CRVAW Faculty Journal Articles


Inoculation by Emotion: Effects of Positive Emotional States on Children's Reactions to Social Comparison


Our purpose was to determine the influence of positive emotional states on young children's responses to social comparisons and to test the hypothesis that self-focused positive eomtional states "innoculate" children against the behavioral consequences of negative social comparison. five- and 6-yr-old children, equally divided by sex, were assigned randomly to 1 of 3 emotion-inducing conditions: self-focused happy, other-focused happy, or neutral. After the emotion induction, the Ss experienced social comparisons in which the peer received more, fewer, or an equal number of rewards. It is suggested that ratings of facial expressions after the emotion inductions confirmed that Ss in the self- or other-focused conditions were equally happy and significantly happier than Ss in the neutral condition. Furthermore, all Ss accurately recalled the reward outcome of the social comparison experience. As predicted, when Ss received relatively fewer rewards, they displayed reduced generosity toward others except when this negative inequality had followed the induction of a self-focused happy mood. Results are discussed in terms of the cognitive processes initiated by emotional states that may influence tolerance for aversive experiences. Particular attention is given to the role of cognitive loops, selective attention, and tacit comparison processes initiated by emotional states and social comparisons.

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