Interindividual differences in environmentally relevant positive trait affect impacts sustainable behavior in everyday life
ABSTRACT: Emotions are powerful drivers of human behavior that may make people aware of the urgency to act to mitigate climate change and provide a motivational basis to engage in sustainable action. However, attempts to leverage emotions via climate communications have yielded unsatisfactory results, with many interventions failing to produce the desired behaviors. It is important to understand the underlying affective mechanisms when designing communications, rather than treating emotions as simple behavioral levers that directly impact behavior. Across two field experiments, we show that individual predispositions to experience positive emotions in an environmental context (trait affect) predict pro-environmental actions and corresponding shifts in affective states (towards personal as well as witnessed pro-environmental actions). Moreover, trait affect predicts the individual behavioral impact of positively valenced emotion-based intervention strategies from environmental messages. These findings have important implications for the targeted design of affect-based interventions aiming to promote sustainable behavior and may be of interest within other domains that utilize similar intervention strategies (e.g., within the health domain).
Project description:Proactive people take initiative when others do not and persist in improving their environment or themselves. Although scholars assume that how we feel influences how proactive we are, there is no experimental research yet to support this. This experiment therefore tests whether positive and negative affect influence proactive behavior and additionally investigates whether engaging in proactivity also has affective consequences. While current theory proposes that positive affect enhances proactive behavior by stimulating broad-flexible thinking, we argue that negative affect should make people proactive through stimulating systematic-persistent thinking. Furthermore, we propose that proactive behavior increases subsequent positive affect rather than positive affect increasing proactive behavior. Last, we hypothesize that affective causes and consequences of proactive behavior are different for people who are rarely proactive (trait-passive-reactive individuals) and people who are often proactive (trait-proactive individuals). We pre-tested 180 participants on trait-proactivity. In the lab, we manipulated affect (negative/positive/neutral), measured proactive behavior in a team interaction task, and repeatedly measured participants' affective experiences and physiological activation. Results showed that the link between affect and proactive behavior differed depending on participants' trait-proactivity. First, positive affect made trait-proactive individuals less proactive, whereas negative affect made passive-reactive individuals more proactive. Second, passive-reactive individuals reported decreased negative affect after engaging in proactivity, whereas proactive individuals reported increased positive affect. These results suggest that proactive behavior can serve an affect regulation purpose, which is different for trait proactive individuals (up regulating positive affect) than for trait passive-reactive individuals (down regulating negative affect). These results are limited to core affect (feeling pleasant or unpleasant) and do not apply to specific emotions (feeling proud or anxious), and they are limited to short term and successful proactive behavior and do not apply to more long term, or unsuccessful proactive behavior.
Project description:Two studies investigated the effect of trait Emotional Intelligence (trait EI) on people's motivation to help. In Study 1, we developed a new computer-based paradigm that tested participants' motivation to help by measuring their performance on a task in which they could gain a hypothetical amount of money to help children in need. Crucially, we manipulated participants' perceived efficacy by informing them that they had been either able to save the children (positive feedback) or unable to save the children (negative feedback). We measured trait EI using the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire-Short Form (TEIQue-SF) and assessed participants' affective reactions during the experiment using the PANAS-X. Results showed that high and low trait EI participants performed differently after the presentation of feedback on their ineffectiveness in helping others in need. Both groups showed increasing negative affective states during the experiment when the feedback was negative; however, high trait EI participants better managed their affective reactions, modulating the impact of their emotions on performance and maintaining a high level of motivation to help. In Study 2, we used a similar computerized task and tested a control situation to explore the effect of trait EI on participants' behavior when facing failure or success in a scenario unrelated to helping others in need. No effect of feedback emerged on participants' emotional states in the second study. Taken together our results show that trait EI influences the impact of success and failure on behavior only in affect-rich situation like those in which people are asked to help others in need.
Project description:Cognitive abilities and affective experience are key human traits that are interrelated in behavior and brain. Individual variation of cognitive and affective traits, as well as brain structure, has been shown to partly underlie genetic effects. However, to what extent affect and cognition have a shared genetic relationship with local brain structure is incompletely understood. Here we studied phenotypic and genetic correlations of cognitive and affective traits in behavior and brain structure (cortical thickness, surface area and subcortical volumes) in the pedigree-based Human Connectome Project sample (N = 1091). Both cognitive and affective trait scores were highly heritable and showed significant phenotypic correlation on the behavioral level. Cortical thickness in the left superior frontal cortex showed a phenotypic association with both affect and cognition. Decomposing the phenotypic correlations into genetic and environmental components showed that the associations were accounted for by shared genetic effects between the traits. Quantitative functional decoding of the left superior frontal cortex further indicated that this region is associated with cognitive and emotional functioning. This study provides a multi-level approach to study the association between affect and cognition and suggests a convergence of both in superior frontal cortical thickness.
Project description:Although emotions are reported in a large majority of dreams, little is known about the factors that account for night-to-night and person-to-person variations in people's experience of dream affect. We investigated the relationship between waking trait and state variables and dream affect by testing multilevel models intended to predict the affective valence of people's everyday dreams. Participants from the general population completed measures of personality and trauma history followed by a three-week daily journal in which they noted dream recall, valence of dreamed emotions and level of perceived stress for the day as well as prior to sleep onset. Within-subject effects accounted for most of the explained variance in the reported valence of dream affect. Trait anxiety was the only variable that significantly predicted dream emotional valence at the between-subjects level. In addition to highlighting the need for more fine-grained measures in this area of research, our results point to methodological limitations and biases associated with retrospective estimates of general dream affect and bring into focus state variables that may best explain observed within-subject variance in emotions experienced in everyday dreams.
Project description:Emotion regulation is typically used to down-regulate negative or up-regulate positive emotions. While there is considerable evidence for the neural correlates of the former, less is known about the neural correlates of the latter-and how they are associated with emotion regulation and affect in daily life. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired from 63 healthy young participants (22?±?1.6 years, 30 female), while they up-regulated their emotions to positive and neutral images or passively watched them. The same participants' daily affect and emotion regulation behavior was measured using experience sampling over 10 days. Focusing on the ventral striatum (VS), previously associated with positive affective processing, we found increased activation during the up-regulation to both positive and neutral images. VS activation for the former positively correlated with between- and within-person differences in self-reported affective valence during fMRI but was not significantly associated with up-regulation in daily life. However, participants with lower daily affect showed a stronger association between changes in affect and activation in emotion-related (medial frontal and subcortical) regions-including the VS. These results support the involvement of the VS in up-regulating positive emotions and suggest a neurobehavioral link between emotion-related brain activation and daily affect.
Project description:Emotions are increasingly inferred linguistically from online data with a goal of predicting off-line behavior. Yet, it is unknown whether emotions inferred linguistically from online communications correlate with actual changes in off-line activity. We analyzed all 886,000 trading decisions and 1,234,822 instant messages of 30 professional day traders over a continuous 2 year period. Linguistically inferring the traders' emotional states from instant messages, we find that emotions expressed in online communications reflect the same distributions of emotions found in controlled experiments done on traders. Further, we find that expressed online emotions predict the profitability of actual trading behavior. Relative to their baselines, traders who expressed little emotion or traders that expressed high levels of emotion made relatively unprofitable trades. Conversely, traders expressing moderate levels of emotional activation made relatively profitable trades.
Project description:Cognitive control of emotions depends on intermodular long-distance communications. However, negative connections between connector hubs are removed by traditional hard-thresholding approach in graph-theoretical research. Using soft-thresholding approach to reserve negative links, we explore time-varying features of connector hubs in intermodular communications during cognitive control of affective pictures. We develop a novel approach to sparse functional networks and construct negatively linking connector networks for positive, negative, and neutral pictures. We find that consisting of flexible hubs, the frontoparietal system dynamically top-down inhibits neural activities through negative connections from the salience subnetwork and visual processing area. Moreover, the shared connectors form functional backbones that dynamically reconfigure according to differently-valenced pictures in order to coordinate both stability and flexibility of cognitive connector networks. These results reveal the necessity of conserving negative links between intermodular communications in chronnectome research and deepen the understanding of how connector networks dynamically evolute during cognitive control of affective processing.
Project description:The present research explores the relationship between anticipated emotions and pro-environmental decision making comparing two differently valenced emotions: anticipated pride and guilt. In an experimental design, we examined the causal effects of anticipated pride versus guilt on pro-environmental decision making and behavioral intentions by making anticipated emotions (i.e. pride and guilt) salient just prior to asking participants to make a series of environmental decisions. We find evidence that anticipating one's positive future emotional state from green action just prior to making an environmental decision leads to higher pro-environmental behavioral intentions compared to anticipating one's negative emotional state from inaction. This finding suggests a rethinking in the domain of environmental and climate change messaging, which has traditionally favored inducing negative emotions such as guilt to promote pro-environmental action. Furthermore, exploratory results comparing anticipated pride and guilt inductions to baseline behavior point toward a reactance eliciting effect of anticipated guilt.
Project description:Empathy enables people to share, understand, and show concern for others' emotions. However, this capacity may be more difficult to acquire for children with hearing loss, due to limited social access, and the effect of hearing on empathic maturation has been unexplored. This four-wave longitudinal study investigated the development of empathy in children with and without hearing loss, and how this development is associated with early symptoms of psychopathology. Seventy-one children with hearing loss and cochlear implants (CI), and 272 typically-hearing (TH) children, participated (aged 1-5 years at Time 1). Parents rated their children's empathic skills (affective empathy, attention to others' emotions, prosocial actions, and emotion acknowledgment) and psychopathological symptoms (internalizing and externalizing behaviors). Children with CI and TH children were rated similarly on most of the empathic skills. Yet, fewer prosocial actions were reported in children with CI than in TH children. In both groups, affective empathy decreased with age, while prosocial actions and emotion acknowledgment increased with age and stabilized when children entered primary schools. Attention to emotions increased with age in children with CI, yet remained stable in TH children. Moreover, higher levels of affective empathy, lower levels of emotion acknowledgment, and a larger increase in attention to emotions over time were associated with more psychopathological symptoms in both groups. These findings highlight the importance of social access from which children with CI can learn to process others' emotions more adaptively. Notably, interventions for psychopathology that tackle empathic responses may be beneficial for both groups, alike.
Project description:Despite insistent warnings from climate scientists, the global environmental situation is further deteriorating. To date, only very few studies have investigated the impact of warnings on sustainable decision-making in controlled laboratory settings. Moreover, the few existing studies mainly looked at average warning reactions rather than taking individual differences into account. Here, we investigated individual differences in the reaction to resource depletion warnings and scrutinized the impact of emotions on behavioural changes by applying a resource dilemma task with warnings. Data-driven and model-free cluster analyses identified four different types of consumption behaviour. Importantly, guilt was positively related to sustainable decision-making after warnings. In contrast, a lack of guilt was associated with no behavioural change or even worse with more unsustainable behaviour after warnings. These findings contribute to the debate over effective climate change communication by demonstrating that issuing warnings about the climate crisis only leads to the intended behavioural changes if people experience guilt.