American Sociological Association

Sharing the Emotional Load: Recipient Affiliation Calms Down the Storyteller

In conversational storytelling, the recipients are expected to show affiliation with the emotional stance displayed by the storytellers. We investigated emotional arousal-related autonomic nervous system responses in tellers and recipients of conversational stories. The data consist of 20 recordings of 45- to 60-minute dyadic conversations between female university and polytechnic students. Conversations were videotaped and analyzed by means of conversation analysis (CA), with a special emphasis on the verbal and nonverbal displays of affiliation in storytelling. Electrodermal activity in both participants was measured to estimate their arousal level. The results show that the verbal and nonverbal displays of affiliation decrease the storyteller’s but increase the recipient’s level of arousal. This means that the monitoring of the recipient actions in storytelling, shown by earlier CA studies, has a physiological correlate. We suggest that storytelling involves an emotional load, which the participants share physiologically in affiliative responses.


Peräkylä, A., Henttonen, P., Voutilainen, L., Kahri, M., Stevanovic, M., Sams, M., Ravaja, N.





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