Emotion as the amplifier and the primary motive: Some theories of emotion with relevance to language learning

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Rebecca L. Oxford

Abstract

Emotion is crucial to living and learning. The powerful intertwining of emotion and cognition ignites learning within a complex dynamic system, which, as several sections of this paper show, also includes societal and cultural influences. As “the primary human motive” (MacIntyre, 2002a, p. 61), emotion operates as an amplifier, which provides energetic intensity to all human behavior, including language learning. This chapter explains major theories of emotion drawn from positive psychology, social psychology, social constructivism, social constructionism, and existential psychotherapy. It also offers implications for language learning related to understanding and managing emotions; expressing emotions appropriately despite cultural and linguistic differences; viewing emotions as transitory social roles; enhancing positive emotions and developing resilience; and recognizing, perhaps paradoxically, both the negative and the positive aspects of anxiety. The chapter concludes with the statement that language learners can become more agentic in dealing with their emotions. This form of self-regulation can lead to greater success in language learning.

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Author Biography

Rebecca L. Oxford, University of Maryland,7608 Saxon Dr. SW, Huntsville, AL 35802, (Professor Emerita)

rebeccaoxford@gmail.comRebecca L. Oxford is Professor Emerita and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher, University of Maryland, USA and is currently an adjunct professor of psychology and language teaching at two branches of the University of Alabama, USA. She has published more than 250 articles and chapters; published a dozen books;and edited or coedited six journal special issues. She is currently coediting two book series, “Transforming Education for the Future” (Lin and Oxford for Information Age Publishing) and “Spirituality, Religion, and Education” (Lin, Oxford, Edwards, and Brantmeier for Palgrave Macmillan). Additionally, she has coedited a language textbook series, “Tapestry” (Heinle), which consists of separate subseries for many parts of the world. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award for research and has presented keynote addresses in 42 countries. She holds two degrees in Russian and two in educational psychology.

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