The relationship between dialecticism and mixed emotion.

Date

2011-08

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Abstract

Theorists have argued that dialectical thinkers, who have a tendency to accept contradictory states or ideas, should experience more mixed emotions in response to bittersweet stimuli than Aristotelian thinkers (e.g., Spencer-Rodgers, Williams, & Peng, 2010). Some researchers have found support for this contention (e.g., Bagozzi, Wong, & Yi, 1999) while others have failed to find support (e.g., Williams & Aaker, 2002). One reason for such inconsistency may be that the measures of mixed emotions used in past studies have not been sensitive enough to capture the complex nature of unfolding emotional experiences. For instance, a number of researchers have used indices of mixed emotions that do not adequately capture whether subjects‟ positive and negative emotions occurred simultaneously. In order to address the limitations of past measures, I had subjects use the continuous evaluative space grid (ESG; Larsen, Norris, McGraw, Hawkley, & Cacioppo, 2009), a graded measure of emotion that allows subjects to report happy and sad feelings continuously and in real time. Thus, with the ESG, subjects were able to report whether they were feeling only happy, only sad, neither happy nor sad, both happy and sad at the same time, or shifting back and forth between feeling happy and sad. Individual differences in dialectical and Aristotelian thinking were measured with the Analysis-Holism Scale (Choi, Koo, & Choi, 2007) and the Dialectical-Self Scale (Spencer-Rodgers et al., 2008) before subjects viewed a clip that contained both bittersweet and non-bittersweet scenes from the tragicomic film Life is Beautiful and before they listened to bittersweet and non-bittersweet music clips while reporting their emotions with the ESG. In order to determine how dialectical and Aristotelian thinkers‟ emotional states differed, I calculated a number of different emotional indices from the ESG, including the mean intensity of mixed emotional experiences, the number of mixed emotional experiences, the proportion of time subjects felt mixed emotions, and the stability of mixed emotional experiences. I also measured subjects‟ memories for their mixed emotions after they watched the movie and listened to the music. The results of the current study revealed that dialectical thinking, as indexed by Choi, Koo, and Choi‟s (2007) Analysis-Holism Scale (but not Spencer-Rodgers, Williams, & Peng‟s, 2010, Dialectical Self Scale), was associated with more intense mixed emotional experiences, but only in response to bittersweet music. Further, the results suggested that dialectical thinkers likely had more intense feelings of mixed emotions than Aristotelian thinkers because they also experienced mixed emotions for a greater proportion of time and their mixed emotional responses were more stable than Aristotelian thinkers‟ mixed emotional responses during the bittersweet music. However, despite differences in their actual experiences, dialectical and Aristotelian thinkers remembered experiencing similar amounts of mixed emotions. Taken together, the results of the current study suggest that it is important to capture emotional experience in real time, as dialectical and Aristotelian thinkers differed in their emotional responses to bittersweet music, but not in their memories for those mixed experiences.

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Keywords

Culture, Emotion, Mixed emptions

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