Feeling rules

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Feeling rules are socially shared norms that influence how we want to try to feel emotions in given social relations.[1] This concept was introduced by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in 1979. Although basic emotions and facial expressions are universal and, according to Paul Ekman, must then be the sole result of biology, our socialization plays an important role in what situations evoke these emotions and in how we choose to express them.

All human beings learn certain feeling rules, but they differ according to culture/culturally imposed values (i.e. an American woman might be elated that she gave birth to a baby girl, while a Zimbabwean woman might be saddened not to have given birth to a boy), social class (i.e. upper classes more reserved than lower classes), relationships (i.e. feelings expressed more openly with close friends than with business associates), setting (i.e. acceptable emotions at a frat party are different from acceptable emotions at a cocktail party) and gender (i.e. physical displays of emotion are more acceptable in females than in males). Feeling rules are usually highly flexible and their personal interpretation influences one's personality.[2]


Henslin, James. 2013 (10th edition). Essentials of Sociology: A Down to Earth Approach. Boston: Person/Allyn & Bacon.

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