Holiday Cheer

Kevin Lewis

December 26, 2010

The ability to regulate emotion is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status

Stéphane Côté, Anett Gyurak & Robert Levenson
Emotion, December 2010, Pages 923-933

Are people who are best able to implement strategies to regulate their emotional expressive behavior happier and more successful than their counterparts? Although past research has examined individual variation in knowledge of the most effective emotion regulation strategies, little is known about how individual differences in the ability to actually implement these strategies, as assessed objectively in the laboratory, are associated with external criteria. In two studies, we examined how individual variation in the ability to modify emotional expressive behavior in response to evocative stimuli is related to well-being and financial success. Study 1 showed that individuals who can best suppress their emotional reaction to an acoustic startle are happiest with their lives. Study 2 showed that individuals who can best amplify their emotional reaction to a disgust-eliciting movie are happiest with their lives and have the highest disposable income and socioeconomic status. Thus, being able to implement emotion regulation strategies in the laboratory is closely linked to well-being and financial success.


Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others' Negative Emotions

Alexander Jordan et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, January 2011, Pages 120-135

Four studies document underestimations of the prevalence of others' negative emotions and suggest causes and correlates of these erroneous perceptions. In Study 1a, participants reported that their negative emotions were more private or hidden than were their positive emotions; in Study 1b, participants underestimated the peer prevalence of common negative, but not positive, experiences described in Study 1a. In Study 2, people underestimated negative emotions and overestimated positive emotions even for well-known peers, and this effect was partially mediated by the degree to which those peers reported suppression of negative (vs. positive) emotions. Study 3 showed that lower estimations of the prevalence of negative emotional experiences predicted greater loneliness and rumination and lower life satisfaction and that higher estimations for positive emotional experiences predicted lower life satisfaction. Taken together, these studies suggest that people may think they are more alone in their emotional difficulties than they really are.


Sweets, Sex, or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards

Brad Bushman, Scott Moeller & Jennifer Crocker
Journal of Personality, forthcoming

Many people ascribe great value to self-esteem, but how much value? Do people value self-esteem more than other pleasant activities, such as eating sweets and having sex? Two studies of college students (Study 1: N=130; Study 2: N=152) showed that people valued boosts to their self-esteem more than they valued eating a favorite food and engaging in a favorite sexual activity. Study 2 also showed that people valued self-esteem more than they valued drinking alcohol, receiving a paycheck, and seeing a best friend. Both studies found that people who highly valued self-esteem engaged in laboratory tasks to boost their self-esteem. Finally, personality variables interacted with these value ratings. Entitled people thought they were more deserving of all pleasant rewards, even though they did not like them all that much (both studies); and people who highly value self-esteem pursue potentially maladaptive self-image goals, presumably to elevate their self-esteem (Study 2).


Adaptive significance of low levels of self-deception and cooperation in depression

Michele Surbey
Evolution and Human Behavior, January 2011, Pages 29-40

Consciousness and self-awareness, juxtaposed by the ability to self-deceive, are legacies of our evolutionary heritage. As a purposive outgrowth of modularity, self-deception may serve to isolate threatening thoughts from consciousness and facilitate cooperation. The primary goal of the present investigation was to determine if individuals with depression exhibit both low levels of self-deception and cooperation. Relationships between the tendency to self-deceive and the conscious attributions typical of depression or promoting cooperation were also examined. Eighty undergraduate participants completed measures of self-deception, impression management, depression, and attributional styles. Cooperation was assessed by responses to social dilemmas based on the prisoner's dilemma game. Results indicated that, as expected, high self-deceivers cooperated more and exhibited lower levels of depression than low self-deceivers. Self-deception scores were significantly associated with several attributional styles but independently predicted depressive symptomology. That individuals with depression displayed both reduced levels of self-deception and cooperation is discussed in light of several models of the evolutionary significance of depression, especially E. H. Hagen's bargaining model of depression [The functions of postpartum depression. Evolution and Human Behavior, 20, 325-359, 1999; Depression as bargaining: The case postpartum. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 323-336, 2002; The bargaining model of depression. In P. Hammerstein (Ed.), Genetic and cultural evolution of cooperation (pp. 95-123). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003].


Religion, Social Networks, and Life Satisfaction

Chaeyoon Lim & Robert Putnam
American Sociological Review, December 2010, Pages 914-933

Although the positive association between religiosity and life satisfaction is well documented, much theoretical and empirical controversy surrounds the question of how religion actually shapes life satisfaction. Using a new panel dataset, this study offers strong evidence for social and participatory mechanisms shaping religion's impact on life satisfaction. Our findings suggest that religious people are more satisfied with their lives because they regularly attend religious services and build social networks in their congregations. The effect of within-congregation friendship is contingent, however, on the presence of a strong religious identity. We find little evidence that other private or subjective aspects of religiosity affect life satisfaction independent of attendance and congregational friendship.


How Does Prayer Help Manage Emotions?

Shane Sharp
Social Psychology Quarterly, December 2010, Pages 417-437

Many individuals use prayer to manage negative emotions, but scholars know little about how prayer accomplishes this task. Using in-depth interview data from victims of intimate partner violence, I argue that prayer is an imaginary social support interaction that provides individuals with resources they use to perform individual emotion management strategies. In particular, interactions with God through prayer provide individuals (1) an other to whom one can express and vent anger; (2) positive reflected appraisals that help maintain self-esteem; (3) reinterpretive cognitions that make situations seem less threatening; (4) an other with whom one can interact to "zone out" negative emotion-inducing stimuli; and (5) an emotion management model to imitate. Most of these resources help individuals deal primarily with a particular type of emotion and have an appreciable influence on social action. The analysis presented suggests that scholars should investigate how interactions with imagined others help individuals manage emotions.


The relationship between religious identity and preferred coping strategies: An examination of the relative importance of interpersonal and intrapersonal coping in Muslim and Christian faiths

Peter Fischer et al.
Review of General Psychology, December 2010, Pages 365-381

Religious affiliation has consistently been shown to help individuals cope with adversity and stressful events. The present paper argues that this proposition is valid for both Christians and Muslims, but that these religious identities foster different types of coping. In accordance with historical, cultural, and psychological accounts, it is proposed that the Christian core self is relatively individualistic, whereas the Muslim core self is oriented more toward the collective. As a consequence, it is hypothesized that when confronted with a stressful life event, Muslims are more likely to adopt interpersonal (collective) coping strategies (such as seeking social support or turning to family members), while Christians are more likely to engage intrapersonal (individualistic) coping mechanisms, such as cognitive restructuring or reframing the event. Evidence from the literature on coping strategies is reviewed and systematized. Evidence lend support to the analysis by indicating that Muslims indeed tend to use an interpersonally oriented (collective) coping style when dealing with adversity, whereas Christians are more likely to employ intrapersonally oriented (individualistic) strategies when facing comparable scenarios. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.


Service without a smile: Comparing the consequences of neutral and positive display rules

John Trougakos, Christine Jackson, Daniel Beal
Journal of Applied Psychology, forthcoming

We used an experimental design to examine the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes through which neutral display rules, compared to positive display rules, influence objective task performance of poll workers and ratings provided by survey respondents of the poll workers. Student participants (N = 140) were trained to adhere to 1 of the 2 display rule conditions while delivering opinion surveys to potential patrons of an organization during a 40-min period. Results showed that, compared to positive display rules, neutral display rules resulted in less task persistence and greater avoidance behavior. These effects were mediated through a greater use of expression suppression. In addition, neutral display rules resulted in less positive respondent mood, which accounted for lower ratings of service quality and of overall favorability attitudes toward the sponsoring organization. The importance and ubiquity of neutral display rules are discussed, given the potential for positive and negative consequences at work.


Oxytocin and happiness

Ryan Merlin, Denise Grosberg & Paul Zak
Claremont Graduate University Working Paper, November 2010

What makes people happy? The biological basis for happiness is only beginning to be studied. This research examined if the release of the peptide oxytocin (OT) was associated with greater subjective well-being. We designed a neuroeconomics experiment with a standard task, the "trust game," that has been shown to increase OT levels. Using a female college student sample (N=60), we obtained blood samples before and after the trust game and assayed OT, estradiol, cortisol, and ACTH. We also assessed satisfaction with life, resilience, depression, sexual activity, and attachment styles. We found that an individual's change in OT predicted greater resilience (p < .05), lower depression scores (p < .05), and greater satisfaction with life (p < .05), when controlling for estradiol and number of sexual partners. People who returned more money to a stranger who had trusted them in the experiment were also happier (p < .05), had better attachment to others (p < .01), trusted others more (p < .01), and were less focused on money (p < .01). Those who were happier had more sex (p < .05) with fewer partners (p < .05), scored lower on depression (p < .001), and were more resilient (p < .001). Our findings indicate that happiness is associated one's connections to other people, and that greater OT release appears to help sustain these social connections. In this study we cannot determine if happy people release more OT when trusted, or if greater OT causes people to be happier. But, we have found that OT, the hormone that promotes maternal bonding and romantic relationships, is also connected to one's satisfaction with life.


Unrealistic optimism about future life events: A cautionary note

Adam Harris & Ulrike Hahn
Psychological Review, forthcoming

A robust finding in social psychology is that people judge negative events as less likely to happen to themselves than to the average person, a behavior interpreted as showing that people are "unrealistically optimistic" in their judgments of risk concerning future life events. However, we demonstrate how unbiased responses can result in data patterns commonly interpreted as indicative of optimism for purely statistical reasons. Specifically, we show how extant data from unrealistic optimism studies investigating people's comparative risk judgments are plagued by the statistical consequences of sampling constraints and the response scales used, in combination with the comparative rarity of truly negative events. We conclude that the presence of such statistical artifacts raises questions over the very existence of an optimistic bias about risk and implies that to the extent that such a bias exists, we know considerably less about its magnitude, mechanisms, and moderators than previously assumed.


Unpacking the misery multiplier: How employability modifies the impacts of unemployment and job insecurity on life satisfaction and mental health

Francis Green
Journal of Health Economics, forthcoming

Employability strongly moderates the effects of unemployment and of job insecurity on life satisfaction and mental health. Using nationally representative panel data from Australia, I find that an increase in employability from zero to 100% cancels around three quarters, in some cases more, of the detrimental effect of unemployment. Employability also matters for employees: an increase in men's employability from zero to 100% reduces the detrimental effect of job insecurity by more than half. The effects of extreme job insecurity and of unemployment are large and of comparable magnitudes. The findings are used to compute estimates of the well-being trade-off between increases in job insecurity and increases in employability, relevant to the support of "flexicurity" policies, and of the "misery multiplier", the extent to which the effect of a rise in aggregate unemployment on those becoming unemployed is enhanced through the effects on others' insecurity and employability.


The Shifting Meaning of Happiness

Cassie Mogilner, Sepandar Kamvar & Jennifer Aaker
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

An examination of emotions reported on 12 million personal blogs along with a series of surveys and laboratory experiments shows that the meaning of happiness is not fixed; instead, it systematically shifts over the course of one's lifetime. Whereas younger people are more likely to associate happiness with excitement, as they get older, they become more likely to associate happiness with peacefulness. This change appears to be driven by a redirection of attention from the future to the present as people age. The dynamic of what happiness means has broad implications, from purchasing behavior to ways to increase one's happiness.


Emotional experience improves with age: Evidence based on over 10 years of experience sampling

Laura Carstensen et al.
Psychology and Aging, forthcoming

Recent evidence suggests that emotional well-being improves from early adulthood to old age. This study used experience-sampling to examine the developmental course of emotional experience in a representative sample of adults spanning early to very late adulthood. Participants (N = 184, Wave 1; N = 191, Wave 2; N = 178, Wave 3) reported their emotional states at five randomly selected times each day for a one week period. Using a measurement burst design, the one-week sampling procedure was repeated five and then ten years later. Cross-sectional and growth curve analyses indicate that aging is associated with more positive overall emotional well-being, with greater emotional stability and with more complexity (as evidenced by greater co-occurrence of positive and negative emotions). These findings remained robust after accounting for other variables that may be related to emotional experience (personality, verbal fluency, physical health, and demographic variables). Finally, emotional experience predicted mortality; controlling for age, sex, and ethnicity, individuals who experienced relatively more positive than negative emotions in everyday life were more likely to have survived over a 13 year period. Findings are discussed in the theoretical context of socioemotional selectivity theory.


Music for the Seasons: Seasonal Music Preferences in College Students

Terry Pettijohn, Greg Williams & Tiffany Carter
Current Psychology, December 2010, Pages 328-345

The present research examined music preferences in relation to the seasons: fall, winter, spring, and summer. Across two studies, male and female college students (N = 232 and 199) were primed to think about the seasons and indicate their music preference from Rentfrow and Gosling's (2003) music classification scheme. Participants were predicted to prefer reflexive and complex music when primed with fall/winter and energetic and rhythmic and upbeat and conventional music when primed with spring/summer. Study 1 had participants read winter or summer season scenarios and Study 2 had participants write their own fall, winter, spring, or summer seasonal experiences. Overall, results were consistent with predictions for the reflexive and complex and energetic and rhythmic classifications, indicating an environmental influence of musical preferences.

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