Positive emotions are important features of our lives – we generally strive to feel positive emotions and express them to others. Yet, surprisingly, positive emotion is typically neglected in empirical research in favour of a focus on negative emotion. This is the case in intergroup emotion research and emotion regulation research – two areas in which I have investigated the experience and expression of positive emotions.
As emotion regulation strategies go, researchers typically agree that expressive suppressive is maladaptive. This process of inhibiting the outward expression of emotion while maintaining emotional experience (Kalokerinos, Greenaway, & Denson, in press) is usually associated with negative personal and social outcomes. However, my research reveals some surprising benefits to suppressing the expression of positive emotion, particularly in outperformance contexts (where one person has triumphed over another to win an award or competition). Here, we find that winners who suppress the expression of positive emotion a rated as less arrogant, more likeable, and better friends than winners who express positive emotion (Kalokerinos, Greenaway, Pedder, & Margetts, 2014).
In intergroup work, I have shown the benefits of experiencing a specific positive emotion – hope – in motivating support for social change among advantaged majority group members (Greenaway, Cichocka, Van Veelen, Likki, & Branscombe, in press). Linking with my other work on agency, feeling hopeful increases feelings of efficacy, making people feel capable of achieving social change, and for this reason motivates people to engage in actions that support social equality. A related line of work investigates how disadvantaged minority groups might employ hope appeals to create allies among advantaged groups in working toward positive social change.