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Study reveals that sadness and hatred are the longest-lasting emotions

Posted November 17, 2014
Picture: Sadness. Image credit: Nwardez via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Picture: Sadness. Image credit: Nwardez via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Emotions is one of the most important determinants of human behavior. Despite this fact, answers to some simple questions about this phenomenon are still unknown. For instance, what is the duration of emotional states? New study carried out by Belgian scientists shows that sadness and hatred are the longest lasting emotions. In contrast, shame or guilt are among the psychical states which end relatively soon.

“In sum, the present study revealed that meaningful differences in duration between emotions exist and that these differences can be partially explained by differences in one appraisal dimension (i.e., event importance) and one regulation strategy (i.e., rumination),” the psychologists say.

Longevity of emotions is an important characteristic, according to which they can be classified. “Moreover, research on emotion dynamics is important from a clinical perspective, as disturbances in these dynamics are symptomatic of mental disorders such as depression and may lead to the development of somatic diseases such as cardiovascular illness,” authors of the study published in Motivation and Emotion emphasize.

However, our knowledge about the duration of different emotions is still scarce. Only limited number of emotions was examined and causes of observed differences are still unexplained. Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen working at KU Leuven attempted to fill this research gap. They explored, what are the divergences among 27 separate emotions.

Results of their study indicate that some emotions tend to persist long, while others fade away fast. “Consistent with previous research on emotion duration, sadness was found to be the longest emotion whereas shame, surprise, fear, disgust, being touched, irritation, and relief were the shortest . Interestingly, boredom was also found to be among the shortest emotions. As such, even though time seems to pass slowly when one is bored, an episode of boredom typically doesn’t last that long,” the researchers report.

What causes these differences. Somewhat unsurprisingly, study showed that people attach higher importance to these emotions which last longer. Another influential factor is rumination. Attention to some mental state only prolongs the duration of it. However, these psychological variation can account only for fifty percent of observed differences. Therefore, further studies exploring this subject matter  are necessary.

Article: Verduyn P. and Lavrijsen S., 2014, Which emotions last longest and why: The role of event importance and rumination, Motivation and Emotion, source link.

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