Impact of Specific Emotions


For centuries, theorists and psychologists have posited that emotions have a pervasive impact on people’s reasoning and behavior and that those changes are adaptive in that they help the individual adapt to challenges in the environment. Several studies demonstrated that different emotions have differentiable impacts on cognition and judgments, including one conducted in our laboratory (Lench & Levine, 2005). Recently, we examined the consequences of emotions for judgments and related states in a meta-analytic review of emotion research (Lench, Flores, & Bench, 2011; Lench et al., 2012), and found that emotions have a pervasive effect on judgment, cognition, physiology, experience, and behavior. These changes were consistent with predictions derived from a functional discrete emotion account, and could not be accounted for by other emotional models. This investigation offered preliminary evidence that discrete emotions have unique impacts on people. We are currently conducting a series of investigations to examine when the changes associated with discrete emotions actually result in adaptive responses. Although this is the foundational premise of many theories of emotion – that emotions are functional – the degree to which emotions result in greater success in situations that have been theorized as relevant to those emotions has never been directly tested (Bench, Lench, Darbor, & Moore, 2014).

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