Emotions and Concerns: Situational Evidence for Their Systematic Co-Occurrence

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People experience emotions when events are relevant to their current concerns, that is, when events affect their goals, values, or motives that are pertinent at that time. In the current research, we focused on one kind of concern—values—and examined whether different types of concerns are associated with different categories of emotion. More specifically, we investigated whether, at the situation level, the relevance of different types of values is linked to the intensity of different types of emotional experience. We conducted two retrospective survey studies (Studies 1 and 2)—one of which was cross-cultural—and one experience-sampling study (Study three). Together, the three studies provide convergent evidence for associations between the situational relevance of self-focused values (e.g., ambition, success) and socially disengaging emotions (e.g., pride, anger) on the one hand, and between the relevance of other-focused values (e.g., loyalty, helping) and socially engaging emotions (e.g., closeness, shame) on the other. These findings challenge the (often implicit) assumption of emotion theories that different types of concerns are interchangeable—that is, that it does not matter for emotion which concern is relevant as long as one is. In contrast, the current research proposes that different concerns are constitutive elements of different emotional experiences and thus encourages new ways of thinking about emotions.

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