Books by Jack Katz

Released: Nov. 1, 1999

A sociologist analyzes emotions by taking a close look at how anger, laughter, shame, and crying emerge and decline in everyday situations. Katz (sociology, UCLA) has selected what would seem to be fruitful situations for his exploration of emotions. His study of anger is based on some 150 detailed reports of adult drivers who were asked to recount their enraging experiences while driving in Los Angeles. To examine laughter, he uses an equally dramatic technique, videotaping 187 episodes of individuals and families in a fun house equipped with distorting mirrors. His work on shame draws largely on statements and videotapes of eight-year-old boys striking out in Little League baseball games and persons involved in white collar crime investigations, as well as on the extensive literature on shame. Crying is studied through two disparate situations, the persistent whining of a preschool child and the breakdown of a criminal being questioned by the police. However, the prose in which the research and analysis is couched is unfortunately clotted with the professional jargon of social psychology. Learning that emotions are "dialectical tensions between doing and being done by interactions with others," that "the socioaesthetic properties of laughter appear to be a universal feature of socialized competence throughout Western civilization," or that someone's crying is a response to a crisis in "the corporeal authentication of his narration" is unlikely to enthrall the general reader curious about the phenomenon of road rage or wondering why tears may signal both great joy and great sadness—even when illustrative liine drawings and stills from the videotapes supplement the text, and excerpts of annotated tape transcriptions offer a glimpse of a sociological researcher's extraordinarily detailed observations of subjects. While the title is appealing in its simplicity and directness, inside the cover this clarity quickly gives way to a dismaying density that will burden and frustrate readers outside the circle of social-psychological research. Read full book review >