Feeling bad about being sad: the role of social expectancies in amplifying negative mood

Emotion. 2012 Feb;12(1):69-80. doi: 10.1037/a0024755. Epub 2011 Jul 25.


Our perception of how others expect us to feel has significant implications for our emotional functioning. Across 4 studies the authors demonstrate that when people think others expect them not to feel negative emotions (i.e., sadness) they experience more negative emotion and reduced well-being. The authors show that perceived social expectancies predict these differences in emotion and well-being both more consistently than-and independently of-personal expectancies and that they do so by promoting negative self-evaluation when experiencing negative emotion. We find evidence for these effects within Australia (Studies 1 and 2) as well as Japan (Study 2), although the effects of social expectancies are especially evident in the former (Studies 1 and 2). We also find experimental evidence for the causal role of social expectancies in negative emotional responses to negative emotional events (Studies 3 and 4). In short, when people perceive that others think they should feel happy, and not sad, this leads them to feel sad more frequently and intensely.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology
  • Australia / ethnology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / ethnology
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult