Last updated on 29th October 2015
I love it when I follow up ideas from a new research paper and then break through into a whole area of helpful knowledge that I haven't come across before. This happened recently with the paper by Srivastava and colleagues (Srivastava, Tamir et al. 2009 - see below) on the social costs of emotional suppression. This then linked me through to James Gross's work at Stanford, but more on that in next week's post.
There are freely downloadable research papers covering three main areas on Sanjay Srivastava's site - emotions, interpersonal perception, and personality dynamics. The social costs of emotional suppression are clearly documented in the already mentioned 2009 paper. An interesting earlier paper published a couple of years ago (Tamir, John et al. 2007), looked at how people fall onto a spectrum in their beliefs about emotions. At one end is the attitude that emotions pretty much emerge without any choice on our part. Maybe the best we can then do, such people believe, is to suppress emotional responses that seem in some way inappropriate or unacceptable. At the other end of this spectrum is the belief that actually emotions are fairly malleable. Using methods, for example such as empathic understanding and other forms of reappraisal, people with a more flexible, ‘controllable' notion of emotions believe that we are not nearly so much at the mercy of our feelings. As you can see from the research abstract (Tamir, John et al. 2007 - see below), believing that emotions are largely unchangeable is associated with a whole series of poor outcomes in terms of lowered positive mood, increased depression, and weakened social support. I've put the four relevant questions and some background information about scoring into a "Beliefs about emotions" questionnaire & background (see below).
Other interesting papers downloadable from the site include one on the self-fulfilling benefits of optimism in close relationships (Srivastava, McGonigal et al. 2006), another on how people tend to be pretty accurate in their self-perceptions of status in face-to-face groups (Anderson, Srivastava et al. 2006), and a third on how strongly our self-esteem is linked to our perceptions of how well we are liked by others (Srivastava and Beer 2005) - see below for all three of these abstracts and links to full text articles.
"Beliefs about emotions" questionnaire and background scoring details (2 page handout)
Srivastava, S. Oregon University Lab at http://www.uoregon.edu/~sanjay/index.html Accessed on 23 May 2009.
Srivastava, S., M. Tamir, et al. (2009). "The social costs of emotional suppression: A prospective study of the transition to college." J Pers Soc Psychol 96(4): 883-97. [PubMed] [Free Full Text]
There is growing interest in understanding how emotion regulation affects adaptation. The present study examined expressive suppression (which involves inhibiting the overt expression of emotion) and how it affects a critical domain of adaptation, social functioning. This investigation focused on the transition to college, a time that presents a variety of emotional and social challenges. Analyses focused on 2 components of suppression: a stable component, representing individual differences expressed both before and after the transition, and a dynamic component, representing variance specific to the new college context. Both components of suppression predicted lower social support, less closeness to others, and lower social satisfaction. These findings were robustly corroborated across weekly experience reports, self-reports, and peer reports and are consistent with a theoretical framework that defines emotion regulation as a dynamic process shaped by both stable person factors and environmental demands.
Tamir, M., O. P. John, et al. (2007). "Implicit theories of emotion: Affective and social outcomes across a major life transition." J Pers Soc Psychol 92(4): 731-744. [PubMed] [Free Full Text]
The authors demonstrate that people differ systematically in their implicit theories of emotion: Some view emotions as fixed (entity theorists), whereas others view emotions as more malleable (incremental theorists). Using a longitudinal and multimethod design, the authors show that implicit theories of emotion, as distinct from intelligence, are linked to both emotional and social adjustment during the transition to college. Before entering college, individuals who held entity (vs. incremental) theories of emotion had lower emotion regulation self-efficacy and made less use of cognitive reappraisal (Part 1). Throughout their first academic term, entity theorists of emotion had less favorable emotion experiences and received decreasing social support from their new friends, as evidenced by weekly diaries (Part 2). By the end of freshman year, entity theorists of emotion had lower well-being, greater depressive symptoms, and lower social adjustment as indicated in both self- and peer-reports (Part 3). The emotional, but not the social, outcomes were partially mediated by individual differences in emotion regulation self-efficacy (Part 4). Together, these studies demonstrate that implicit theories of emotion can have important long-term implications for socioemotional functioning.
Srivastava, S., K. M. McGonigal, et al. (2006). "Optimism in close relationships: How seeing things in a positive light makes them so." J Pers Soc Psychol 91(1): 143-53. [PubMed] [Free Full Text]
Does expecting positive outcomes--especially in important life domains such as relationships--make these positive outcomes more likely? In a longitudinal study of dating couples, the authors tested whether optimists (who have a cognitive disposition to expect positive outcomes) and their romantic partners are more satisfied in their relationships, and if so, whether this is due to optimists perceiving greater support from their partners. In cross-sectional analyses, both optimists and their partners indicated greater relationship satisfaction, an effect that was mediated by optimists' greater perceived support. When the couples engaged in a conflict conversation, optimists and their partners saw each other as engaging more constructively during the conflict, which in turn led both partners to feel that the conflict was better resolved 1 week later. In a 1-year follow-up, men's optimism predicted relationship status. Effects of optimism were mediated by the optimists' perceived support, which appears to promote a variety of beneficial processes in romantic relationships.
Anderson, C., S. Srivastava, et al. (2006). "Knowing your place: self-perceptions of status in face-to-face groups." J Pers Soc Psychol 91(6): 1094-110. [PubMed] [Free Full Text]
Status is the prominence, respect, and influence individuals enjoy in the eyes of others. Theories of positive illusions suggest that individuals form overly positive perceptions of their status in face-to-face groups. In contrast, the authors argue that individuals' perceptions of their status are highly accurate--that is, they closely match the group's perception of their status--because forming overly positive status self-perceptions can damage individuals' acceptance in a group. Therefore, the authors further argue that individuals are likely to refrain from status self-enhancement to maintain their belongingness in a group. Support for their hypotheses was found in 2 studies of status in face-to-face groups, using a social relations model approach (D. A. Kenny & L. La Voie, 1984). Individuals showed high accuracy in perceiving their status and even erred on the side of being overly humble. Moreover, enhancement in status self-perceptions was associated with lower levels of social acceptance.
Srivastava, S. and J. S. Beer (2005). "How self-evaluations relate to being liked by others: integrating sociometer and attachment perspectives." J Pers Soc Psychol 89(6): 966-77. [PubMed] [Free Full Text]
What is the relation between self-evaluation and being liked by others? Does being liked by others lead to more positive self-evaluations (as in sociometer theory), or do positive self-evaluations lead to being liked more (self-broadcasting)? Furthermore, what might affect the extent to which self-evaluations are influenced by likability (and vice versa)? The purpose of the present study was twofold. First, it used a naturalistic design to test the direction of the effect between social self-evaluations and others' judgments of likability in real relationships. Second, it examined how individual differences in attachment avoidance and anxiety relate to self-evaluations and likability and whether attachment differences moderate the relation between the two. Social self-evaluations, actual interpersonal liking, and attachment were assessed in participants taking part in a longitudinal group study. The findings supported the sociometer theory: Being liked by others led to more positive self-evaluations. Both anxious and avoidant attachment predicted lower self-evaluations, and anxious attachment predicted stronger reactions to others' liking (i.e., potentiated the sociometer). These findings have several implications for research on self-evaluation, adult attachment theory, and the importance of integrating interpersonal processes and individual differences.