Guilt is a negative emotion but with the potentially crucial function of stimulating pro-social behaviours towards and from others. We examined the impact of guilty feelings on social interactions, from the perspective of both the guilty person and the social partner. We recruited 218 participants (109 pairs) to take part in a cooperative task. Guilt was experimentally induced in one individual of each pair by telling them that their performance at the task was poor comparatively to the other, and consequently, their joint reward for participation will be lowered. Guilty participants’ responses to this information were video recorded and coded using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). The social partners were then made aware of this failure while either 1) watching the participant’s spontaneous reaction or 2) watching the participant in a control situation. Guilty participants were then invited to split this reward between themselves and their partner in whatever proportions they wished. How the participants then split this joint reward was examined. We investigated the impact of guilty feelings and the facial expressions produced on the decision made by the social partner.
To date, pre-existing scales of emotion expression norms are heavily negative-emotion centric (Matsumoto et al., 1998; 2008), and are open to social desirability biases in participants’ response patterns. To address these concerns, we propose the creation of the Display Rules Assessment for Positive Emotions (DRAPE), a battery of items designed to evaluate peoples’ intersubjective perceptions of how likely and appropriate the expression of discrete positive emotions is in their given culture. Eight positive emotions will be appraised, selected for inclusion based on the dimensions of arousal (Tsai et al., 2006) and engagement (Kitayama et al., 2006). We begin by examining basic scale properties with a community sample of English speakers in the US (Study 1: n = 200). We next evaluate test-retest reliability in a sample of Dutch university students, by employing a repeated measures design (Study 2: n = 100). We finally test the cross-cultural validity of the DRAPE, by comparing between samples that are expected to differ in self-construal (Study 3: n = 250). Community samples of German (independent self-construal), Indian (relational self-construal) and Chinese (collective self-construal) participants will be recruited. We expect socially disengaging positive emotions (e.g. pride) to be deemed less normative for expression in cultures where interdependence is valued and reinforced (Markus & Kitayama, 2001), thereby alluding to the predictive validity of the DRAPE. The present research proposes a refined measure for the assessment of display rules surrounding discrete positive emotions, thus contributing to the fields of affective science and social psychology.
In a line of six experiments (N = 1,589) I investigated how comparison processes shape the emotional reactions to others’ fortunes and misfortunes. I let participants play a fake lottery and presented them with the lottery wins and losses of other ostensible players and measured envy, schadenfreude, “happy-for-ness” and sympathy in response to these outcomes. Crucially, I manipulated whether the comparison standards had started with either less money than the participants (downward comparison), with the same amount of money (lateral comparison) or with more money (upward comparison). In all six experiments I observed an effect of comparison direction on the intensity of the four emotions. Relative to lateral comparisons, envy and schadenfreude increased (decreased) in response to upward (downward) comparison standards, while sympathy and happy-for-ness decreased (increased) in response to upward (downward) comparison standards. Experiments 3-6 showed that envy, schadenfreude, happy-for-ness, and sympathy, as well as the effect of comparison direction, decreased when the comparison was less relevant. This was the case when the comparison standard was a computer (Experiment 4), or when the comparison standard only played for worthless chips (Experiment 5) and when participants had not played the lottery themselves (Experiment 6). Besides, I am currently conducting two experiments, in which I measure participants’ emotional reactions via facial electromyography (Experiment 7) and explore the behavioral consequences of envy, schadenfreude, “happy-for-ness” and sympathy (Experiment 8). The current findings stimulate theorizing about social comparison-based emotions and bear interesting implications for economic social preference models of inequality aversion.
Emotions are essential to understand how people behave within interpersonal relationships. Previous studies have shown that some negative emotions such as anger and contempt are related to a deterioration of the relationship. However, different emotions may have dissimilar implications for romantic relations. In the present research we designed two studies to examine the relational consequences of anger and contempt, as inferred from their motivational, behavioral, and relational characteristics, in close relationships. Based on previous work, we assumed that whereas anger would leave open the possibility for relational repair, contempt has destructive relational implications. Study 1 (N=273), examined the hypothesized distinction between anger and contempt by manipulating both emotions—participants described a conflict in which they felt anger versus contempt toward their partners. Results showed that whereas anger was linked to verbal attack and coercion resulting in a relationship’s improvement, contempt was associated with a partner derogation and social exclusion leading to a decrease of affection. Study 2 (N=362), by activating past romantic conflicts, tried to replicate the previous findings and extend it analysing the different types of intimate conflicts which led to each emotions and the deterioration of the relationship quality’s process. Results showed, via a Structural Equation Model, that whereas anger was related with a greater relationship quality trough a verbal attack, past and current contempt was linked to higher divorce tendency via partner’s derogation, social exclusion and lower relationship quality. The findings are discussed in light of the importance of distinguishing negative emotions within romantic relationships.