What Do People Want to Feel and Why?

  title={What Do People Want to Feel and Why?},
  author={Maya Tamir},
  journal={Current Directions in Psychological Science},
  pages={101 - 105}
  • Maya Tamir
  • Published 1 April 2009
  • Psychology
  • Current Directions in Psychological Science
It is typically assumed that people always want to feel good. Recent evidence, however, demonstrates that people want to feel unpleasant emotions, such as anger or fear, when these emotions promote the attainment of their long-term goals. If emotions are regulated for instrumental reasons, people should want to feel pleasant emotions when immediate benefits outweigh future benefits, but when future benefits outweigh immediate benefits, people may prefer to feel useful emotions, even if they are… 

Figures from this paper

Should people pursue feelings that feel good or feelings that do good? Emotional preferences and well-being.
It is demonstrated that people who want to feel unpleasant emotions when they are useful may be happier overall, compared with people who generally wanted to feel more happiness and less anger.
When getting angry is smart: emotional preferences and emotional intelligence.
Findings are consistent with the idea that wanting to feel bad may be good at times, and vice versa, whereas people who prefer to feel happiness in such contexts tend to be lower in emotional intelligence.
Preferring familiar emotions: As you want (and like) it?
It is proposed that people are motivated to feel familiar emotions, in part, because of their instrumental value, and the familiarity of emotions mediated the links between trait affect and the emotions people wanted to feel.
BRIEF REPORT When Getting Angry Is Smart: Emotional Preferences and Emotional Intelligence
People who prefer to feel useful emotions, even when they are unpleasant to experience, must understand emotions and seek to regulate them in strategic ways. Such people, therefore, may be more
Desired emotional states: their nature, causes, and implications for emotion regulation.
What we want is what we get: Group-based emotional preferences and conflict resolution.
It is proposed that the goals people have for their group dictate how they want to feel on behalf of their group, and that these group-based emotional preferences influence how people actually feel as group members and how they react to political events.
Knowing when to seek anger: Psychological health and context-sensitive emotional preferences
Although healthier individuals are motivated to avoid unpleasant emotions over time, they are more motivated to experience them when they are potentially useful, as indicated by the desire to feel less anger, but not more happiness.
Prosocial versus instrumental motives for interpersonal emotion regulation
Why do people try to influence the way others feel? Previous research offers two competing accounts of people’s motives for attempting to regulate others’ emotions. The instrumental account holds
If I want to perform better, then how should I feel?
Research indicates that emotions are predictive of sports performance. The application of emotion research to practice is that intervention strategies can be used to change emotions to enhance
Why do people engage in interpersonal emotion regulation at work?
People in organizations often try to change the feelings of those they interact with. Research in this area has to date focused on how people try to regulate others’ emotions, with less attention


Business or pleasure? Utilitarian versus hedonic considerations in emotion regulation.
Findings reveal that utilitarian considerations play an important, if underappreciated, role in emotion regulation and demonstrate that individuals represent the utility of pleasant and unpleasant emotions.
Choosing to be afraid: preferences for fear as a function of goal pursuit.
Findings clearly demonstrate that people may sometimes prefer to feel bad if doing so can lead to instrumental benefits, given the aversive nature of fear.
Hedonic and Instrumental Motives in Anger Regulation
It is found that in certain contexts, individuals may choose to experience emotions that are instrumental, despite short-term hedonic costs, and that anger improved performance in a confrontational, but not nonconfrontational, task.
Don't worry, be happy? Neuroticism, trait-consistent affect regulation, and performance.
  • Maya Tamir
  • Psychology
    Journal of personality and social psychology
  • 2005
Experiments show that when driven by performance goals, people can be motivated to experience unpleasant affect when it is trait-consistent, because of its instrumental benefits, and suggests that such preferences for short-term unpleasant affect may be beneficial to performance.
Differential preferences for happiness: extraversion and trait-consistent emotion regulation.
Overall, the present findings suggest that individuals low (vs. high) in extraversion may be less motivated to increase their happiness in effortful contexts.
On the Consumption of Negative Feelings
How can the hedonistic assumption (i.e., people's willingness to pursue pleasure and avoid pain) be reconciled with people choosing to expose themselves to experiences known to elicit negative
Influence and adjustment goals: sources of cultural differences in ideal affect.
The findings suggest that within and across American and Chinese contexts, differences in ideal affect are due to specific interpersonal goals.
The Emotions
WILLIAM JAMES and Carl Lange, investigating the problem of the emotions, independently and within a year, arrived at a very similar point of view with regard to the relation between the emotion as
Affect and the Functional Bases of Behavior: On the Dimensional Structure of Affective Experience
Discussions of the dimensional structure of affect usually are based on results of factor analyses. Disagreements focus largely on issues of measurement and measurement error. I argue that the
Emotions : current issues and future directions
Mayne, Ramsey, The Structure of Emotion: A Nonlinear Dynamic Systems Approach. Ochsner, Feldman Barrett, A Multiprocess Perspective on the Neuroscience of Emotion. Philippot, Schaefer, Emotion and