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Title: The Influence of Occupational Identity on Emotional Experience

How does occupational identity shape emotional experience? Prior work has largely framed occupation and emotion either in terms of how differences in occupational status structure the experience of powerful, negative emotions or how cultural norms enforce types of acceptable emotional expression in workplaces. Complementing this work by using an identity-centered approach, this paper asks how being in one occupational identity versus another influences the emotions one is likely to experience in everyday life. I argue that one’s occupational identity generates daily interaction sets with typical others, which create opportunities for identity maintenance and confirmation. Affect Control Theory predicts that when individuals confirm identities within an interaction, they will experience the characteristic emotion of the identity. Using data from the General Social Survey’s 1996 emotions module, I find support for the hypothesis that individuals will report experiencing emotions that are closer in cultural meaning to the characteristic emotion of their occupational identity more often than emotions that are more different in cultural meaning. I additionally explore how this relationship depends on the social location of the individual. I find that this relationship is stronger for men, those with higher income, and more educational credentials.

Publication Date:
Journal Name:
American Behavioral Scientist
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 100-124
SAGE Publications
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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