Foreword from the Editor:
Special Issue on Affect Control Theory


Andreas Schneider

This special issue on affect control theory (ACT) is a team effort to honor the founder of ACT research, David Heise (, and the start of his “permanent sabbatical.” Contributions were initiated at the Nags Head Conference Series, “Research Agendas in Affect Control Theory” (, held in May 2002 and co-organized by Lynn Smith-Lovin and Dawn Robinson. This meeting spontaneously inspired the editor to put together this special issue showing current areas of work using the ACT perspective. ACT combines attribution theory and research on impression formation with the Indiana school of symbolic interactionism. It thereby focuses on the processing of affective meaning and rigorously operationalizes the symbolic interactionist approach to an extent that enables computer simulations of human interactions. Interactions change the affective states of the participants who respond to this change with predictable behaviors and attributions (labeling). The founding father of ACT, David Heise, keeps a more detailed description of the theory posted at:

This is not the first time that ACT has been the subject of a special issue. In 1987 the Journal of Mathematical Sociology produced a special issue that was later published as a book by Lynn Smith-Lovin and David Heise. Here the concern was primarily the establishment and dissemination of the theory and its methodological underpinnings. This bible for every ACT researcher received its New Testament in 1994 through Neil MacKinnon’s book, Symbolic Interactionism as Affect Control.

If we consider David Heise as the founding father of ACT, the contributions for the special issue in EJS come from the second- and third generation of “ACTers” (a term increasingly used to refer to ACT researchers). The focus is not on the description or development of ACT, but upon current developments within a theoretical tradition that already is well formulated, empirically operationalized, and tested.

Lisa Rashotte’s work extends ACT by providing a systematic methodological framework for the consideration of nonverbal behaviors. Tara Dunphy and Neil MacKinnon demonstrate how ACT can theoretically and methodologically incorporate folklore. Will Kalkhoff shows how ACT can be used in the investigation of criminal and violent subcultures. Numerous datasets collected in the Untied States, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Japan and China build the empirical basis for ACT. Herm Smith, Shuuichirou Ike and Li Ying report about their experiences with data collection and the interactive interviewing programs created by David Heise to utilize computers to collect data worldwide via the Internet. Andreas Schneider shows how to use data on gender differences to obtain meaningful interpretations for data on cross-cultural differences.

I would like to thank Herm Smith for being guest editor for Andreas Schneider’s contribution for this special issue. Manuscripts were reviewed in a very timely manner by Tara Dunphy, Neil MacKinnon, Will Kalkhoff, Lisa Rashotte, Herm Smith, and Andreas Schneider. As usual for EJS, reviews were conducted as anonymously as possible. In the case of this special issue, however, the extent of anonymity is limited by the fact that reviews were conducted within a network of researchers using the ACT perspective (

Andreas Schneider

© Electronic Journal of Sociology