Preference for Negative Emotions

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Abstract

This research demonstrates that preference for emotions sometimes cannot be equated with a positive-negative valence dimension. Participants were asked to make choices between pairs of affect-inducing options opposite in valence but equal in activation. The results showed that in absence of contextual cues or situational constraints, choices followed a pleasure-maximizing principle. However, when information was provided about a context cueing appropriateness of certain emotions over others, a preference reversal was observed so that negative emotions were preferred over positive emotions. These results are discussed in relation to current theories of pleasure-maximizing choice and behavior.

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