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Jackie Eller and Andrea Eller

Subject Sociology » Social Problems, Sociological and Social Theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


How do sociologists theoretically and empirically study fear? A simple answer is that the literature can be divided into two rather broad and overlapping areas of emphasis: fear as an emotion and fear as a consequence of or motivation for social relations. While fear has its traditional roots in psychology, the sociological study of emotions draws on a rich heritage from theorists such as Durkheim, Mead, Cooley, Freud, Homans, and Goffman. It has been over the past 30 years that the sociology of emotions has emerged, emphasizing emotion as a crucial aspect of both micro- and macrosociological examinations of social reality. Although there is general agreement among sociologists that emotions (fear included) are socially constructed and made meaningful within sociohistorical contexts, there is also some disagreement as to the importance of including certain elements such as biological and cognitive processes in the sociological examination of emotions ( Barbalet 1998 , 2002; Turner & Stets 2005 ; Turner 2006 ). When sociologists examine fear as an emotion, they are in general consensus that it varies in interpretation and expression. But fear is also considered to be universal to the human experience, along with happiness, anger, and sadness. As a primary emotion, then, fear contributes to the experience of such secondary emotions as anxiety, shame, repulsion, and regret ( ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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