June 22-24, 2017 • Dartmouth College • Hanover, New Hampshire
Affect control theory (ACT) examines how sentiment norms – our culturally shared meanings for particular types of actors, behaviors, emotions, and social settings – organize social life and direct us toward a mutual interpretive framework for interaction. As common cultural knowledge, sentiment norms allow us to plan for, interpret, and effectively respond to social events, based on our impressions of who has done what to whom. By measuring both normative sentiments and how these sentiments shift when they combine in the context of social events, affect control theorists have built causal models of the relationship between interpretations of events and patterns of social action (Heise 1979, 2007; MacKinnon 1994). These "impression change" models were first developed in the late 1970s, and have been used in conjunction with data about cultural sentiment norms to run mathematical simulations of social interaction. Event simulations generate testable predictions about behavioral and emotional responses to social events, which have been supported by extensive survey, experimental, and naturalistic evidence in a research program spanning several decades (e.g., Robinson and Smith-Lovin 1992; Smith-Lovin and Douglass 1992; Smith-Lovin and Heise 1988).