Accuracy and Projection in Perceptions of Partners’ Recent Emotional Experiences: Both Minds Matter

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In 2 studies involving 96 married couples (Study 1) and 118 romantic couples (Study 2), we investigated partners’ perceptions of each others’ recently experienced emotions. In both studies, both individuals within each couple independently provided reports of (a) their own recently experienced emotions, (b) their perceptions of their partners’ recently experienced emotions, and (c) the extent to which they had expressed the emotions they had experienced to their partner. We then assessed the extent to which perceptions of partners’ emotions were (a) accurate (i.e., in agreement with partners’ independent reports of their own feelings) and (b) a function of the perceiver’s own emotions (i.e., projected). Significant evidence for both accuracy in perceiving emotions (4 of 7 emotions in Study 1; 8 of 9 emotions in Study 2) and for projection of perceivers’ own emotions onto partners was obtained (5 of 7 emotions in Study 1; 9 of 9 emotions in Study 2). Effects for all remaining emotions trended in the same directions. There was almost no moderation of these effects by targets’ having knowingly expressed the emotions. Implications of the patterning of findings for different emotions for the social functions of accuracy and projection in perceiving emotions are discussed.

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