Why Do People Regulate Their Emotions? A Taxonomy of Motives in Emotion Regulation

Maya Tamir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

407 Scopus citations


Emotion regulation involves the pursuit of desired emotional states (i.e., emotion goals) in the service of superordinate motives. The nature and consequences of emotion regulation, therefore, are likely to depend on the motives it is intended to serve. Nonetheless, limited attention has been devoted to studying what motivates emotion regulation. By mapping the potential benefits of emotion to key human motives, this review identifies key classes of motives in emotion regulation. The proposed taxonomy distinguishes between hedonic motives that target the immediate phenomenology of emotions, and instrumental motives that target other potential benefits of emotions. Instrumental motives include behavioral, epistemic, social, and eudaimonic motives. The proposed taxonomy offers important implications for understanding the mechanism of emotion regulation, variation across individuals and contexts, and psychological function and dysfunction, and points to novel research directions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)199-222
Number of pages24
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant (SES 0920918).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.


  • emotion
  • emotion regulation
  • goals
  • motivation
  • self-regulation


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