Desired Sadness, Happiness, Fear and Calmness in Depression: The Potential Roles of Valence and Arousal

Shir Mizrahi Lakan*, Yael Millgram, Maya Tamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Prior research has shown that clinically depressed individuals are somewhat more motivated to feel sadness and less motivated to feel happiness than nondepressed individuals are. However, what underlies these patterns is not yet clear, as people may be motivated to experience positive (vs. negative) valence, high (vs. low) arousal, or discrete emotions. To test these possibilities, we assessed the motivation to experience emotions that capture different combinations of positive and negative valence and high and low arousal (i.e., sadness, happiness, fear and calmness) in 36 clinically depressed and 36 nondepressed college students (76% females, Mage = 24.5). We measured desired emotions by selections of emotional music clips and by the self-reported desirability of emotions. We found that both depressed and nondepressed individuals desired calmness the most across measures, and this desire was stronger among depressed individuals. We replicated prior findings, such that across measures, depressed individuals were relatively more motivated to feel sadness than nondepressed individuals were. Furthermore, whereas nondepressed individuals were motivated to listen to music clips and experience emotions that were positive (vs. negative) in valence, this was not necessarily the case among depressed individuals. Compared to nondepressed individuals, depressed individuals desired music that was relatively lower (vs. higher) in arousal, but reported a relatively stronger desire for negative (vs. positive) emotions. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding motivated emotion regulation in depression.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1130-1140
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant 934/15) and by the Artery Chair in Personality Studies Endowed by Goldberg, Geller and Luria

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • depression
  • emotion regulation
  • happiness
  • motivation
  • sadness


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