The Effects of Social Context on the Therapeutic Benefits of Emotion Sharing
The purpose of the study was to analyze the different contexts in which the social sharing of emotion occurs and the comparative benefits associated with two different contexts of emotion sharing. Previous research has differentiated between two general modes of emotion sharing: socio-affective sharing, which occurs when the listener responds to the sharer sympathetically to validate the sharer’s emotional experience and provide social support, and cognitive sharing, which occurs when the listener responds to the sharer in a way that prompts cognitive work, for example, encouraging the sharer to reappraise the situation or reorganize their goals and expectations. In laboratory settings, socio-affective sharing has been found to be associated with increased perception of social support and decreased reported loneliness, while cognitive sharing has been found to be associated with increased emotional resolution and tangible therapeutic benefits. Expanding on previous research findings in the laboratory, the findings of the present research generalize the contexts and benefits of emotion sharing found in the laboratory through secondhand emotion elicitation to real-world instances of firsthand emotional experiences. Participants (n=147) were asked to complete a survey providing details on one specific emotional experience as well as several other measures including self-reported degree of socio-affective emotion sharing, cognitive emotion sharing, and outcome satisfaction in the described interaction, as well as self-reported measures of loneliness, gratitude, perceived social support, perceived stress, satisfaction with life and depression over the last two weeks. Participant responses were analyzed and coded to evaluate instances of emotion sharing, more specifically identifying the context of emotion sharing and the correlation with overall emotional resolution and problem resolution. Survey data was analyzed in conjunction with emotion sharing data to determine if the therapeutic benefits of emotion sharing observed in the laboratory could be generalized to firsthand emotional experiences in the real world. The results of the study supported previous research findings that socio-affective emotion sharing is associated with increased social support while cognitive emotion sharing is associated with overall resolution, offering potential strategies to improve interpersonal social relationships through effective response to emotion sharing.