Emotion plays an important role in securing social stability. But while emotions like fear, anger, and guilt have received much attention in this context, little work has been done to understand the role that anxiety plays. That’s unfortunate. I argue that a particular form of anxiety—what I call ‘practical anxiety’—plays an important, but as of yet unrecognized, role in norm-based social regulation. More specifically, it provides a valuable form of metacognition, one that contributes to social stability by helping individuals negotiate the challenges that come from having to act in the face of unclear norms.
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