Feeling rules

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Feeling rules are socially shared norms that influence how people want to try to feel emotions in given social relations.[1] This concept was introduced by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in 1979. Hochschild's 1983 book, "The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling," discusses feeling rules in greater depth, especially in the occupational worlds of flight attendants and bill collectors. Hochschild draws on the work of sociologist Erving Goffman as well as labor scholar Harry Braverman to discuss the dramaturgical demands and emotional labor entailed by jobs in the service sector, in which workers must "perform" certain roles that entail abiding by certain feeling rules (e.g. "friendly and dependable"). She notes that women are more likely to have such jobs than men, and that analysis of feeling rules may therefore be especially relevant to understanding the gendered dimensions of labor. This work foreshadows themes from her later analyses of women's work, both paid and unpaid, e.g. in "The Commercialization of Intimate Life" (2003).

This work is part of the broader sociology of emotions, which notes that socialization plays an important role in how people experience, interpret, and express emotions, including the situations that evoke a range of feelings. All human beings learn certain feeling rules, but these feeling rules may differ widely depending on the society in which one grows up and one's social position and social identity, including gender and ethnic identity and socio-economic status. Feeling rules are flexible and the ways in which they impinge on one's experience in different settings influences one's personality, both in specific contexts (e.g. at work, home, school, or in different social groups) and over time.[2]


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

Further reading[edit]

  • Hochschild, A. R. (1979). "Emotion Work, Feeling Rules and Social Structure." American Journal of Sociology, 85:551-575.
  • Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • Hochschild, A. R. (2003). The Commercialization of Intimate Life: Notes from Home and Work. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.