Category: Emotion

Feelings of awe may motivate us to become our “authentic” selves

By Emma Young

Awe has to be one of the hottest emotions in psychological research. Here at the Digest, we’ve covered all kinds of recent work on everything from the benefits of awe walks to the mixed emotion of threat-awe. Now a new paper argues that awe “awakens self-transcendence”, helping people to get closer to their true, “authentic” self.

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Do emojis represent the whole gamut of human emotion?

By Matthew Warren

Emojis have become part of our everyday communication online, allowing us to succinctly communicate how we’re feeling in a way that written language cannot. Psychologists are even beginning to use emojis in research, to allow children or other participants to respond without the need for traditional questionnaires.

But is the library of emojis that is available to us truly representative of the range of emotions that we feel? A new study in Scientific Reports suggests that, broadly, it is — but that there are some important gaps too.

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We feel more disgusted by people who don’t share our political views

By Emily Reynolds

Our politics play a significant role in the way we interact with others. We can be dismissive or intolerant of those with different politics to us — and research from 2020 even found that we prefer strangers who share our politics to actual friends who don’t.

New research, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, finds that this dislike can go beyond mere intolerance: the team finds that we can even feel physical disgust towards members of political outgroups — with potential repercussions to how we treat our political rivals.

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Researchers have identified a “hidden source of regret”: our tendency to overrate the choices we (almost) make

By Matthew Warren

We often feel regret when we learn that an opportunity we rejected has turned out really well. Think about that investment you didn’t make that has now shot up in value, for example, or the person you never asked out who is now living a happily married life.

But what happens when we never find out the outcome of that potential, rejected opportunity? If we don’t know what could have been, then it might seem like we shouldn’t feel much regret. But according to a new series of studies in Psychological Science by Daniel Feiler from Darmouth College and Johannes Müller-Trede from the University of Navarra, we sometimes feel more regret in these situations.

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We feel more nostalgic as we get older — but it’s not always a positive experience

By Emily Reynolds

A song, a place, a smell… it doesn’t take much to be transported back in time. Just as with Proust and his madeleines, we all have specific memories that not only provoke nostalgia but trigger intense emotions.

And while nostalgia is often framed as a positive thing — a fond wistfulness — this isn’t always the case, as the University of Akron’s Jennifer R. Turner and Jennifer Tehan Stanley explore in a recent paper published in Emotion. They find that nostalgia is more common the older we get — and it can also set off both positive and negative feelings.

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Want To Boost Your Wellbeing In 2022? Here’s What The Research Says

By Emma Young

It’s natural to start a new year with plans to make this one better than the last. But if you are thinking about how to boost your wellbeing, it’s worth knowing that some “good” ways of living have dark sides, too…

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We Seem To Treat Physical Warmth As A Sign Of Safety

By Emma Young

When we learn that something in our environment signals Threat!, we start to react to every encounter with the “fight or flight”, or “fear”, response. Recent work has shown, though, that the presence of someone we’re close to — a friend or partner, say, — can reduce or even eliminate this response. Our brains seem to treat such people as a powerful “safety” signal.

This was thought to be a unique effect. But now a team led by Erica Hornstein at UCLA has shown that physical warmth does the same thing. The work, published in Emotion, was prompted by research finding that we implicitly associate physical warmth with social support. It has potential implications for treating anxiety disorders, especially for people who live alone — or who find it hard to unlearn links between certain stimuli and threat, as can happen with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Women Are No More Emotionally Turbulent Than Men

By Emily Reynolds

Women are commonly assumed to be more emotionally turbulent than men: moodier, more volatile, and more likely to experience rapid changes in affect across the course of the menstrual cycle. Aside from being the basis of many a sexist joke, this assumption has had an impact on research, with cisgender women excluded from research due to apparent fluctuations in mood.

Building on research exploring fluctuations in rodents, a team from the University of Michigan has looked more closely at such variability in humans. Their study in Scientific Reports finds no difference in emotional variance between cisgender men and women, or between women who do and do not use oral contraception.

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“A Sad Kind Of Happiness”: The Role Of Mixed Emotions In Our Lives

By Emma Young

Sometimes, our emotions are one-dimensional. This morning, for example, when both my kids and my dog jumped into bed, I felt happy. During the Halloween party that my husband and I organised for our boys, though, happiness at their pleasure was definitely tinged with anxiety/stress at managing a houseful of rampaging kids. And here we get into murkier emotional territory. While so much research has been done on individual, “basic” emotions, more complex emotional experiences have been neglected. But recent studies have revealed some surprising and special roles for mixed emotions in our lives.

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We’ve Neglected The Role Of “Psychological Richness” When Considering What Makes A Good Life, Study Argues

By Emma Young

What is it that makes someone feel that theirs is a “good life”? Of all the ideas put forward over the past few millennia, two are most often extolled and researched today. The first is hedonistic wellbeing, often called simply “happiness”, which is characterised by plenty of positive emotions and general life satisfaction. The other is “eudaimonia” — feeling that your life has meaning and that you are realising your potential. Now in a new paper in Psychological Review, Shigehiro Oishi at the University of Virginia and Erin Westgate at the University of Florida suggest that we’ve been missing something: “psychological richness”.

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