Category: Emotion

Want To Know Whether A Movie Or Book Will Be A Hit? Look At How Emotional The Reviews Are

By Emma Young

You want to choose a new vacuum cleaner, or book, or hotel, or kids’ toy, or movie to watch — so what do you do? No doubt, you go online and check the star ratings for various options on sites such as Amazon or TripAdvisor, and so benefit from the wisdom of crowds.

However, there are problems with this star-based system, as a new paper in Nature Human Behaviour makes clear. Firstly, most ratings are positive — so how do you choose between two, or potentially many more, products with high ratings, or even the same top rating? Secondly, star ratings aren’t a great predictor of the success (and so actual general appeal and approval) of a movie, book, and so on, note Matthew D. Rocklage at the University of Massachusetts and his colleagues. The team presents an alternative method for picking the best product and also predicting success, which focuses on the emotional responses of the reviewers.

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Humans Aren’t The Only Animals To Experience Jealousy — Dogs Do, Too

By Emily Reynolds

Jealousy is a fairly common human emotion — and for a long time, it was presumed it truly was only human. Some have argued that jealousy, with its focus on social threat, requires a concept of “self” and a theory of mind — being jealous of someone flirting with your partner, for example, requires a level of threat (real or imagined) to your relationship. This element of jealousy has been used to argue that animals, without such a sense of self, are therefore unable to experience it.

However a new study, published in Psychological Science, suggests this might not be the case. Amalia P. M. Bastos and team from the University of Auckland find evidence that dogs may, in fact, be able to mentally represent the threatening social interactions that give rise to jealousy.

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Resolving Arguments Can Prevent Bad Feelings From Lingering — And We Get Better At It As We Age

By Emily Reynolds

“Don’t go to bed on an argument” is an adage we’ve all heard and, at some point, probably ignored. Hackneyed as it is, the phrase does have some truth: resolving arguments, rather than letting them simmer away, can make us feel calmer and happier the next day (and also makes it easier to actually get to sleep).

Now a new study from Oregon State University’s Dakota D. Witzel and Robert S. Stawski has looked at the benefits of resolving arguments — and the team finds that not only can resolution almost erase the emotional stress associated with a big argument altogether, but that individual differences can affect how well we do it. The older we get, they find, the less we argue and the better we are at dealing with argument-related stress when it happens.

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Opinions Based On Feelings Are Surprisingly Stable

By Emily Reynolds

Emotional states can be fleeting and somewhat inexplicable — you can feel great one minute and down in the dumps the next, sometimes for no apparent reason. It follows, then, that opinions based on emotion are likely to be equally fleeting: if you’re in a bad mood when you take part in a survey or review a product, then surely the attitudes measured and recorded will be just as transient too.

But according to a series of studies by Matthew D. Rocklage from the University of Massachusetts Boston and Andrew Luttrell from Ball State University, this isn’t actually the case. Instead, they report in Psychological Science, attitudes based in emotion are actually more stable: the more emotional an opinion, the less it changes over time.

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We Have A Strong Urge To Find Out What Might Have Been — Even When This Leads To Feelings Of Regret

By guest blogger Anna Greenburgh

Regret seems to be a fundamental part of the human experience. As James Baldwin wrote, “Though we would like to live without regrets, and sometimes proudly insist that we have none, this is not really possible, if only because we are mortal.” Expressions of regret are easy to find throughout the history of thought, and, as indicated in the Old Testament, intrinsic to regret is a sense of emotional pain: “God regretted making humans on earth; God’s heart was saddened”.

Given the aversive experience of regret, traditional models of decision-making predict that people should to try to avoid it. But of course, the picture is more complex — we all have experienced the desire to know what might have been, even if it leads to regret. Now a study in Psychological Science, led by Lily FitzGibbon at the University of Reading, finds that the lure of finding out what might have been is surprisingly enticing.

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Autistic Children May Experience Less Variation In Their Bodily Emotional Responses

By guest blogger Dan Carney

Research into emotion processing in autistic people has mainly focused on how they understand others’ emotions. A more limited body of work into how autistic people process their own emotions has, however, suggested difficulties identifying and describing emotional experiences, and distinguishing between emotional states. The latter is potentially important, as it is associated with negative outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and self-injurious behavior, all of which have been suggested to occur more frequently in autism than in the general population.   

So far, studies of emotion differentiation in autism have tended to use language-based tasks. But now, a team led by Eleanor Palser from the University of California San Francisco has reported the first study looking at how autistic children map out where they feel emotions in their body. The team finds that compared to non-autistic children, the bodily emotion maps of autistic children are more similar across different emotions, suggesting less variability in the way they physically experience different emotional states. The research, published in the journal Autism, was partly based on a 2016 report from the charity Autistica, in which members of the autistic community identified sensory processing and affective difficulties as key research goals.

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During Lockdown, Meaningful Activity Is More Fulfilling Than Simply Staying Busy

By Emily Reynolds

It’s not hard to find ways to stay busy during lockdown. Yes, many of us are spending lots of time at home and have evenings and weekends free from almost any kind of social activity — but we’re also juggling work, chores, childcare, life admin and the various emotional demands of living through a global pandemic.

For some, in fact, staying busy has been an appealing prospect; indeed, hundreds of articles have been written with ideas on how to stay busy and distracted during the boredom of lockdown. But a new study from a team at Australia’s RMIT University, published in PLOS ONE, suggests that meaningful activity, rather than simply busyness, may be the way to stay emotionally stable during this period.

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How Many Different Positive Emotions Do We Experience?

By Emma Young

Awe, compassion, love, gratitude… research papers and media stories about these emotions abound. Indeed, the past decade has seen an explosion in work on positive emotions — essentially, emotions that involve pleasant rather than unpleasant feelings. However, very little has been done to explore which distinct feelings, thoughts and motivations characterise each one, argue Aaron Weidman and Jessica Tracy at the University of British Columbia. In a new paper in Emotion, they report their detailed investigation into these subjective experiences — an investigation that has led them to drop some commonly accepted positive emotions from their master list.

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Adults Who Experienced More Positive Emotions Had Less Memory Decline Over The Next Decade

By Emily Reynolds

A huge variety of factors are related to memory, from mood to personality to what substances have been consumed. One recent study, for example, found that older adults with higher openness to experience also experienced fewer cognitive complaints each day; other work has found a relationship between self-reported memory and traits including neuroticism and extraversion.

Now, in a study published in Psychological Science, Emily F. Hittner from Northwestern University and team have looked at the relationship between memory and positive affect — the experience of pleasant emotional states like enthusiasm, pride or joy. And they found less memory decline over time in those participants with higher levels of positive affect.

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Grimacing Or Smiling Can Make An Injection Feel Less Painful

By Emma Young

If you’re preparing to receive a flu vaccine — or even a COVID-19 vaccine — this winter, you’ll be interested in the results of a new study that investigates whether it’s better to smile or grimace your way through the pain of an injection.

The idea that manipulating our facial expressions can affect our emotions has a long and storied history. There are many advocates of this “facial feedback hypothesis”, and many critics, too. Indeed, one of the classic findings in the field — that people find cartoons funnier if they hold a pen between their teeth, inducing a smile — recently failed to replicate. This mixed research background was well known to Sarah D. Pressman and Amanda M. Acevedo at the University of California, Irvine, who led the new work, published in Emotion.

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