Skip to main content
Log in

The interpersonal correlates of believing emotions are controllable

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Motivation and Emotion Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Our beliefs about whether emotions are controllable influence how we approach our own emotions – but what about others’ emotions? Such beliefs should shape how we respond to others, but past literature suggests two competing hypotheses: if believing someone else’s emotions are controllable has similar beneficial outcomes as believing one’s own emotions are controllable, such beliefs may predict more supportive interpersonal responding. Alternatively, if believing someone else’s emotions are controllable instead activates evaluative social judgments, such beliefs may predict more unsupportive interpersonal responding. Across two studies Needs to read (Ns 309, 314), believing a depressed person’s emotions were more (vs. less) controllable predicted more unsupportive interpersonal responses: more negative responses (e.g., more avoidance) and less positive responses (e.g., less support). These beliefs were also associated with a greater likelihood of trying to regulate the person’s emotions across various emotion regulation tactics. Our results suggest that beliefs about emotion controllability have important implications for how we respond to others experiencing depression and distress.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. Although different terms have been used in the literature to refer to these beliefs (incremental/entity theories, malleability beliefs, controllability beliefs), we have chosen to refer to “controllability” because this term most closely matches our validated measurement tool, which has been used often in prior work (De Castella et al., 2013; Kneeland et al., 2016a, b, c; Tamir et al., 2007), and centers explicitly on the extent to which people believe they (or others) can control or change emotions.

  2. Given the wide variability in socioeconomic status and age, we examined whether socioeconomic status (which we assessed with annual household income here, but the results are comparable when additionally considering education and subjective social class) and age had any consistent associations with people’s beliefs about emotion. We found weak associations with no consistent patterns of significance across studies and measures of beliefs. We also found that all the main results held when simultaneously controlling for the different measures of socioeconomic status and age.

References

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Angela M. Smith.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Smith, A.M., Young, G. & Ford, B.Q. The interpersonal correlates of believing emotions are controllable. Motiv Emot 47, 323–332 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-023-10016-3

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-023-10016-3

Keywords

Navigation