A Theory of Affective Communication

Julmi, Christian GND

The process of perspective taking is a fundamental feature of any human interaction. Although some scholars acknowledge the decisive role of the felt body in this process, the precise role of the felt body remains unclear. In this paper, a theory of affective communication is developed in order to explain and understand the process of perspective taking in human interaction on a corporeal, pre-reflective and thus affective level. The key assumption of the outlined theory is that any process of perspective taking is essentially based on the two dimensions of the felt body, namely (1) attraction and repulsion, (2) dominance and subdominance. The dimension of attraction and repulsion determines whether individuals (or groups) attractively converge or repulsively diverge in their perspectives (i. e., attitudes, opinions, beliefs). Regarding the dimension of dominance and subdominance, it is assumed that there is always a dominant and a subdominant side in human interaction, although the distribution of dominance may constantly oscillate between the communicating partners. In the case of attraction as a necessary condition for finding common ground, the dominant side serves as the perspective giver (or impulse giver) and the subdominant side serves as the perspective taker (or impulse receiver). The dominant side transfers its perspective (i. e., attitude, opinion, belief) to the subdominant side. In fact, any human interaction can be somehow ascribed to patterns of attraction (and repulsion) and dominance (and subdominance). In this sense, human interaction is always about a conversion, negotiation or clash of perspectives. The outlined theory is phenomenologically based on the works of Schmitz and Rappe.




Julmi, Christian: A Theory of Affective Communication. Hagen 2016.


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