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Are You Feeling What I'm Feeling? Emotional Similarity Buffers Stress


We examine the idea that it is beneficial for people in threatening situations to affiliate with others who are experiencing similar, relative to dissimilar, emotions. Pairs of participants waited together and then engaged in a laboratory stressor (i.e., giving a speech). We created an index of each pair’s emotional similarity using participants’ emotional states. We also measured how threatening participants perceived the speech task to be (i.e., whether they had high vs. low dispositional fear of public speaking). We hypothesized that perceiving greater threat in the situation would be associated with greater stress, but interacting with someone who is emotionally similar would buffer individuals from this heightened stress. Confirming our hypotheses, greater initial dyadic emotional similarity was associated with a reduced cortisol response and lower reported stress among participants who feared public speaking.

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