When getting angry is smart: emotional preferences and emotional intelligence

Emotion. 2012 Aug;12(4):685-9. doi: 10.1037/a0027149. Epub 2012 Feb 6.


People who prefer to feel useful emotions, even when they are unpleasant to experience, must understand emotions and seek to regulate them in strategic ways. Such people, therefore, may be more emotionally intelligent compared with people who prefer to feel emotions that may not be useful for the context at hand, even if those emotions are pleasant to experience. We tested this hypothesis by measuring emotional intelligence and preferences to feel pleasant and unpleasant emotions in contexts in which they are likely to be useful or not. We found significant positive associations between emotional intelligence and preferences for useful emotions, even when controlling for trait emotional experiences and cognitive intelligence. People who prefer to feel anger when confronting others tend to be higher in emotional intelligence, whereas people who prefer to feel happiness in such contexts tend to be lower in emotional intelligence. Such findings are consistent with the idea that wanting to feel bad may be good at times, and vice versa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anger
  • Emotional Intelligence*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult