Emotion and Personality
Emotions

Components of Emotions (e.g., fear):

Distinct subjective feelings (e.g., anxiety)

Accompanied by bodily changes (e.g., increase
heart rate)

Accompanied by action tendencies, or increases
in the probabilities of certain behaviors
(tendency to fight or flight)
Emotions
• People differ in emotional reactions, even to
the same event, so emotions are useful in
making distinctions between persons
Issues In Emotion Research

Emotion States versus Emotion Traits

Categorical Approach to Emotions versus
Dimensional Approach

The Content versus Style of Emotional Life
Issues In Emotion Research
Emotion States versus Emotion Traits

Emotion states are transitory and depend more
on the situation than on the specific person

An emotional trait is a pattern of emotional
reactions that a person consistently experiences
across a variety of life situations
Issues In Emotion Research
Categorical Approach
Dimensional Approach
Emotions are a small
number of primary
and distinct emotions
Emotions are broad
dimensions of
experience
Anger, Joy, Anxiety
Pleasant
Unpleasant
Issues In Emotion Research
Content versus Style of Emotional Life

Content: specific kinds of emotions

Style: how emotions are experienced and
expresses
The Content of Emotional Life
Pleasant Emotions
versus
Unpleasant Emotions
The Content of Emotional Life
Pleasant Emotions
Pleasant emotions: Happiness and life satisfaction (Subjective
Well-Being)
Researchers have defined happiness in two complimentary
ways:
(1) Judgment that life is satisfying
(2) Predominance of positive relative to negative
emotions
Happiness not just absence of negative emotions
The Content of Emotional Life
• Are self-reported happier people really
happier?
• 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 (Defense Mechanisms)
The Content of Emotional Life
 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
The Content of Emotional Life
What We Know About Happy People

No difference between the genders

No difference between age groups; however, the
circumstances that make us happy changes with
age

No differences with race or ethnicity
The Content of Emotional Life
• Money?
– Within a country?
– Over time?
•
•
•
•
Education?
Marriage?
Children?
Religion?
The Content of Emotional Life
Personality and Well Being

Two personality traits that influence happiness



Extraversion
Neuroticism
Two different models

Indirect model: Personality causes a person to
create a certain lifestyle, and lifestyle causes
emotion reactions

Direct model: Personality causes emotional
reactions
The Content of Emotional Life
• Explanations
– Goal Satisfaction vs. Activity (goal
striving)
– Top down (trait) vs. Bottom up
(state)
The Content of Emotional Life
Unpleasant Emotions

Trait anxiety, negative affectivity, or neuroticism

Depression and melancholia

Anger-proneness and hostility
The Content of Emotional Life
Anxiety, Negative Affectivity, or Neuroticism

Eysenck’s Biological Theory

Neuroticism is due primarily to the tendency
of the limbic system in the brain to become
easily activated
The Content of Emotional Life
Anxiety, Negative Affectivity, or Neuroticism

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
The Content of Emotional Life
Depression and Melancholia

Beck’s Cognitive Theory

Certain cognitive style is a pre-existing
condition that makes people vulnerable to
depression

Depressive schemas for


Self, World, Future
Versus Depressive realism
The Content of Emotional Life
Anger-Proneness and Hostility

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
The Content of Emotional Life
• Hostility: Tendency to respond to everyday
frustrations with anger and aggression, to
become easily irritated, to act in a rude,
critical, antagonistic, uncooperative manner
in everyday interaction
• Hostility in Big Five: Low agreeableness,
high neuroticism
Emotional Style

Affect Intensity as an Emotional Style

Assessing Affect Intensity and Mood Variability

Research Findings on Affect Intensity
Emotional Style
High Affect Intensity
Low Affect Intensity
Individuals who
experience emotions
strongly and are
emotionally reactive
and variable
Individuals who
experience emotions
only mildly and with
only gradual
fluctuations
Emotional Style
Assessing Affect Intensity and Mood Variability

Affect Intensity Measure

Beeper studies
Emotional Style
Research Findings on Affect Intensity

High affect intensity subjects tend to evaluate
the events in their lives (both positive and
negative) as having more emotional impact

Individuals high on the affect intensity
dimension exhibit more mood variability

Affect intensity relates to the personality
dimensions of high activity level, sociability,
and arousability
The Interaction of
Content and Style in Emotional Life
Hedonic balance interacts with affect
intensity to produce specific types of
emotional lives that may characterize
different personalities
Summary

Emotions as States or as Traits

Emotional Content

Emotional Style