A post-paradigmatic approach to analysing emotions in social life

Scholars studying emotions in social life typically work mono-logically, within a paradigmatic camp, drawing on distinct theories of emotion. In isolation, each offers a singular conceptualisation of emotions in social life. Working multi-logically, in contrast, offers richer, comparative insight into the layered meanings of emotion relevant to a social context. Rather than treating them as incommensurate, we not only argue for the benefits of drawing on multiple paradigms, methods and theories of emotions in social life, we offer a worked example of a post-paradigmatic methodology for analysing emotions in social life that values multilogicality and epistemic flexibility. Setting aside debates about what emotions are, we work from the premise that different conceptualisations of emotions do things: shape what we see and ignore, and discursively position people. We show how multiple theories and concordant methods can – and should – be applied to studying emotions in social life in the same study. In this empirical illustration of a methodological innovation, we map theories and methodologies of emotions in social life against four research paradigms and against four phases of a study into the emotional dimensions of interprofessional practice, depicting the realisations afforded through a post-paradigmatic methodology for analysing emotions in social life.

Key words emotion • qualitative research • sociological research methods • philosophy of research

In our post-paradigmatic research into the emotional dimensions of IPP, we observed and videoed clinicians during IPP case conference meetings over several weeks using video cameras positioned outward from four points at the centre of the room. Using the software package eMotient (iMotions, 2018), we analysed the videos of clinician faces to identify expressions associated with seven emotions: joy, anger, surprise, fear, contempt, sadness and disgust. In studying emotions in social interactions, this software helped to identify when emotions were and were not shared among clinicians during meetings. After identifying a moment of shared emotion, we then created corresponding video-clips, varying in length from seconds to minutes, which captured the complete emotional event. Some of our resulting video-clips begin and end with discussion and shared emotions about one or more patients; others splice together relevant themes appearing at different points throughout the meeting.

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