Ticket inspectors use emotion displays of sympathy and dominance to manage status dynamics in passenger encounters

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Research shows that people use emotions to manage service encounters. Little research has examined how rule enforcers manage status with different emotion displays. This article conceptualizes emotion displays as defensive and protective strategies to study how rule enforcers use emotions to control status dynamics in contested encounters. Based on 30 body-worn camera-recorded ticket-fining events and 11 interviews, the analysis shows that inspectors use emotion strategies of displaying dominance and giving and claiming sympathy to manage situations and negotiate status. Feeling rules prescribe inspectors to avoid conflict escalation and personal investment, yet rule enforcement involves interpersonal contests with emotional tension that makes emotional investment difficult to avoid. The findings yield insights into microprocesses of emotion management with an appreciation of the strategic use of emotion displays and their relation to micro-level status dynamics. The article discusses the prospects of studying the microprocesses of negotiating status and its methodological implications.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCurrent Sociology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jun 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Contested encounters, defensive strategies, emotion management, microsociology, protective strategies

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