Research Topic

Affectivity Beyond the Skin

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About this Research Topic

This Research Topic will be an interdisciplinary collection of papers by philosophers, psychologists and social scientists. The proposed topic is an exploration of the scaffolded or environmentally supported nature of affectivity. Standard approaches in philosophy and psychology characterize affective states ...

This Research Topic will be an interdisciplinary collection of papers by philosophers, psychologists and social scientists. The proposed topic is an exploration of the scaffolded or environmentally supported nature of affectivity. Standard approaches in philosophy and psychology characterize affective states (such as specific emotions and moods) as states of a person’s brain and body. This Research Topic will explore the extent to which affective states also importantly depend upon structures and processes in the environment. In particular, it will explore the way in which people actively manipulate their surroundings to create what we can call affective niches: self-styled environments that provides the developmental conditions for specific affective states to take shape and thrive—including affective states that would not otherwise be possible. The idea of “niche” at play here comes from biology and philosophy of biology, where “niche construction” refers to the process whereby organisms alter their environment to increase their chances of survival (a classic example is the construction of dams by beavers, which changes the ecosystem in which beavers live and thus influences the selection process). It is also possible to identify processes of “developmental niche construction”: manipulations of the environment that, throughout an organism’s lifespan, enable the acquisition of different forms of knowledge and support the development of various physiological, cognitive, and behavioural capacities.


This Research Topic will explore the extent to which affective capacities depend upon, and emerge from, processes of niche construction. In particular, we are interested in how people regulate, organise, and maintain their affective life by structuring their relations with other people as well as with material culture and technologies. Close, dynamic collaboration between individuals within a partnership or group setting can enable the achievement of affective states that are inaccessible to the isolated subject, whereas the construction of an affective niche may involve the use of props and strategies for the regulation of emotion, including written materials, tools for expression and communication, adornments of the body, and artworks including music.


The emphasis in this Research Topic will thus be on processes of active manipulation of the social and material environment, with particular attention to phenomena of feedback and reciprocal influences between the environment and people’s affective condition.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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