ArgLab • Colloquium

Dina Mendonça

Meta-Emotions and Argumentation: some effects for Decision and Action

Emotions are commonly present in Argumentation (Walton 2002). Research on emotion has revealed that the presence of emotion is not always as straightforward as the clear and compact names we have for them and that emotions may sometimes mask other emotional realities (Pugmire 1994) making it harder to address and regulate the emotional aspect of argumentation for decision and action. In addition, differences in meta-emotion may also be at the base of misunderstandings and disputes (Jones & Botker, 2001, p. 240) and complicate matters even further. This article discusses the way in which unconscious emotions (Winkielman & Berridge 2004) and meta-emotions (Mendonça 2013) appear in argumentation.


The first part describes the nature and scope of both meta-emotions and unconscious emotions showing how both are deeply connected to or values and show how they turn argumentation and communication more opaque. Arguing that the fact that both meta-emotions and unconscious emotions can be seen as the result of education and emotion regulation. Consequently, both unconscious emotions and meta-emotions render decision and action harder because people are less aware of them, and they also assume that others have similar emotional processes for these are culturally determined, and mirror our values and beliefs about emotions. Finally, the first part indicates how conflict is a tool for bringing to the surface our deepest emotions and important to better understand them.


The second part looks at how the emotions of surprise, shock, and awe may provide ways to both help and aggravate argumentation by looking to how it can interfere with other emotional experiences. Finally, the article offers a practical analysis of the arguments around the law forbidding students to wear visible religious signs in public schools (Jones 2012) to show how theoretical exploration done can be useful for understanding and analyzing argumentation in general.