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Emotional Complexity is a Good Trait

Emotional Complexity is a Good Trait

New research suggests experiencing mixed emotions is actually a good characteristic not a demeaning example of indecision.

On a global landscape including 16 cultures, researchers shows found emotional complexity is common among people living in different parts of the world.

Specifically, University of Waterloo researchers examined how people vary in their tendency to see situations as either all good or all bad, or in a more complex fashion by seeing a little of both.

Previous studies have linked lower emotional complexity with a reduced ability to control one’s emotions, and higher incidence of depression.

“People in many western countries see mixed feelings as undesirable — as if to suggest that someone experiencing mixed feelings is wishy-washy,” said Igor Grossmann, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Waterloo, and lead author of the paper.

“Actually, we found that both westerners and non-westerners who show mixed feelings are better able to differentiate their emotions and experience their lives in an emotionally rich and balanced fashion.”

The research indicates that people living in self-oriented cultures — such as Canada, the United States, Australia or Great Britain — were less emotionally complex than people living in other-oriented cultures with a greater emphasis on feelings of duty and familial bonds.

People in various parts of Asia and Russia showed considerably more complexity in their emotions. Western Europe and South Africa fell in the middle.

“People in those other-oriented cultures are more likely to experience emotional complexity because they are able to see different perspectives,” said Grossmann.

“For example, they might see a job loss as disappointing, but also as an exciting opportunity to spend more time with family or to try something new. Someone from a culture that is oriented towards personal achievement is more likely to see it as all negative.”

This project involved three studies. One of them used a text-analysis tool to measure the prevalence of mixed emotional expressions in 1.3 million English-language websites and blogs.

The other two studies focused on the ways in which people report their emotions across a range of daily experiences, examining whether they report experiencing mixed feelings, and whether they differentiate between different types of positive and negative experiences.

“Across the entire project, the degree to which a culture promotes focus on other people rather than the self, including greater awareness of others, was positively associated with all of the markers of emotional complexity,” said Grossmann.

“Further, when we looked at individuals who focus on others within each culture, they also showed greater emotional complexity on a personal level.”

Study findings appear in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Source: University of Waterloo
 
Different emotions photo by shutterstock.

Emotional Complexity is a Good Trait

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Emotional Complexity is a Good Trait. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/01/22/emotional-complexity-is-a-good-trait/98028.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Jan 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jan 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.