Incongruous Emotional Displays and Self Regulation

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Image courtesy of Flickr

Giggling at a funeral. Bawling at a wedding. These are both examples of incongruous emotional displays that are sometimes thought of as a little inappropriate. But are these behaviors just embarrassing slip ups? What psychological purpose could they serve?

Dr. Oriana Aragon of Yale University and her colleagues suspected that such displays might actually play an important role in overall emotional regulation. Perhaps when people are at risk of being overwhelmed by a certain emotion, having the opposite reaction helps restore emotional balance.

In a recent Huffington Post blog, author Wray Herbert explains, “Aragon and her colleagues believe that people have emotional limits. When we sense that our escalating sadness or joy is reaching an unmanageable limit — that our bodies are about to be overwhelmed physiologically — this perception triggers an incongruous emotion to balance things out. At least that’s the theory, which the scientists have been exploring in their studies.”

Aragon and her team of researchers ran a series of studies, described in a forthcoming issues of the journal Psychological Science. All of the studies supported the general idea that these incongruous emotional displays help with self-regulation but how it exactly works is unclear.

For more information on Aragon and these emotion studies, visit this link

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