A narrative account of decision-making and interpersonal emotion regulation using a social-functional approach to emotions

Andrew P. Friesen, Tracey J. Devonport, Christopher N. Sellars, Andrew M. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Social psychology researchers have proposed a social-functional approach to emotions whereby emotions coordinate people's behaviour to meet the shared challenges in their environment [Keltner, D., Haidt, J., & Shiota, M.N. (2006). Social-functionalism and the evolution of emotions. In M. Schaller, J.A. Simpson, & D.T. Kenrick (Eds.), Evolution and social psychology (pp. 115-142). Madison, CT: Psychosocial Press]. Despite the social nature of sport, a social-functional approach to emotions has yet to be studied in this context. The purpose of the present study was to explore how the social functions of emotions might inform two ice hockey captains' decisions to regulate teammates' emotions. A narrative analysis revealed how the athletes' decisions if, when or how to regulate their teammates' emotions might be situated within a social-functional approach to emotions. Although the emotions evoked, the strategies used, and the social environment was constantly changing, the narratives illustrated the underlying social functions of emotions within each social context [Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (1999). Social functions of emotions at four levels of analysis. Cognition and Emotion, 13, 505-521. doi:10.1080/026999399379168]. Specifically, at the individual level, participants described how emotions informed them of important circumstances in their environment that required attention and helped them prepare for such challenges. At a dyadic level, emotions helped participants gauge the emotional states and intentions of their teammates contributing towards an assessment of the extent to which they were prepared to face their challenges. At a group level, emotions helped participants lead their teammates in meeting shared goals. Finally, at a cultural level, emotions helped participants maintain culture-related identities. Findings illustrated the social functions naturally served by emotions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-214
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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