Mood as embodied action: A phenomenological study of interaction between self and the environment

by Manley, Dolores R., Ed.D., THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, 2009, 166 pages; 3366209


This phenomenological study explored the interaction between the affective phenomenon of mood (Davidson, et al., 2003) and embodied action (Varela, et al., 1993) experienced during interaction between self and the environment. Exploring the complementarity of mood and embodied action for organizations, teams, or individuals provided insightful awareness into the role of affect in the human (living) experience and a richer understanding of the complexity of cognition in our daily lives. The qualitative conjecture was that awareness of affectivity of mood is often unknown by self, yet emerges through complexity as embodied action.

Using the lens of “embodied dynamicism” (Thompson, 2007), this research focused on conducting phenomenological interviews to yield first person accounts and empirical data to further explicate and understand “the cognitive processes that emerge from the nonlinear and circular causality of continuous sensorimotor interactions involving the brain, body, and environment” (pp. 10-11). This naturalistic approach of inquiry (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), and its holistic, phenomenological research study design (Moustakas, 1994) involved nine participants from multiple societal sectors, i.e., government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations.

The empirical data of the nine unique, specific experiences of mood informs the relational understanding of human learning as simultaneously cognitive, behavioral and affective processes emerging as embodied action that autonomously conserves human life, i.e., the teleological intentionality of human life and self survival. From the phenomenological reduction analysis and synthesis of the data, all nine participants specific mood experiences emerged as embodied action, or Freedom of Self, leading to three confirmed conclusions. First, the affectivity of mood as embodied action operates dynamically with cognition (Freeman, 2000). Second, learning and human leadership at both the individual and collective level (Schwandt, 2008) (organizational and relational) involves reflection and reflexivity; human learning is an emerging, ongoing, transient process. Third, mood can influence practices in our daily lives in both positive and negative ways, i.e., mood operates with ambivalence (Piderit, 2000). Mindfulness (Weick & Putnam, 2006) of moods and awareness (Depraz et al., 2002) of the relationship between self and other—individual and environment—has vital implications for leaders, followers, and leadership complexity.

AdviserClyde V. Croswell
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsHigher education
Publication Number3366209

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