Self-awareness and emotional intensity

Cognition and Emotion 16 (2):195-216 (2002)
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Does self-awareness amplify or dampen the intensity of emotional experience? Early research argued that self-awareness makes emotional states salient, resulting in greater emotional intensity. But these studies induced a standard for emotional intensity, confounding the salience of the emotional state with the self-regulation effects of self-awareness. Three experiments suggest high self-awareness can dampen the intensity of emotional experience in the absence of this confound. In Study 1, participants were led to feel sad in the presence or absence of a mirror; a standard for emotionality was or was not induced. High self-awareness amplified sadness when there was a standard for emotionality; it dampened sadness when there was no standard. Additional experiments using a self-novelty writing task (Study 2) and a mirror (Study 3) showed that self-awareness can also dampen positive affect. A fourth study found that trait private self-consciousness did not affect emotional intensity after controlling for the effects of neuroticism. The intersections of self-focused attention and emotional experience are discussed.



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