The Development of Social Bonds
People spend much of their lives in the company of others, interacting with their fellow humans. Interpersonal contact can mean mere coexistence at bus stops or in elevators, organized competition in sports contests, or overtly aggressive behavior. Alternatively, it can be helpful, friendly, or purely sociable in nature. In all these situations, emotions play an important role in regulating interactions. Generally, emotions serve two communicative functions (Sokolowski, 2002):
First, expressions of emotion inform members of the same species about the emotional state of the individual (e.g., expressions of anger: “Watch it! Don't come any closer!”).
Second, emotions signal to the individual him- or herself the underlying motivational state (e.g., the feeling of fear when there still is something threatening in the actual situation).
Like other mammals who live in groups, humans are born with the ability to communicate with members of their species. This innate ability is reflected in a baby's contrasting emotional responses to being separated from the mother and to being reunited with her. In adult life, too, most of our emotions are triggered by our dealings with others, and these emotions serve to regulate human interaction in a multitude of respects. Expressions of emotion signal liking/antipathy, dominance/submission, indifference/interest, dependence/autonomy, the need for help, and so on, to those present. However, our subjective emotional experience reflects our overall motivational state with respect to an aspired goal.
Observable behaviors also reflect differences in social relations.