This week, prompted by great discussion on my guest post at Genealogy of Religion, I’ll be writing a series of posts on affect. Although some of my labmates and collaborators study affect, its not a topic I’ve studied in depth. I’ll be learning as I go, and I hope to hear from others about their approaches to affect.
Affect, of course, is a major component of human experience, something we experience from infancy until death — something the absence of which is a symptom of a psychological disorder, according to the major diagnostic tool in the US. Affect serves protective and social purposes for humans. Disgust helps us avoid harmful food or waste, and a baby’s distressed cry alerts his or her caregivers that it’s time to be fed. Affect is also an important aspect of religious experience, including in ritual.
Humans the world over experience affect, and the scientific perspectives on affect are almost as diverse as the people of the world. So I won’t attempt to define affect up front. Instead, I’ll discuss definitions as they are used by different theorists. I’ll be covering major theories and studies of affect, beginning with those of Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman.
As the posts go up, links to the series will be added here: