Social cognition of negative emotions

Michael Brady


Emotions can have considerable epistemic value for individuals. But there are social-epistemic benefits of emotion as well, and these have been much less discussed in the literature. This is unfortunate, both because social-epistemic aspects generate questions of independent interest – such as how to balance potential benefits to individuals and benefits to groups when these are in conflict – and because a full picture of the individual benefits of emotion would seem to require an understanding of the role social cognition of emotion plays in bringing about these benefits. As a result, those interested in the benefits that emotion can bring had better concern themselves with social cognition of emotion. Or so, at least, I want to argue in this paper. I want to make the case for the importance of social cognition by focusing on a particular class of negative emotions, namely those related to suffering. After explaining the value of suffering for individuals, I then turn to consider facial expression of suffering, and present an account of the value that such expression can have, focusing in particular of the benefits of social cognition of suffering via experience of facial expression.


Pain; Suffering; Social cognition

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