According to the instrumental approach to emotion regulation, people may want to experience even unpleasant emotions to attain instrumental benefits. Building on value-expectancy models of self-regulation, we tested whether people want to feel bad in certain contexts specifically because they expect such feelings to be useful to them. In two studies, participants were more likely to try to increase their anger before a negotiation when motivated to confront (vs. collaborate with) a negotiation partner. Participants motivated to confront (vs. collaborate with) their partner expected anger to be more useful to them, and this expectation in turn, led them to try to increase their anger before negotiating. The subsequent experience of anger, following random assignment to emotion inductions (Study 1) or engagement in self-selected emotion regulation activities (Study 2), led participants to be more successful at getting others to concede to their demands, demonstrating that emotional preferences have important pragmatic implications.
- Emotion regulation