Evaluating by feeling
The rhetorical design of emotions in the practice of mirroring
Thomas Wiben Jensen |
Center for Social Practices and Cognition, University of Southern Denmark
Through the use of a combination of methods from discursive psychology (DP) and conversation analysis (CA), this article investigates how emotions are used interactionally to evaluate social action and how in turn social actions can be evaluated as emotional in nature. The data for the analyses are recordings from couple therapy in which mirroring is a prevalent technique, i.e. one client formulates his/her experience about problematic issues in the relationship and the spouse reformulates in their own words. In this process a central interactional phenomenon is the action of doing an emotional evaluation of what has just been said. The analyses show that this social action is carried out in two different ways in the data. The first works by ascribing a ‘cognitive explanation’ to an emotional utterance; the second works the other way round by ascribing an emotional value to a description of action. The most prevalent form of discourse has one part applying different kinds of causal explanation or rationale to an emotional utterance. The other way of doing an emotional evaluation is more subtle and less frequent. In it participants recognize and treat descriptions of problematic actions as indices of emotional states of mind. All in all the article pinpoints various social conceptualizations of emotions and the way they are used collaboratively as interactional tools for performing different kinds of social actions.