What you like is what you try to get: Attitudes toward emotions and situation selection

Noam Markovitch*, Liat Netzer, Maya Tamir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Why do people expose themselves to certain emotional stimuli and avoid others? We propose that what people want to feel is linked to attitudes toward emotions. In 3 studies, we show that individuals with more (vs. less) negative attitudes toward an emotion were more (vs. less) likely to avoid stimuli that induce that emotion. People who evaluated disgust (or joy) less favorably than others were less likely to expose themselves to disgusting (or joyful) pictures (Study 1). These links were emotion-specific and could not be explained by differences in state or trait emotion (Study 2) or in emotional reactivity (Study 3). We were further able to show that the choice of emotion-inducing stimuli affected emotional experience in a congruent manner. People with more (vs. less) negative attitudes toward disgust (or sadness) were more likely to avoid disgusting (or sad) stimuli, resulting in more intense experiences of disgust (or sadness; Study 2). Finally, people with more negative attitudes toward disgust chose to avoid more disgusting stimuli, whether attitudes were assessed explicitly or implicitly (Study 3). These findings suggest that people avoid stimuli that induce emotions that they evaluate less favorably, even when such evaluations are not consciously accessible.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)728-739
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Psychological Association.


  • Attitudes
  • Disgust
  • Emotion regulation
  • Motivation
  • Situation selection


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