Preferring familiar emotions: As you want (and like) it?

Brett Q. Ford, Maya Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Do people want to feel emotions that are familiar to them? In two studies, participants rated how much they typically felt various emotions (i.e., familiarity of the emotion) and how much they generally wanted to experience these emotions. We found that, in general, people wanted to feel pleasant emotions more than unpleasant emotions. However, for both pleasant and unpleasant emotions, people more (vs. less) familiar with an emotion also wanted to experience it more. Links between the familiarity of an emotion and wanting to experience that emotion were not explained by the concurrent experience of familiar emotions. Also, we show that although familiar emotions were also liked more, liking did not fully account for wanting familiar emotions. Finally, the familiarity of emotions mediated the links between trait affect and the emotions people wanted to feel. We propose that people are motivated to feel familiar emotions, in part, because of their instrumental value.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)311-324
Number of pages14
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Correspondence should be addressed to: Brett Ford, Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. E-mail: [email protected] This work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (SES 0920918) to Maya Tamir.


  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Familiarity
  • Liking
  • Wanting


Dive into the research topics of 'Preferring familiar emotions: As you want (and like) it?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this