Relevance and emotion

Tim Wharton, Constant Bonard, Daniel Dukes, David Sander, Steve Oswald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability to focus on relevant information is central to human cognition. It is therefore hardly unsurprising that the notion of relevance appears across a range of different disciplines. As well as its central role in relevance-theoretic pragmatics, for example, relevance is also a core concept in affective science, where there is consensus that for a particular object or event to elicit an emotional state, that object or event needs to be relevant to the person in whom that state is elicited. Despite this, although some affective scientists have carefully considered what emotional relevance might mean, surprisingly little research has been dedicated to providing a definition. Since, by contrast, the relevance-theoretic notion of relevance is carefully defined, our primary aim is to compare relevance as it exists in affective science and in relevance theory, A further aim is to redress what we perceive to be an imbalance: Affective scientists have made great strides in understanding the processes of emotion elicitation/responses etc., but despite the fact that among humans the communication of information about emotional states is ubiquitous, pragmatists have tended to ignore it. We conclude, therefore, that affective science and relevance theory have much to learn from each other.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Jun 2021


  • affective science
  • emotion
  • non-ostensive
  • ostension
  • non-propositional meaning
  • relevance

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