Affective Resonance and Social Interaction
Rainer Mühlhoff – 2015
Interactive social cognition theory and approaches of developmental psychology widely agree that central aspects of emotional and social experience arise in the unfolding of processes of embodied social interaction. Bi-directional dynamical couplings of bodily displays such as facial expressions, gestures, and vocalizations have repeatedly been described in terms of coordination, synchrony, mimesis, or attunement. In this paper, I propose conceptualizing such dynamics rather as processes of affective resonance. Starting from the immediate phenomenal experience of being immersed in interaction, I develop the philosophical notion of affective resonance to refer to a dynamic entanglement of moving and being-moved in relation. The concept of affective resonance makes visible that the interaction dynamic itself creates an affective experience rather than transmitting internal feeling states between pre-existent individuals. This leads to a philosophical framework in which relationality and ontogeny are primary over separate individuals, and in which the naturalistic distinction of a fundamental physical level versus an emerging level of social processes has to be given up.