Should people pursue feelings that feel good or feelings that do good? Emotional preferences and well-being

Maya Tamir*, Brett Q. Ford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations

Abstract

Is it adaptive to seek pleasant emotions and avoid unpleasant emotions all the time or seek pleasant and unpleasant emotions at the right time? Participants reported on their preferences for anger and happiness in general and in contexts in which they might be useful or not (i.e., confrontations and collaborations, respectively). People who generally wanted to feel more happiness and less anger experienced greater well-being. However, when emotional preferences were examined in context, people who wanted to feel more anger or more happiness when they were useful, and people who wanted to feel less of those emotions when they were not useful, experienced greater well-being. Such patterns could not be explained by differences in the perceived usefulness of emotions, intelligence, perceived regulatory skills, emotional acceptance, social desirability, or general emotional preferences. These findings demonstrate that people who want to feel unpleasant emotions when they are useful may be happier overall.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1061-1070
Number of pages10
JournalEmotion
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012

Keywords

  • Anger
  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Happiness
  • Well-being

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