

A researcher from the University of California – Santa Barbara has found that definition of emotions such as shame and pride have remained vague as our society treats emotion as a negligible and largely destructive matter.

“Emotion terms, especially in English, are wildly ambiguous,” said researcher Thomas Scheff.

“This paper is a first step towards correcting the chaotic nature of the language of emotion,” Scheff pointed out, noting that emotions only make trouble when they are obstructed.

Using grief as an example, he pointed out that in scientific literature other words, such as “distress” and “sadness” are used to describe grief and the absence of decisive definitions are an impediment to creating common meaning.

In order to delineate first steps toward clarity, Scheff included a chart of emotional models supporting the idea that emotions are bodily preparation for action that have been delayed.

Image Credit: Qualitative Inquiry
Image Credit: Qualitative Inquiry
“Shame is a signal that you feel rejected and not accepted just as you are. Pride is a signal that you feel accepted just as you are,” he said.

Scheff examined the basic emotions of grief, fear/anxiety, anger, shame and pride as they appear in scientific literature in an attempt to take a first step in defining them.

“But because emotions are hidden in modern societies, we are like actors on a stage, acting instead of doing what we think we should do,” the researcher noted.

The study was published in the journal Qualitative Inquiry.

more recommended stories