Focusing and Unfocusing: Cognitive, Evaluative, and Emotional Dynamics in the Relationship with Human Embryos among ART Beneficiaries

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Abstract

This article uses data gathered from a study conducted in Portugal to examine the (plural and composite) conceptions that doctors, embryologists, and beneficiaries of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) have of the in vitro human embryo. Taking the sociology of engagements, developed by Thévenot, as its theoretical lens, the article draws on a total of 69 interviews with ART patients to analyse the plurality of fluid meanings produced about this biological entity, whose status is neither static nor universal. ART beneficiaries are likely to produce plural conceptions of the lab-generated embryo within the framework of different regimes of engagement, understood as cognitive and evaluative formats. These various pragmatic regimes, in turn, entail distinct emotional investments. When speaking about their relationship with embryos, beneficiaries therefore express plural emotional experiences, which are articulated using terms such as affection, love, detachment, loss, frustration, hope, mourning, and anguish. Using the theoretical framework of the sociology of engagements, we propose an approach that enables us to produce a detailed record of the connections between the cognitive, evaluative, and emotional dimensions in beneficiaries’ relationship with—and decision-making processes about—the embryos, accounting for the plasticity of emotional states linked to the (re)configuration of attributed meanings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalSocieties
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

Keywords

  • ART beneficiaries
  • Emotional states
  • In vitro human embryo
  • Moral evaluations
  • Regimes of engagement

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