Beyond Emotional Similarity: The Role of Situation-Specific Motives

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It is well established that people often express emotions that are similar to those of other group members. However, people do not always express emotions that are similar to other group members, and the factors that determine when similarity occurs are not yet clear. In the current project, we examined whether certain situations activate specific emotional motives that influence the tendency to show emotional similarity. To test this possibility, we considered emotional responses to political situations that either called for weak (Studies 1 and 3) or strong (Study 2 and 4) negative emotions. Findings revealed that the motivation to feel weak emotions led people to be more influenced by weaker emotions than their own, whereas the motivation to feel strong emotions led people to be more influenced by stronger emotions than their own. Intriguingly, these motivations led people to change their emotions even after discovering that others’ emotions were similar to their initial emotional response. These findings are observed both in a lab task (Studies 1–3) and in real-life online interactions on Twitter (Study 4). Our findings enhance our ability to understand and predict emotional influence processes in different contexts and may therefore help explain how these processes unfold in group behavior.

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