What do people want to feel and why? Pleasure and utility in emotion regulation

Maya Tamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

380 Scopus citations


It is typically assumed that people always want to feel good. Recent evidence, however, demonstrates that people want to feel unpleasant emotions, such as anger or fear, when these emotions promote the attainment of their long-term goals. If emotions are regulated for instrumental reasons, people should want to feel pleasant emotions when immediate benefits outweigh future benefits, but when future benefits outweigh immediate benefits, people may prefer to feel useful emotions, even if they are unpleasant. In this article, I describe an instrumental account of emotion regulation, review empirical evidence relevant to it, and discuss its implications for promoting adaptive emotional experiences.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)101-105
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation


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