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Judging emotions as good or bad: Individual differences, links with emotional responses, and implications for psychological health


People are not impassive bystanders to their emotional experiences. Instead, people tend to judge their emotions as good or bad. In this research, I examined individual differences in emotion judgments and their implications for emotional responses and psychological health. In Study 1 (N = 1,136), I developed a questionnaire to assess four types of habitual emotion judgments. The four types of emotion judgments differed according to the valence of the emotion being judged (positive or negative) and the valence of the judgment (positive or negative). In Study 2 (81 participants and 2,999 observations), I examined the relationship between habitual emotion judgments and emotion judgments in daily life. Emotion judgments were common in daily life and were predicted by habitual emotion judgments. In Study 3 (same participants as in Study 1), I examined cross-sectional associations between habitual emotion judgments and psychological health. Positive judgments of positive emotions were associated with greater psychological health and negative judgments of negative emotions were associated with poorer psychological health, above and beyond other types of emotion judgments and key confounds. In Study 4 (111 participants and 835 observations), I examined prospective links between habitual emotion judgments and psychological health over one month and the mediating role of net emotions (emotions that linger after an emotional event has passed). Negative judgments of negative emotions were associated with worse psychological health one month later, and this relationship was partially mediated by daily net emotions. In sum, individuals differ in the types of emotion judgments that they tend to make and these individual differences appear to powerfully shape daily emotional responses and in turn, psychological health.

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