The Business of Emotions (Revision 3)

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Delivery Mode: Individualized-Study

Credits: 3

Prerequisite: Successful completion of a graduate level course.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Program: Master of Arts Integrated Studies

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**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


MAIS 615: The Business of Emotions is an interdisciplinary study of emotions, focusing on their role in workplaces and marketplaces. An emotion can be defined as "any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, passion; any vehement or excited mental state" (Oxford English Dictionary).

We all have emotions, and we know of their importance in our lives, yet it transpires that the nature, causes, and consequences of the emotions are among the least understood aspects of human experience. It is easier to express emotions than to describe them, and harder again to analyze them. Despite their apparent familiarity, emotions are an extremely subtle and complex topic, one that has been neglected by many social scientists and philosophers (Ben–Ze’ev, p. xiii).

We are far less able to analyze and understand feelings than we are to differentiate between complex abstract systems of thought. There are several reasons for this lack of understanding of emotions.

First, emotions are usually seen as less important than cognitions or rationality. In part, this is due to the Enlightenment’s passion for reason, but it is also due to the politics of gender, which has associated men with reason and women with emotion, and which has seen reason as superior to emotion.

Second, emotions are remarkably difficult to study “in the field.” You can not see them or touch them, they usually appear in clusters rather than individually, and they metamorphose—for example, fear grows into anger, love warps into jealousy.

Third, because emotions pervade both the body and the mind, their study necessitates an interdisciplinary approach combining natural and human sciences, which is difficult to accomplish.

Finally, though we do not believe that because we inhale oxygen we are expert chemists, there is a tendency for lay people to think that their own experience of emotion makes them experts on their own nature. This is not the case.

This course is an attempt to correct this lack of understanding of emotions by discussing the nature, causes, and impact of emotions on our lives. It focuses on the “business” of emotions, because it is in the production and marketing of commodities and services that some interesting—and ominous—things are happening in relation to emotions.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, you should have well-developed answers to the following questions.

  1. What are emotions?
  2. How do emotions affect us in commerce?
  3. What does it matter how emotions affect us?

Course Outline

MAIS 615: The Business of Emotions comprises four units:

  • Unit 1: The Trouble with Emotions
  • Unit 2: What are Emotions?
  • Unit 3: Selling Emotions (Emotional Labour)
  • Unit 4: Buying Emotions (Emotional Branding)
  • Unit 5: Emotions, Bodies, Societies

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Integrated Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 25%
Assignment 2 25%
Assignment 3 25%
Online Participation 25%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for MAIS 615 The Business of Emotions are listed below. If any of these materials are missing, please contact the Course Materials Production Department by phone 1-800-788-9041 or e-mail


  • Ben-Ze'ev, Aaron. The Subtlety of Emotions. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. Part 2 "Analyzing Emotions", PP. 279-533.
  • Hochschild, A. R. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. (3ED) University of California Press, 2012.

Athabasca University Printed Materials

Reading File: The Reading File contains selected articles from various sources that are required reading for this course.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, November 1, 2012.