Discussion papers

CPM-00-69 - 2 May 2000

Introducing Emotions in the Computational Study of Norms

Alexander Staller and Paolo Petta

A Paper at: The “Starting from Society” symposium at ASIB’2000 convention, Birmingham University, 16th-19th April 2000.

Also published as: Alexander Staller and Paolo Petta (2000), “Introducing Emotions in the Computational Study of Norms”, in the Proceedings of the AISB’00 Symposium on Starting from Society – the Application of Social Analogies to Computational Systems, Birmingham, UK: AISB, 101-112. (ISBN 1 902956 13 8)


We argue that modelling emotions among agents in artificial societies will further the computational study of social norms. The appraisal theory of emotions is presented as theoretical underpinning of Jon Elster’s view that social norms are sustained not only by material sanctions but also by emotions such as shame and contempt. Appraisal theory suggests the following twofold relationship between social norms and emotions: First, social norms play an important role in the generation of emotions; second, emotion regulation depends heavily on the influence of social norms. Based on these insights, we present an emotion-based view on the influential study by Conte and Castelfranchi (1995); without mentioning emotions, they argue that a function of social norms is aggression control. Appraisal theory offers a principled framework for the development of TABASCO, a three-layer agent architecture incorporating social norms. At the macro level, the computational study of social norms can profit by economic and sociobiological theories, which suggest that emotions play an important role in sustaining norms of cooperation and reciprocity. We show how appraisal theory can serve as a link between the macro and micro levels, and summarize the potential benefits from the development of TABASCO.