Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

In approaching emotions as social, and not purely personal, phenomena, sociological insights into how our feelings, moods, affects and emotional states are shaped by the societies in which we live have important relevance for professionals working across a range of people-centred fields. Emotions are fundamental to human experience and represent a primary form of human expression manifesting the inner worlds of the individual in response to outer stimuli. Emotions are often thought of as a wholly individualistic phenomenon, yet this unit explores how emotions are subject to and often governed by specific social patterns and cultural contexts. Emotions are also often theorised as purely physiological and cognitive responses to specific stimuli; this unit considers how social organisation and cultural context are crucial to the stimuli that shape emotional expression and socially appropriate ways of expressing emotion. This unit explores how emotional expression is subject to change and development as a result of changing social and cultural contexts. The aim of this unit is to provide students with a range of sociological perspectives on emotions and their various forms of expression.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify different sociological approaches and perspectives relevant to the study of emotions across different social and cultural contexts (GA1, GA5) 

LO2 - Communicate clearly and comprehensively through written and oral forms (GA9) 

LO3 - Demonstrate skills in sociological analysis and critical thinking through the collection and analysis of empirical data through a range of methods (GA4, GA8) 

LO4 - Apply relevant sociological theories, concepts and evidence to the analysis of social phenomena associated with emotions (GA1, GA4, GA8) 

LO5 - Construct specific sociological arguments using relevant theories, concepts and evidence relevant to the sociology of the emotions (GA4, GA8, GA9) 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include: 

  • What are emotions? Social, physiological, and cognitive contexts  
  • Social contexts and the personality  
  • Social structures of emotional expression 
  • Social and cultural contexts of specific emotions  
  • Cultural conditions producing affectual change 
  • Social correlates of shame, guilt, and embarrassment  
  • Emotions, gender, and violence 
  • Social hierarchy, power, status and emotional expression   
  • Emotion ‘rules’ and social interaction 
  • Rituals as sites of emotional energy  
  • Emotions, identities and politics 
  • Emotion and affect regulation as social processes 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit employs two formal ways of learning and teaching. Lectures are structured to promote case-based learning, a format that involves collaborative deep learning. Students will explore real world challenges and problems, a process that requires them to demonstrate their investigative, problem-solving and decision-making skills. Case-based learning requires learning specific theories and concepts that will complement the conceptual tools and theoretical knowledge critical to analysing divergent approaches to the sociological study of culture. Tutorials for this unit provide students opportunities for active learning. Students will engage in activities including reading, writing, interrogating ideas, exploring case studies, doing role plays, debating, and giving presentations. These activities, as well as promoting analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of lecture content, are designed to build skills appropriate to second year study in Sociology. 


This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks for this unit have been designed to contribute to high quality student learning by both helping students learn (assessment for learning), and by measuring explicit evidence of their learning (assessment of learning). Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for second year study in Sociology.  


The assessments in this unit encourage students to develop an understanding of a sociological approach to culture by leading a tutorial discussion (analytical task), critically consider a sociological approach to culture in an in-depth manner (written task) and demonstrate a sociological understanding of the concepts, theories and case studies covered in the unit (exam/tests). The schedule provides scaffolded learning with opportunities for students to monitor their own progress, practice their skills and receive feedback. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Analytical Task 

Students are required to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a sociological perspective as it pertains to the emotions through analysing an aspect of social life. 


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Written Task 

Students are required to consider different sociological approaches to the emotions in depth via a written task such as an essay. 


LO2, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA4, GA8, GA9 

Summative Task 

Students’ knowledge of the different topics covered in the unit will be assessed via an online exam or series of quizzes. 


LO1, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Barbalet, J. (ed) (2004) Emotions and Sociology. Blackwell Publishing 

Elias, N. (1994) The Civilising Process. Blackwell Publishing  

Collins, R. (2008) Interaction Ritual Chains. Princeton University Press. Princeton NJ 

Goffman, I. (2012) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Columbia University Press. New York  

Harris, S.R. (2015) An Invitation to the Sociology of Emotions. Routledge. New York 

Hochschild, A. (2016) The Managed Heart: The Commercialization of Human Feeling. University of California Press. Berkeley. 

Smith, P., Phillips, T & King, R. (2010) Incivility: The Rude Stranger in Everyday Life. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.  

Turner, Jonathan. & Stets, Jan. (2009) The Sociology of Emotions. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge 

Van Ness, J. & Summers-Effler, E. (2018) “Emotions in Social Movements” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements 2nd Edition. Eds Snow, D., Soule, S., Kriesi, H., and McCammon, H. Blackwell Publishers, London 


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