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Chapter 13

Emotion and Personality

Chapter Outline


  • Emotions include three components

  • Associated with distinct subjective feelings or affects

  • Accompanied by bodily changes, mostly in the nervous system

  • Accompanied by distinct action tendencies, or increases in probabilities of certain behaviors

  • People differ in emotional reactions, even to the same event, so emotions are useful in making distinctions between persons

Issues in Emotion Research

Emotional States Versus Emotional Traits

  • Emotional states: Transitory, depend more on the situation than on a specific person

  • Emotional traits: Pattern of emotional reactions that a person consistently experiences across a variety of life situations

Categorical Versus Dimensional Approach to Emotion

  • Categorical approach

  • Focus on identifying a small number of primary and distinct emotions

  • Lack of consensus about regarding which emotions are primary

  • Lack of consensus is attributable to different criteria used for defining an emotion as primary

  • Dimensional approach

  • Based on empirical research rather than theoretical criteria

  • People rate themselves on a variety of emotions, then the researcher applies statistical techniques (mostly factor analysis) to identify dimensions underlying ratings

  • Consensus among researchers on two basic dimensions: Pleasant/Unpleasant and High Arousal/Low Arousal

  • Two-dimensional model suggests every emotion can be described as a combination of pleasantness/unpleasantness and arousal

Content Versus Style of Emotional Life

  • Content refers to the specific kinds of emotions that a person experiences

  • Style refers to how emotions are experienced

  • Content and style have trait-like properties (stable over time and situations, meaningful for making distinctions between people)

Content of Emotional Life

  • Pleasant Emotions

  • Happiness and life satisfaction

  • Researchers have defined happiness in two complimentary ways

  • Judgment that life is satisfying

  • Predominance of positive relative to negative emotions

  • Self-report and non-self-report measures of happiness correlate with self-report scores on social desirability

  • Part of being happy is to have positive illusions about the self, an inflated view of the self as a good, able, desirable person

  • Survey measures of happiness and well-being predict other aspects of people’s lives we would expect to relate to being happy

  • Compared to unhappy people, happy people are less abusive, less hostile, report fewer diseases, are more helpful, creative, energetic, forgiving, and trusting

  • Thus, self-reports of happiness are valid and trustworthy

  • What we know about happy people

  • No sex difference in overall happiness, global well-being, life satisfaction, and across cultures and countries

  • No age differences in overall happiness, although circumstances that make people happy change with age

  • Ethnic group membership is unrelated to subjective well-being

  • National differences in subjective well-being

  • People in poorer countries are less happy

  • People in countries that provide citizens fewer civil and political rights are less happy

  • Differences in economic development of nations may be a key source of differences in happiness of countries

  • Personality and well-being

  • High extraversion and low neuroticism contribute more to happiness than gender, ethnicity, age, and all other demographic characteristics

  • Two different models of relationship between personality and well-being

  • Indirect model: Personality causes a person to create a certain lifestyle, and lifestyle causes emotional reactions

  • Direct model: Personality causes emotional reactions

  • Research by Larsen et al. to assess the direct model

  • Best predictor of responsiveness to positive mood induction is extraversion

  • Best predictor of responsiveness to negative mood induction is neuroticism

  • Thus, it is easy to put an extravert into a good mood and a high neuroticism person into a bad mood

  • Suggests personality had a direct effect on emotions

  • Unpleasant emotions

  • Anxiety, negative affectivity, or neuroticism

  • Person high on neuroticism is moody, touchy, irritable, anxious, unstable, pessimistic, and complaining

  • Eysenck’s biological theory

  • Neuroticism is due primarily to the tendency of the limbic system in the brain to become easily activated

  • Limbic system is responsible for emotion and for “fight-flight” reaction

  • No direct tests of this theory, but indirect evidence supports

  • Neuroticism is highly stable over time

  • Neuroticism is a major dimension of personality found with different data sources in different cultures and by different researchers

  • Neuroticisms shows moderate heritability

  • Cognitive theories

  • Neuroticism is caused by styles of information processing—preferential processing of negative (but not positive) information about the self (not about others)

  • Related explanation holds that high neuroticism people have richer networks of association surrounding memories of negative emotion—unpleasant material is more accessible

  • One type of unpleasant information is poor health—link between neuroticism and self-reported health complaints

  • Major diseases categories are not related to neuroticism

  • But neuroticism is related to diminished immune functioning during stress

  • Matthews’ attentional theory that high neuroticism people pay

more attention to threats and unpleasant information in environments

  • Depression and melancholia

  • Diathesis-stress model: Stressful life event triggers depression among those with pre-existing vulnerability, or diathesis

  • Beck’s cognitive theory: Certain cognitive style is a pre-existing condition that makes people vulnerable to depression

  • Vulnerability lies in the particular cognitive schema, a way of looking at the world

  • Three areas of life most influenced by depressive cognitive schema—Cognitive triad: Information about self, world, future

  • Explanatory style

  • Depressed people maintain an internal, stable, and global explanatory style—pessimistic explanatory style

  • Anger-proneness and potential for hostility

  • Type A personality and heart disease

  • Type A personality: Syndrome or a cluster of traits, including achievement strivings, impatience, competitiveness, hostility

  • Research identified Type A personality as a predictor of heart disease

  • Research subsequently identified hostility as a trait of Type A most strongly related to heart disease

  • Hostility: Tendency to respond to everyday frustrations with anger and aggression, to become easily irritated, to feel frequent resentment, to act in a rude, critical, antagonistic, uncooperative manner in everyday interaction

  • Hostility in Big Five: Low agreeableness, high neuroticism

Style of Emotional Life

  • Emotional content refers to the “what” of person’s emotional life, whereas style refers to the “how” of an emotional life

  • Affect intensity as an emotional style

  • High affect intensity people experience emotions strongly and are emotionally reactive and variable

  • Low affect intensity people experience emotions only mildly and only gradual fluctuations and minor reactions

  • Assessing affect intensity and mood variability

  • In early studies, affect intensity was assessed using a daily experiential sampling technique

  • Affect Intensity Measure (AIM): Questionnaire measure that allows quick assessment of emotional style in terms of intensity

  • Research findings on affect intensity

  • High (relative to low) affect intensity people display greater mood variability or more frequent fluctuations in emotional life over time

  • Affect intensity relates to personality dimensions of high activity level, sociability, arousability, high extraversion, high neuroticism

Interaction of Content and Style in Emotional Life

  • Hedonic balance between positive and negative emotions represents the content of emotional life

  • Affect intensity represents the style of emotional life

  • Hedonic balance and affect intensity are unrelated to each other and interact to produce specific types of emotional lives that characterize different personalities

  • Positive hedonic balance, low affect intensity

  • Positive hedonic balance, high affect intensity

  • Negative hedonic balance, low affect intensity

  • Negative hedonic balance, high affect intensity


  • Emotion states versus emotional traits

  • Emotional content versus emotional style

  • Content and style interact within persons to produce distinct varieties of emotional lives


Emotions Anterior Cingulate

Action Tendencies Prefrontal Cortex

Functional Analysis Depression

Emotional States Diathesis-Stress Model

Emotional Traits Cognitive Schema

Categorical Approach Cognitive Triad

Dimensional Approach Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Content Neurotransmitter Theory of Depression

Style Hostility

Happiness Type A Personality

Positive Illusions Syndrome

Mood Induction Affect Intensity

Neuroticism Low Affect Intensity

Limbic System Mood Variability

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