Fall 2019 - PSYC 391 D200

Selected Topics in Psychology (3)

Social Psychology of Emotions

Class Number: 9930

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 3 – Dec 2, 2019: Thu, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 13, 2019
    Fri, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    PSYC 201. Other prerequisites vary by topic offering.



Course can be repeated for credit. Students may not take this course for further credit if similar topics are covered. See Psychology department website for course description.


Why do people do what they do? There is no simple answer to this question, because humans are simultaneously evolved, enculturated, and reflexive beings. But it is peoples’ emotional experiences that are the nexus of the historical, cultural, interpersonal, developmental, and biological forces that influence their behavior. Fears and loves, outrages and embarrassments, delights and disgusts—these embodied feelings go to the core of human decision-making and are salient themes in the narrative traditions of all the world’s cultures. The study of human emotion is among the oldest and most distinguished domains of psychological inquiry. However, it remains among the most controversial research topics in the behavioral sciences. There are complications conceptual, methodological, and political. Evidence of evolutionary continuity anchors theories of universal basic emotions, while clear cultural variation demands accounts of psychological and social construction. The vagaries of human consciousness vex experimentalists, while the dizzying diversity of human pursuits cause problems for comparative studies. The natural language of emotion invites easy access but is only part of the puzzle; varying ethnopsychologies, self-concepts, emotion regulation strategies, display rules, social-relational structures, and ecological contexts add manifold complexities. Meanwhile, ethical and practical considerations constrain the application of biological and neuroscientific tools across populations. Even research questions long considered settled are now being challenged by a revolution in psychology research practices that include high-powered replications and critiques of Euro-centric theory and data. How can we even proceed? Who are “we,” anyway? This course will take up the challenge of unifying the historically disparate approaches to human emotions and the diverse ways in which we might define and study them. Building up from an integrative approach that is equal-parts evolutionary and cultural, scientific and critical, we’ll survey the state of a fast-moving field and gain insight into ourselves, our societies, and our own biologically-cultural species.


  • Midterm 1: 22%
  • Midterm 2: 22%
  • Final: 22%
  • In-class Activities: 34%


The nature of emotion; the evolution of emotion; culture and emotion; what causes emotions?; emotional expressions; emotions and the brain; emotions and hormones; emotion development; emotions in relationships & society; emotion & cognition; negative emotions; positive emotions; individual differences and emotions; emotion regulation; emotions in clinical psychology.



Shiota, Michelle, & Kalat, James.  Emotion  (3rd edition).  Oxford University Press
ISBN: 97801906335510

Registrar Notes:

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Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html