Mind & Society

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 57-78

Affective problem solving: emotion in research practice

  • Lisa M. OsbeckAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of West Georgia Email author 
  • , Nancy J. NersessianAffiliated withSchool of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

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This paper presents an analysis of emotional and affectively toned discourse in biomedical engineering researchers’ accounts of their problem solving practices. Drawing from our interviews with scientists in two laboratories, we examine three classes of expression: explicit, figurative and metaphorical, and attributions of emotion to objects and artifacts important to laboratory practice. We consider the overall function of expressions in the particular problem solving contexts described. We argue that affective processes are engaged in problem solving, not as simply tacked onto reasoning but as integral to it. The examples we present illustrate the close relation of emotion to problem solving and experimentation; they also implicate social and cultural dimensions of emotion expression. The analysis underscores a need to consider emotional expression to be intimately and importantly tied to the cognitive achievements and social negotiations of laboratory practices.


Emotion Affect Cognition Science practice Motivation Metaphor Problem solving