Knowing when to seek anger: Psychological health and context-sensitive emotional preferences

Min Y. Kim*, Brett Q. Ford, Iris Mauss, Maya Tamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

According to hedonic approaches to psychological health, healthy individuals should pursue pleasant and avoid unpleasant emotions. According to instrumental approaches, however, healthy individuals should pursue useful and avoid harmful emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant. We sought to reconcile these approaches by distinguishing between preferences for emotions that are aggregated across contexts and preferences for emotions within specific contexts. Across five days, we assessed daily confrontational and collaborative demands and daily preferences for anger and happiness. Somewhat consistent with hedonic approaches, when averaging across contexts, psychologically healthier individuals wanted to feel less anger, but not more happiness. Somewhat consistent with instrumental approaches, when examined within contexts, psychologically healthier individuals wanted to feel angrier in more confrontational contexts, and some wanted to feel happier in more collaborative contexts. Thus, although healthier individuals are motivated to avoid unpleasant emotions over time, they are more motivated to experience them when they are potentially useful.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1126-1136
Number of pages11
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume29
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 18 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotional flexibility
  • Psychological health

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