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What Are Emotional Mechanisms?

Online event - Zoom
Thursday 17 December 2020 (10:00-11:00)

Dr. Tereza Capelos (

The ICCS Working Group International Political Psychology is hosting a seminar by Mikko Salmela titled ‘What Are Emotional Mechanisms’. 

Presenter: Mikko Salmela (University of Copenhagen/University of Helsinki)

Discussant: Gavin B. Sullivan (International Psychoanalytic University Berlin & Coventry University) 

Chair: Tereza Capelos (University of Birmingham, ICCS Director)

In this presentation Mikko Salmela will offer an account of emotional mechanisms (EMs), discussed in his paper with Alessandro Salice (Cork/Copenhagen). EMs are claimed to be personal, often unconscious, distinctively patterned, mental processes whereby an emotion of a given type is transmuted into an emotion of a different type. After some preliminary considerations about emotions as felt evaluations, we identify three families of emotional mechanisms. These processes are set in motion when a given emotion (e.g., envy, shame, or anger) generates feelings of inferiority and/or impotence in the subject resulting in a negative sense of self. These feelings prompt an evaluative reappraisal of the emotion’s intentional target. Based on the reappraisal, the subject comes to feel a second emotion of a different type, which does not generate feelings of inferiority and/or impotence. Importantly, the second emotion entails a psychological disposition to be collectivized: the subject seeks for confirmation of the revised evaluation by sharing the outcome emotion of the process with others. We argue that these features set EMs apart from other emotion regulatory processes.

Mikko Salmela is an Associate Professor at the Center for Subjectivity Research, University of Copenhagen in an ERC-funded research project “Who are We”, and an Adjunct Professor in Practical Philosophy at the University of Helsinki. Salmela is specialized in theoretical and applied philosophy of emotions from an empirically informed perspective. In recent years, his research has focused on collective emotions and their functions in the dynamics of social groups; with interdisciplinary interaction, construction of community spirit in urban housing; as well the emotional dynamics of right- and left-wing populist political movements as applications of his theoretical research. Salmela´s publications include peer-reviewed articles in e.g. The Philosophical Quarterly, Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, dialectica, Philosophical Explorations, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Journal of Social Ontology, Social Science Information, Humanity & Society, as well as an edited volume Collective Emotions (with Christian von Scheve, OUP, 2014), and a monograph True Emotions (John Benjamins, 2014).

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