Sociological Introspection and Emotional Experience

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1991

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Although social constructionists now study emotions, they neglect what emotion feels like and how it is experienced. This paper argues that social constructionists can and should study how private and social experience are fused in felt emotions. Resurrecting introspection (conscious awareness of awareness or self-examination) as a systematic sociological technique will allow social constructionists to examine emotion as a product of the individual processing of meaning as well as socially shared cognitions. Examining introspection as a sociological process, this paper argues that introspection can generate interpretive materials from self and others useful for understanding the lived experience of emotions. Findings from four studies–one, self-introspective, and the other three, interactive introspective examinations with co-investigators–provide information about the subjective part of emotion. They demonstrate the advantages of introspection in dealing with the complex, ambiguous, and processual nature of emotional experience.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Symbolic Interaction, v. 14, issue 1, p. 23-50