Feeling more together: group attention intensifies emotion

Emotion. 2014 Dec;14(6):1102-14. doi: 10.1037/a0037697. Epub 2014 Aug 25.

Abstract

The idea that group contexts can intensify emotions is centuries old. Yet, evidence that speaks to how, or if, emotions become more intense in groups remains elusive. Here we examine the novel possibility that group attention--the experience of simultaneous coattention with one's group members--increases emotional intensity relative to attending alone, coattending with strangers, or attending nonsimultaneously with one's group members. In Study 1, scary advertisements felt scarier under group attention. In Study 2, group attention intensified feelings of sadness to negative images, and feelings of happiness to positive images. In Study 3, group attention during a video depicting homelessness led to greater sadness that prompted larger donations to charities benefiting the homeless. In Studies 4 and 5, group attention increased the amount of cognitive resources allocated toward sad and amusing videos (as indexed by the percentage of thoughts referencing video content), leading to more sadness and happiness, respectively. In all, these effects could not be explained by differences in physiological arousal, emotional contagion, or vicarious emotional experience. Greater fear, gloom, and glee can thus result from group attention to scary, sad, and happy events, respectively.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult