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Sadness Is Believed to Signal Competence When Displayed With Passionate Restraint


A longstanding Western belief is that emotionality, such as sadness, is the antithesis to rational thinking and leads to ineffective behavior. We propose that people believe that sadness can actually signal competence when it is expressed in a way that demonstrates control and awareness of one’s authentic emotion, which we label passionate restraint (PR). In two studies, participants rated protagonists displaying sadness either openly or suppressed, or using PR, on their competence, authenticity, and emotional control. We find that PR is rated as more competent than open displays of emotion because of perceived control, and more competent than suppressed emotion displays because of emotional authenticity. Results demonstrate the importance that beliefs about emotions have on how others are perceived and judged.

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