What is Experiential Avoidance?


Experiential avoidance (EA) has been broadly defined as attempts to avoid thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations, and other internal experiences – even when doing so creates harm in the long run.

The process of EA is thought to be maintained through negative reinforcement – that is, short-term relief of discomfort is achieved through avoidance, thereby increasing the likelihood that the avoidance behaviour will persist. Importantly, the current conceptualisation of EA suggests that it is not negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations that are problematic, but how one responds to them that can cause difficulties. In particular, a habitual and persistent unwillingness to experience uncomfortable thoughts and feelings (and the associated avoidance and inhibition of these experiences) is thought to be linked to a wide range of problems.


EA has been popularised by recent third-wave cognitive-behavioural theories such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). However, the general concept has roots in many other theories of psychopathology and intervention.


Defence mechanisms were originally conceptualised as ways to avoid unpleasant affect and discomfort that resulted from conflicting motivations. These processes were thought to contribute to the expression of various types of psychopathology. Gradual removal of these defensive processes are thought to be a key aspect of treatment and eventually return to psychological health.


Process-experiential therapy merges client-centred, existential, and Gestalt approaches. Gestalt theory outlines the benefits of being fully aware of and open to one’s entire experience. One job of the psychotherapist is to “explore and become fully aware of [the patient’s] grounds for avoidance” and to “[lead] the patient back to that which he wishes to avoid”. Similar ideas are expressed by early humanistic theory:

“Whether the stimulus was the impact of a configuration of form, color, or sound in the environment on the sensory nerves, or a memory trace from the past, or a visceral sensation of fear or pleasure or disgust, the person would be ‘living’ it, would have it completely available to awareness…he is more open to his feelings of fear and discouragement and pain…he is more able fully to live the experiences of his organism rather than shutting them out of awareness.”


Traditional behaviour therapy utilises exposure to habituate the patient to various types of fears and anxieties, eventually resulting in a marked reduction in psychopathology. In this way, exposure can be thought of as “counter-acting” avoidance, in that it involves individuals repeatedly encountering and remaining in contact with that which causes distress and discomfort.


In cognitive theory, avoidance interferes with reappraisals of negative thought patterns and schema, thereby perpetuating distorted beliefs. These distorted beliefs are thought to contribute and maintain many types of psychopathology.

Third-Wave Cognitive-Behavioural

The concept of EA is explicitly described and targeted in more recent CBT modalities including acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), functional analytic psychotherapy (FAP), and behavioural activation (BA).

Associated Problems

  • Distress is an inextricable part of life; therefore, avoidance is often only a temporary solution.
  • Avoidance reinforces the notion that discomfort, distress and anxiety are bad, or dangerous.
  • Sustaining avoidance often requires effort and energy.
  • Avoidance limits one’s focus at the expense of fully experiencing what is going on in the present.
  • Avoidance may get in the way of other important, valued aspects of life.

Empirical Evidence

  • Laboratory-based thought suppression studies suggest avoidance is paradoxical, in that concerted attempts at suppression of a particular thought often leads to an increase of that thought.
  • Studies examining emotional suppression and pain suppression suggest that avoidance is ineffective in the long-run. Conversely, expressing the unpleasant emotions can lead to improvements in the long term, even though it increases negative reactions in the short term.
  • Exposure-based therapy techniques have been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of psychiatric disorders.
  • Numerous self-report studies have linked EA and related constructs (avoidance coping, thought suppression) to psychopathology and other forms of dysfunction.

Relevance to Psychopathology

Seemingly disparate forms of pathological behaviour can be understood by their common function (i.e., attempts to avoid distress). Some examples include:

DiagnosisExample BehavioursTarget of Avoidance
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)Isolation/SuicideFeelings of sadness, guilt, and low self-worth.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Avoiding trauma reminders and hypervigilanceMemories, anxiety, and concerns of safety.
Social PhobiaAvoiding social situationsAnxiety and concerns of judgement of others.
Panic DisorderAvoiding situations that might induce panicFear and physiological sensations.
AgoraphobiaRestricting travel outside of home or other ‘safe areas’Anxiety and fear of having symptoms of panic.
Obsessive-Compulsive DisorderChecking/RitualsWorry of consequences (e.g. ‘contamination’).
Substance Use DisordersAbusing alcohol/drugsEmotions, memories, and withdrawal symptoms.
Eating DisordersRestricting food intake and purgingWorry about becoming overweight and fear of losing control.
Borderline Personality DisorderSelf-harm (e.g. cutting)High emotional arousal.

Relevance to Quality of Life

Perhaps the most significant impact of EA is its potential to disrupt and interfere with important, valued aspects of an individual’s life. That is, EA is seen as particularly problematic when it occurs at the expense of a person’s deeply held values. Some examples include:

  • Putting off an important task because of the discomfort it evokes.
  • Not taking advantage of an important opportunity due to attempts to avoid worries of failure or disappointment.
  • Not engaging in physical activity/exercise, meaningful hobbies, or other recreational activities due to the effort they demand.
  • Avoiding social gatherings or interactions with others because of the anxiety and negative thoughts they evoke.
  • Not being a full participant in social gatherings due to attempts to regulate anxiety relating to how others are perceiving you.
  • Being unable to fully engage in meaningful conversations with others because one is scanning for signs of danger in the environment (attempting to avoid feeling “unsafe”).
  • Inability to “connect” and sustain a close relationship because of attempts to avoid feelings of vulnerability.
  • Staying in a “bad” relationship to try to avoid discomfort, guilt, and potential feelings of loneliness a break-up might entail.
  • Losing a marriage or contact with children due to an unwillingness to experience uncomfortable feelings (e.g. achieved through drug or alcohol abuse) or symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Not attending an important graduation, wedding, funeral, or other family event to try to avoid anxiety or symptoms of panic.
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviours in an attempt to avoid feelings of boredom, emptiness, worthlessness.
  • Not functioning or taking care of basic responsibilities (e.g. personal hygiene, waking up, showing up to work, shopping for food) because of the effort they demand and/or distress they evoke.
  • Spending so much time attempting to avoid discomfort that one has little time for anyone or anything else in life.



The Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ) was the first self-report measure explicitly designed to measure EA, but has since been re-conceptualised as a measure of “psychological flexibility”. The 62-item Multidimensional Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire (MEAQ) was developed to measure different aspects of EA. The Brief Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire (BEAQ) is a 15-item measure developed using MEAQ items, which has become the most widely used measure of experiential avoidance.

What is Psychological Flexibility?

Flexibility is a personality trait that describes the extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel, creative ways. This trait is used when stressors or unexpected events occur, requiring a person to change their stance, outlook, or commitment. Flexible personality should not be confused with cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to switch between two concepts, as well as simultaneously think about multiple concepts. Researchers of cognitive flexibility describe it as the ability to switch one’s thinking and attention between tasks. Flexibility, or psychological flexibility, as it is sometimes referred to, is the ability to adapt to situational demands, balance life demands, and commit to behaviours.

  • Refer to:
  • Opposite concepts:
    • Acceptance.
    • Distress tolerance.
    • Psychological flexibility.
  • Related concepts:
    • Denial.
    • Expressive suppression.

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What is Love and Hate (Psychoanalysis)?


Love and hate as co-existing forces have been thoroughly explored within the literature of psychoanalysis, building on awareness of their co-existence in Western culture reaching back to the “odi et amo” of Catullus, and Plato’s Symposium.

Love and Hate in Freud’s Work

Ambivalence was the term borrowed by Sigmund Freud to indicate the simultaneous presence of love and hate towards the same object. While the roots of ambivalence can be traced back to breast-feeding in the oral stage, it was reinforced during toilet-training as well. Freudian followers such as Karl Abraham and Erik H. Erikson distinguished between an early sub-stage with no ambivalence at all towards the mother’s breast, and a later oral-sadistic sub-phase where the biting activity emerges and the phenomenon of ambivalence appears for the first time. The child is interested in both libidinal and aggressive gratifications, and the mother’s breast is at the same time loved and hated.

While during the pre-oedipal stages ambivalent feelings are expressed in a dyadic relationship between the mother and the child, during the oedipal conflict ambivalence is experienced for the first time within a triangular context which involves the child, the mother and the father. In this stage, both the boy and the girl develop negative feelings of jealousy, hostility and rivalry toward the parent of the same sex, but with different mechanisms for the two sexes. The boy’s attachment to his mother becomes stronger, and he starts developing negative feelings of rivalry and hostility toward the father. The boy wishes to destroy the father so that he can become his mother’s unique love object. On the other hand, the girl starts a love relationship with her father. The mother is seen by the girl as a competitor for the father’s love and so the girl starts feeling hostility and jealousy towards her. The negative feelings which arise in this phase coexist with love and affection toward the parent of the same sex and result in an ambivalence which is expressed in feelings, behaviour and fantasies. The negative feelings are a source of anxiety for the child who is afraid that the parent of the same sex would take revenge on him/her. In order to lessen the anxiety, the child activates the defence mechanism of identification, and identifies with the parent of the same sex. This process leads to the formation of the Super-Ego.

According to Freud, ambivalence is the precondition for melancholia, together with loss of a loved object, oral regression and discharge of the aggression toward the self. In this condition, the ambivalently loved object is introjected, and the libido is withdrawn into the self in order to establish identification with the loved object. The object loss then turns into an ego loss and the conflict between the Ego and the Super-Ego becomes manifested. The same ambivalence occurs in the obsessional neurosis, but there it remains related to the outside object.

In the Work of Melanie Klein

The object relations theory of Melanie Klein pivoted around the importance of love and hate, concern for and destruction of others, from infancy onwards. Klein stressed the importance of inborn aggression as a reflection of the death drive and talked about the battle of love and hatred throughout the life span. As life begins, the first object for the infant to relate with the external world is the mother. It is there that both good and bad aspects of the self are split and projected as love and hatred to the mother and the others around her later on: as analyst, she would find herself split similarly into a “nice” and a “bad” Mrs Klein.

During the paranoid-schizoid position, the infant sees objects around it either as good or bad, according to his/her experiences with them. They are felt to be loving and good when the infant’s wishes are gratified and happy feelings prevail. On the other hand, objects are seen as bad when the infant’s wishes are not met adequately and frustration prevails. In the child’s world there is not yet a distinction between fantasy and reality; loving and hating experiences towards the good and bad objects are believed to have an actual impact on the surrounding objects. Therefore, the infant must keep these loving and hating emotions as distinct as possible, because of the paranoid anxiety that the destructive force of the bad object will destroy the loving object from which the infant gains refuge against the bad objects. The mother must be either good or bad and the feeling experienced is either love or hate.

Emotions become integrated as a part of the development process. As the infant’s potential to tolerate ambivalent feelings with the depressive position, the infant starts forming a perception of the objects around it as both good and bad, thus tolerating the coexistence of these two opposite feelings for the same object where experience had previously been either idealised or dismissed as bad, the good object can be accepted as frustrating without losing its acceptable status. When this takes place, the previous paranoid anxiety (that the bad object will destroy everything) transforms into a depressive anxiety; this is the intense fear that the child’s own destructiveness (hate) will damage the beloved others. Subsequently, for the coexistence of love and hate to be attainable, the child must believe in her ability to contain hate, without letting it destroy the loving objects. He/she must believe in the prevalence of the loving feelings over his/her aggressiveness. Since this ambivalent state is hard to preserve, under difficult circumstances it is lost, and the person returns to the previous manner keeping love and hate distinct for a period of time until he/she is able to regain the capacity for ambivalence.

Refer to The Life and Death Instincts in Kleinian Object Relations Theory.

In the Work of Ian Suttie

Ian Dishart Suttie (1898-1935) wrote the book The Origins of Love and Hate, which was first published in 1935, a few days after his death. He was born in Glasgow and was the third of four children. His father was a general practitioner, and Ian Suttie and both of his brothers and his sister became doctors as well. He qualified from Glasgow University in 1914. After a year he went into psychiatry.

Although his work has been out of print in England for some years, it is still relevant today. It has been often cited and makes a contribution towards understanding the more difficult aspects of family relationships and friendships. He can be seen as one of the first significant object relations theorists and his ideas anticipated the concepts put forward by modern self psychologists.

Although Ian Suttie was working within the tradition set by Freud, there were a lot of concepts of Freud’s theory he disagreed with. First of all, Suttie saw sociability, the craving for companionship, the need to love and be loved, to exchange and to participate, to be as primary as sexuality itself. And in contrast with Freud he didn’t see sociability and love simply as a derivative from sexuality. Secondly, Ian Suttie explained anxiety and neurotic maladjustment, as a reaction on the failure of finding a response for this sociability; when primary social love and tenderness fails to find the response it seeks, the arisen frustration will produce a kind of separation anxiety. This view is more clearly illustrated by a piece of writing of Suttie himself: ‘Instead of an armament of instincts, latent or otherwise, the child is born with a simple attachment-to-mother who is the sole source of food and protection… the need for a mother is primarily presented to the child mind as a need for company and as a discomfort in isolation’.

Ian Suttie saw the infant as striving from the first to relate to his mother, and future mental health would depend on the success or failure of this first relationship (object relations). Another advocate of the object relations paradigm is Melanie Klein. Object relations was in contrast with Freud’s psychoanalysis. The advocates of this object relations paradigm all, in exception of Melanie Klein, held the opinion that most differences in individual development that are of importance for mental health could be traced to differences in the way children were treated by their parents or to the loss or separation of parent-figures. In the explanation of the love and hate relationship by Ian Suttie, the focus, not surprisingly, lies in relations and the social environment. According to Suttie, Freud saw love and hate as two distinct instincts. Hate had to be overcome with love, and because both terms are seen as two different instincts, this means repression. In Suttie’s view however, this is incompatible with the other Freudian view that life is a struggle to attain peace by the release of the impulse. These inconsistencies would be caused by leaving out the social situations and motives. Suttie saw hate as the frustration aspect of love. “The greater the love, the greater the hate or jealousy caused by its frustration and the greater the ambivalence or guilt that may arise in relation to it.” Hate has to be overcome with love by the child removing the cause of the anxiety and hate by restoring harmonious relationships. The feeling of anxiety and hate can then change back into the feeling of love and security. This counts for the situation between mother and child and later for following relationships.

In Suttie’s view, the beginning of the relationship between mother and child is a happy and symbiotic one as well. This happy symbiotic relationship between mother and baby can be disrupted by for example a second baby or the mother returning to work. This makes the infant feel irritable, insecure and anxious. This would be the start of the feeling of ambivalence: feelings of love and hate towards the mother. The child attempts to remove the cause of the anxiety and hate to restore the relationship (retransforming). This retransforming is necessary, because hate of a loved object (ambivalence) is intolerable.

In the Work of Edith Jacobson

The newborn baby is not able to distinguish the self from others and the relationship with the mother is symbiotic, with the two individuals forming a unique object. In this period, the child generates two different images of the mother. On one hand there is the loving mother, whose image derives from experiences of love and satisfaction in the relationship with her. On the other hand, there is the bad mother, whose image derives from frustrating and upsetting experiences in the relationship. Since the child at this stage is unable to distinguish the self from the other, those two opposite images are often fused and confused, rather than distinguished. At about six months of age, the child becomes able to distinguish the self from the others. He now understands that his mother can be both gratifying and frustrating, and he starts experiencing himself as being able to feel both love and anger.

This ambivalence results in a vacillation between attitudes of passive dependency on the omnipotent mother and aggressive strivings for self expansion and control over the love object. The passive-submissive and active-aggressive behaviour of the child during the pre-oedipal and the early oedipal period is determined by his ambivalent emotional fluctuations between loving and trusting admirations of his parents and disappointed depreciation of the loved objects. The ego can use this ambivalence conflicts to distinguish between the self and the object. At the beginning, the child tends to turn aggression toward the frustrating objects and libido towards the self. Hence, frustration, demands and restrictions imposed by parents within normal bounds, reinforce the process of discovery and distinction of the object and the self. When early experiences of severe disappointment and abandonment have prevented the building up of un-ambivalent object relations and stable identifications and weakened the child’s self-esteem, they may result in ambivalence conflict in adulthood, which in turn causes depressive states.

What is Self-Regulation Theory?


Self-regulation theory (SRT) is a system of conscious personal management that involves the process of guiding one’s own thoughts, behaviours and feelings to reach goals.

Self-regulation consists of several stages and individuals must function as contributors to their own motivation, behaviour and development within a network of reciprocally interacting influences.


Roy Baumeister, one of the leading social psychologists who have studied self-regulation, claims it has four components:

  • Standards of desirable behaviour;
  • Motivation to meet standards;
  • Monitoring of situations and thoughts that precede breaking said standards; and
  • Willpower.

Baumeister along with other colleagues developed three models of self-regulation designed to explain its cognitive accessibility: self-regulation as a knowledge structure, strength, or skill. Studies have been done to determine that the strength model is generally supported, because it is a limited resource in the brain and only a given amount of self-regulation can occur until that resource is depleted.

SRT can be applied to:

  • Impulse control, the management of short-term desires.
    • People with low impulse control are prone to acting on immediate desires.
    • This is one route for such people to find their way to jail as many criminal acts occur in the heat of the moment.
    • For non-violent people it can lead to losing friends through careless outbursts, or financial problems caused by making too many impulsive purchases.
  • The cognitive bias known as illusion of control.
    • To the extent that people are driven by internal goals concerned with the exercise of control over their environment, they will seek to reassert control in conditions of chaos, uncertainty or stress.
    • Failing genuine control, one coping strategy will be to fall back on defensive attributions of control – leading to illusions of control (Fenton-O’Creevy et al., 2003).
  • Goal attainment and motivation.
  • Sickness behaviour.

SRT consists of several stages. First, the patient deliberately monitors one’s own behaviour and evaluates how this behaviour affects one’s health. If the desired effect is not realised, the patient changes personal behaviour. If the desired effect is realised, the patient reinforces the effect by continuing the behaviour (Kanfer, 1970; 1971; 1980).

Another approach is for the patient to realise a personal health issue and understand the factors involved in that issue. The patient must decide upon an action plan for resolving the health issue. The patient will need to deliberately monitor the results in order to appraise the effects, checking for any necessary changes in the action plan (Leventhal & Nerenz, 1984).

Another factor that can help the patient reach their own goal of personal health is to relate to the patient the following:

  • Help them figure out the personal/community views of the illness;
  • Appraise the risks involved; and
  • Give them potential problem-solving/coping skills.

Four components of self-regulation described by Baumeister et al. (2007) are:

  • Standards: Of desirable behaviour.
  • Motivation: To meet standards.
  • Monitoring: Of situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards.
  • Willpower: Internal strength to control urges.

Brief History and Contributors

Albert Bandura

There have been numerous researchers, psychologists and scientists who have studied self-regulatory processes. Albert Bandura, a cognitive psychologist had significant contributions focusing on the acquisition of behaviours that led to the social cognitive theory and social learning theory. His work brought together behavioural and cognitive components in which he concluded that “humans are able to control their behaviour through a process known as self-regulation.” This led to his known process that contained: self observation, judgment and self response. Self observation (also known as introspection) is a process involving assessing one’s own thoughts and feelings in order to inform and motivate the individual to work towards goal setting and become influenced by behavioural changes. Judgement involves an individual comparing his or her performance to their personal or created standards. Lastly, self-response is applied, in which an individual may reward or punish his or herself for success or failure in meeting standard(s). An example of self-response would be rewarding oneself with an extra slice of pie for doing well on an exam.

Dale Schunk

According to Schunk (2012), Lev Vygotsky who was a Russian psychologist and was a major influence on the rise of constructivism, believed that self-regulation involves the coordination of cognitive processes such as planning, synthesizing and formulating concepts (Henderson & Cunningham, 1994); however, such coordination does not proceed independently of the individual’s social environment and culture. In fact, self-regulation is inclusive of the gradual internalisation of language and concepts.

Roy Baumeister

As a widely studied theory, SRT was also greatly impacted by the well-known social psychologist Roy Baumeister. He described the ability to self-regulate as limited in capacity and through this he coined the term ego depletion. The four components of self-regulation theory described by Roy Baumeister are standards of desirable behaviour, motivation to meet standards, monitoring of situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards and willpower, or the internal strength to control urges. In Baumeister’s paper titled Self-Regulation Failure: An Overview, he express that self-regulation is complex and multifaceted. Baumeister lays out his “three ingredients” of self-regulation as a case for self-regulation failure.


Many studies have been done to test different variables regarding self-regulation. Albert Bandura studied self-regulation before, after and during the response. He created the triangle of reciprocal determinism that includes behaviour, environment and the person (cognitive, emotional and physical factors) that all influence one another. Bandura concluded that the processes of goal attainment and motivation stem from an equal interaction of self-observation, self-reaction, self-evaluation and self-efficacy.

In addition to Bandura’s work, psychologists Muraven, Tice and Baumeister conducted a study for self control as a limited resource. They suggested there were three competing models to self-regulation: self-regulation as a strength, knowledge structure and a skill. In the strength model, they indicated it is possible self-regulation could be considered a strength because it requires willpower and thus is a limited resource. Failure to self-regulate could then be explained by depletion of this resource. For self-regulation as a knowledge structure, they theorised it involves a certain amount of knowledge to exert self control, so as with any learned technique, failure to self-regulate could be explained by insufficient knowledge. Lastly, the model involving self-regulation as a skill referred to self-regulation being built up over time and unable to be diminished; therefore, failure to exert would be explained by a lack of skill. They found that self-regulation as a strength is the most feasible model due to studies that have suggested self-regulation is a limited resource.

Dewall, Baumeister, Gailliot and Maner performed a series of experiments instructing participants to perform ego depletion tasks to diminish the self-regulatory resource in the brain, that they theorized to be glucose. This included tasks that required participants to break a familiar habit, where they read an essay and circled words containing the letter ‘e’ for the first task, then were asked to break that habit by performing a second task where they circled words containing ‘e’ and/or ‘a’. Following this trial, participants were randomly assigned to either the glucose category, where they drank a glass of lemonade made with sugar, or the control group, with lemonade made from Splenda. They were then asked their individual likelihoods of helping certain people in hypothetical situations, for both kin and non-kin and found that excluding kin, people were much less likely to help a person in need if they were in the control group (with Splenda) than if they had replenished their brain glucose supply with the lemonade containing real sugar. This study also supports the model for self-regulation as a strength because it confirms it is a limited resource.

Baumeister and colleagues expanded on this and determined the four components to self-regulation. Those include standards of desirable behaviour, motivation to meet these standards, monitoring of situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards and willpower.

Applications and Examples

Impulse control in self-regulation involves the separation of our immediate impulses and long-term desires. We can plan, evaluate our actions and refrain from doing things we will regret. Research shows that self-regulation is a strength necessary for emotional well-being. Violation of one’s deepest values results in feelings of guilt, which will undermine well-being. The illusion of control involves people overestimating their own ability to control events. Such as, when an event occurs an individual may feel greater a sense of control over the outcome that they demonstrably do not influence. This emphasizes the importance of perception of control over life events.

The self-regulated learning is the process of taking control and evaluating one’s own learning and behaviour. This emphasizes control by the individual who monitors, directs and regulates actions toward goals of information. In goal attainment self-regulation it is generally described in these four components of self-regulation. Standards, which is the desirable behaviour. Motivation, to meet the standards. Monitoring, situations and thoughts that precede breaking standards. Willpower, internal strength to control urges.

Illness behaviour in self-regulation deals with issues of tension that arise between holding on and letting go of important values and goals as those are threatened by disease processes. Also people who have poor self-regulatory skills do not succeed in relationships or cannot hold jobs. Sayette (2004) describes failures in self-regulation as in two categories: under regulation and misregulation. Under regulation is when people fail to control oneself whereas misregulation deals with having control but does not bring up the desired goal (Sayette, 2004).


One challenge of self-regulation is that researchers often struggle with conceptualising and operationalising self-regulation (Carver & Scheier, 1990). The system of self-regulation comprises a complex set of functions, including research cognition, problem solving, decision making and meta cognition.

Ego depletion refers to self control or willpower drawing from a limited pool of mental resources. If an individual has low mental activity, self control is typically impaired, which may lead to ego depletion. Self control plays a valuable role in the functioning of self in people. The illusion of control involves the overestimation of an individual’s ability to control certain events. It occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes although they may not possess this control. Psychologists have consistently emphasized the importance of perceptions of control over life events. Heider proposed that humans have a strong motive to control their environment.

Reciprocal determinism is a theory proposed by Albert Bandura, stating that a person’s behaviour is influenced both by personal factors and the social environment. Bandura acknowledges the possibility that individual’s behaviour and personal factors may impact the environment. These can involve skills that are either under or overcompensating the ego and will not benefit the outcome of the situation.

Recently, Baumeister’s strength model of ego depletion has been criticised in multiple ways. Meta-analyses found little evidence for the strength model of self-regulation and for glucose as the limited resource that is depleted. A pre-registered trial did not find any evidence for ego depletion. Several commentaries have raised criticism on this particular study. In summary, many central assumptions of the strength model of self-regulation seem to be in need of revision, especially the view of self-regulation as a limited resource that can be depleted and glucose as the fuel that is depleted seems to be hardly defensible without major revisions.


Self-regulation can be applied to many aspects of everyday life, including social situations, personal health management, impulse control and more. Since the strength model is generally supported, ego depletion tasks can be performed to temporarily tax the amount of self-regulatory capabilities in a person’s brain. It is theorised that self-regulation depletion is associated with willingness to help people in need, excluding members of an individual’s kin. Many researchers have contributed to these findings, including Albert Bandura, Roy Baumeister and Robert Wood.

What is Empathic Concern?


Empathic concern refers to other-oriented emotions elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need. These other-oriented emotions include feelings of tenderness, sympathy, compassion, soft-heartedness, and the like.

Empathic concern is often and wrongly confused with empathy. To empathise is to respond to another’s perceived emotional state by experiencing feeling of a similar sort. Empathic concern or sympathy not only include empathising, but also entails having a positive regard or a non-fleeting concern for the other person.


C. Daniel Batson is one pioneer of the term. His mature definition of the term is “other-oriented emotion elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need”.[4] Batson explains this definition in the following way:

First, “congruent” here refers not to the specific content of the emotion but to the valence—positive when the perceived welfare of the other is positive, negative when the perceived welfare is negative. … Third, as defined, empathic concern is not a single, discrete emotion but includes a whole constellation. It includes feelings of sympathy, compassion, softheartedness, tenderness, sorrow, sadness, upset, distress, concern, and grief. Fourth, empathic concern is other-oriented in the sense that it involves feeling for the other—feeling sympathy for, compassion for, sorry for, distressed for, concerned for, and so on.[4]

Many writers other than Batson use different terms for this construct or very similar constructs. Especially popular – perhaps more popular than “empathic concern” – are sympathy, compassion or pity. Other terms include the tender emotion and sympathetic distress.

Human beings are strongly motivated to be connected to others. In humans and higher mammals, an impulse to care for offspring is almost certainly genetically hard-wired, although modifiable by circumstance.

Evolutionary Origins

At the behavioural level it is evident from the descriptions of comparative psychologists and ethologists that behaviours homologous to empathic concern can be observed in other mammalian species. Notably, a variety of reports on ape empathic reactions suggest that, apart from emotional connectedness, apes have an explicit appreciation of the other’s situation. A good example is consolation, defined as reassurance behaviour by an uninvolved bystander towards one of the combatants in a previous aggressive incident.

Developmental Origins

Empathic concern is thought to emerge later developmental and to require more self-control than either emotional contagion or personal distress. Developmental research indicates a broad range of social competencies children bring to their interpersonal relationships. As early as 2 years of age, they show:

  • The cognitive capacity to interpret, in simple ways, the physical and psychological states of others;
  • The emotional capacity to experience, affectively, the state of others; and
  • The behavioural repertoire that permits the possibility of attempts to alleviate discomfort in others.

Both personal disposition such as temperament and social context contribute to individual differences in concern for others. Some developmental psychologists have hypothesized that empathic concern for others are essential factors inhibiting aggression toward others.

Contribution of Social Psychology

Empathic concern may produce an altruistic motivation to help people. The challenge of demonstrating the existence of altruistic motivation is to show how empathic concern leads to helping in ways that cannot be explained by prevailing theories of egoistic motivation. That is, a clear case needs to be made that it is concern about the other person’s welfare, not a desire to improve one’s own welfare, that primarily drives one’s helping behaviour in a particular situation.

Empirical studies conducted by social psychologist Daniel Batson have demonstrated that empathic concern is felt when one adopts the perspective of another person in need. His work emphasizes the different emotions evoked when imagining another situation from a self-perspective or imagining from another perspective. The former is often associated with personal distress (i.e. feelings of discomfort and anxiety), whereas the latter leads to empathic concern.

Social Neuroscience Evidence

Social neuroscience explores the biological underpinnings of empathic concern and more generally interpersonal sensitivity, using an integrative approach that bridges the biological and social levels. Neural systems, including autonomic functions, that rely on brain stem neuropeptides, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, are plausible correlates for empathic concern. Alternatively, vasopressin might be implicated in situations where a more active strategy is required for an effective response.

An association between executive functions, underpinned by the prefrontal cortex with reciprocal connections with the limbic system, the sense of agency, and empathic concern has been suggested based on lesion studies in neurological patients and functional neuroimaging experiments in healthy individuals.

The difference between imaging self versus imaging other is supported by a series of functional neuroimaging studies of affective processing. For instance, Lamm, Batson and Decety (2007) found that participants reported more empathic concern when imagining the pain of others when adopting another perspective, and more personal distress when imagining themselves to be in pain.

The fMRI scans revealed that imagining self in pain was associated with strong activation in brain areas involved in affective response to threat and pain, including the amygdala, insula and anterior cingulate cortex. Imagine-other instructions produced higher activity in the right temporoparietal junction (or TPJ), which is associated with self-other distinctiveness and the sense of agency.

What is Egosyntonic and Egodystonic?


In psychoanalysis, egosyntonic refers to the behaviours, values, and feelings that are in harmony with or acceptable to the needs and goals of the ego, or consistent with one’s ideal self-image.

Egodystonic (or ego alien) is the opposite, referring to thoughts and behaviours (dreams, compulsions, desires, etc.) that are in conflict, or dissonant, with the needs and goals of the ego, or, further, in conflict with a person’s ideal self-image.


Abnormal psychology has studied egosyntonic and egodystonic concepts in some detail. Many personality disorders are egosyntonic, which makes their treatment difficult as the patients may not perceive anything wrong and view their perceptions and behaviour as reasonable and appropriate. For example, a person with narcissistic personality disorder has an excessively positive self-regard and rejects suggestions that challenge this viewpoint. This corresponds to the general concept in psychiatry of poor insight. Anorexia nervosa, a difficult-to-treat (formerly considered an Axis I disorder before the release of the DSM 5) characterised by a distorted body image and fear of gaining weight, is also considered egosyntonic because many of its sufferers deny that they have a problem. Problem gambling, however, is only sometimes seen as egosyntonic, depending partly on the reactions of the individual involved and whether they know that their gambling is problematic.

An illustration of the differences between an egodystonic and egosyntonic mental disorder is in comparing obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. OCD is considered to be egodystonic as the thoughts and compulsions experienced or expressed are not consistent with the individual’s self-perception, meaning the patient realises the obsessions are unreasonable and are often distressed by their obsessions. In contrast, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is egosyntonic, as the patient generally perceives their obsession with orderliness, perfectionism, and control, as reasonable and even desirable.

Freudian Heritage

“Ego syntonic” was introduced as a term in 1914 by Freud in On Narcissism, and remained an important part of his conceptual armoury. Freud saw psychic conflict arising when “the original lagging instincts…come into conflict with the ego (or ego-syntonic instincts)”.

Otto Fenichel distinguished between morbid impulses, which he saw as ego-syntonic, and compulsive symptoms which struck their possessors as ego-alien. Anna Freud stressed how defences which were ego-syntonic were harder to expose than ego-dystonic impulses, because the former are familiar and taken for granted. Heinz Hartmann, and after him ego psychology, also made central use of the twin concepts.

Later psychoanalytic writers emphasised how direct expression of the repressed was ego-dystonic, and indirect expression more ego-syntonic.

What is Affect Labelling?


Affect labelling is an implicit emotional regulation strategy that can be simply described as “putting feelings into words”.

Refer to Affect Regulation.

Plutchik Wheel

Specifically, it refers to the idea that explicitly labelling one’s, typically negative, emotional state results in a reduction of the conscious experience, physiological response, and/or behaviour resulting from that emotional state. For example, writing about a negative experience in one’s journal may improve one’s mood. Some other examples of affect labelling include discussing one’s feelings with a therapist, complaining to friends about a negative experience, posting one’s feelings on social media or acknowledging the scary aspects of a situation.

Affect labelling is an extension of the simple concept that talking about one’s feelings can make oneself feel better. Although this idea has been used in talk therapy for over a century, formal research into affect labelling has only begun in recent years. Already, researchers have quantified some of the emotion-regulatory effects of affect labelling, such as decreases in subjective emotional affect, reduced activity in the amygdala, and a lower skin conductance response to frightening stimuli. As a consequence of being a relatively new technique in the area of emotion regulation, affect labelling tends to be compared to, and is often confused with, emotional reappraisal, another emotion-regulatory technique. A key difference between the two is that while reappraisal intuitively feels like a strategy to control one’s emotions, affect labelling often does not. Even when someone does not intend to regulate their emotions, the act of labelling one’s emotions still has positive effects.

Affect labelling is still in the early stages of research and thus, there is much about it that remains unknown. While there are several theories for the mechanism by which affect labelling acts, more research is needed to provide empirical support for these hypotheses. Additionally, some work has been done on the applications of affect labelling to real-world issues, such as research that suggests affect labelling may be commonplace on social media sites. Affect labelling also sees some use in clinical settings as a tentative treatment for fear and anxiety disorders. Nonetheless, research on affect labelling has largely focused on laboratory studies, and further research is needed to understand its effects in the real world.

Brief History

The notion that talking about or writing down one’s feelings can be beneficial is not a recent one. People have kept diaries for centuries, and the use of talk therapy dates back to the beginnings of psychotherapy. Over the past few decades, the idea that putting one’s feelings into words can be beneficial has been shown experimentally. More recently, the concept of affect labelling has grown out of this literature, honing in on the emotion regulation aspect of the benefits of vocalising feelings.

In recent years, research on affect labelling has mostly focused on proving its applicability as an emotion regulation strategy. Although some research exists on the behavioural and neural mechanisms behind its effectiveness, this area of study is still in its early, speculative stages.

Regulatory Effects

Emotional Experience

When engaging in affect labelling, subjects subjectively report lower levels of emotional affect than they do in identical conditions without the affect labelling. This effect is not only found when subjects rate their own emotional state, but also when they label the emotion displayed or evoked by stimuli such as images.

Autonomic Response

Autonomic responses characteristic of various emotions may decrease after performing affect labelling. For instance, upon quantifying their level of anger on a rating scale, subjects subsequently experienced decreases in heart rate and cardiac output. Research also indicates that giving labels to aversive stimuli results in a lower skin conductance response when similar aversive stimuli are presented in the future, implying affect labelling can have long-term effects on autonomic responses.

Neuroscientific Basis

Research has found that engaging in affect labelling results in higher brain activity within the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), and reduced activity in the amygdala when compared to other tasks involving emotional stimuli. In addition, evidence from brain lesion studies also point to the vlPFC’s involvement in the affect labelling process. Subjects with lesions to the right vlPFC were less able to identify the emotional state of a character throughout a film. This implies that the region is required in order for affect-labelling to take place. Additionally, it has been shown through meta-analysis that while the amygdala is found to be active in tasks involving emotional stimuli, activity is lower when subjects had to identify the emotions rather than simply passively viewing the stimuli.

One theory that integrates these findings proposes that the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex works to down-regulate activity in the amygdala during affect labelling. This theory is supported by evidence from several studies that found negative connectivity between the two brain regions during an affect-labelling task. Furthermore, researchers have used dynamic causal modelling to show specifically that increased activity in the vlPFC is the cause of lower amygdala activity.

Comparison to Emotional Reappraisal

Emotional reappraisal is an emotion regulation technique where an emotional stimulus is reinterpreted in a new, usually less negative, fashion in order to reduce its effect. As an example, someone might reinterpret a bad test score as being a learning experience, rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of the situation. As it is a related emotion regulation strategy, affect labelling research often draws insight from the existing literature on reappraisal.

The most salient difference between affect labelling and reappraisal lies in people’s perception of the efficacy of affect labelling. Unlike reappraisal, affect labelling’s effectiveness in regulating emotion is fairly unintuitive. Research has shown that while subjects expect reappraisal to reduce emotional distress, they predict the opposite for affect labelling, expecting the vocalisation of feelings to actually increase their emotional distress. In reality, while the magnitude of the reduction in emotional response is found to be stronger for reappraisal than for affect labelling, both strategies produce a noticeable decrease.

Individuals who respond more to reappraisal after the presentation of emotional stimuli tend to also benefit more from affect labelling, indicating they may act through the same mechanism.

Reappraisal and affect labelling share similarities in their neural signatures. As in affect labelling, reappraisal produces activity in the vlPFC while inhibiting response in the amygdala. However, in contrast to affect labelling, reappraisal has also been found to generate activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Possible Mechanisms


One possible explanation for affect labelling’s effectiveness is that it is simply preventing the labeller from fully experiencing the emotional response by drawing their attention away. Distraction techniques have been shown to elicit similar neural activity as affect labelling, with increased activity in the vlPFC and decreased in the amygdala. Additionally, some explicit distraction paradigms have been shown to result in similar reductions of negative emotions.

However, evidence is mixed on this front, as other tasks that involve turning attention away, such as a gender labelling task, do not produce the same reduction. Applications of affect labelling seem to suggest that the mechanism of action is not simply distraction. When applied with exposure therapy, affect labelling was found to be much more effective in reducing skin conductance response than distraction. Affect labelling is also known to result in long-term benefits in clinical settings, whereas distraction is generally considered to negatively affect progress.


Another proposed mechanism for affect labelling is through self-reflection. Emotional introspection differs from affect labelling in that it does not require explicit labelling of emotion; however, engaging in introspection has similar effects to affect labelling. As such, rather than being the entire process, affect labelling could act as a first-step in an emotional introspective process. Evidence supporting this mechanism uses a measure of dispositional mindfulness to quantify people’s ability to self-reflect. Researchers were able to link dispositional mindfulness to affect labelling by showing that people with higher levels of dispositional mindfulness showed stronger brain activation in regions associated with affect labelling, such as the vlPFC. Additionally, they showed greater reductions in activity in the amygdala, suggesting that mindfulness modulates the effectiveness of affect labelling, and lending support to the idea that introspection is the mechanism of action.

Unfortunately, this theory of affect labelling struggles to explain affect labelling’s benefits on stimuli that do not apply to the self. For instance, the regulatory effects of labelling external stimuli, such as faces or aversive images presented during an experiment, are unlikely to be explained by a self-reflective process.

Reduction of Uncertainty

People are known to be ambiguity averse, and the complexity of emotion can often create uncertainty in feelings that is unpleasant. Some researchers believe that affect labelling acts by reducing uncertainty in emotion. This is supported by neural evidence connecting uncertainty to activity in the amygdala. Affect labelling has been shown to down-regulate activity in the amygdala, and this may be a result of the reduction of uncertainty of feelings.

Evidence against this theory is the fact that while some emotions are characteristically uncertain, such as fear or anxiety, others tend to be more straightforward, e.g. sadness and anger. Since affect labelling is known to work across all these types of emotions, it is unlikely that uncertainty reduction is the only mechanism by which it acts.

Symbolic Conversion

Another theory of affect labelling posits that the act of labelling is a sort of symbolic encoding of information, changing the stimulus into language. It has been proposed that this symbolic conversion may act as a type of psychological distancing from the stimulus, leading to overall lower levels of affect. While affect labelling specifically refers to giving labels to emotions, assigning abstract content labels, such as identifying objects as “human”, “landscape”, etc., has been found to yield many of the same benefits. There is neural evidence to support this as well. Several studies have found that when subjects classify stimuli based on non-emotional categories, they exhibit greater vlPFC activity and less activity in the amygdala, just like in affect labelling. The fact that labelling non-emotional stimuli has similar effects to that of emotional stimuli suggests that the simple act of converting a stimulus into language may be driving the effect.


Social Media

The act of posting about one’s feelings on social media sites such as Twitter is a type of affect labelling. One research study analysed 74,487 Twitter users’ tweets for emotional contact, classifying tweets as either before or after instances of affect labelling, which were identified as tweets stating “I feel…”. The researchers found that emotions tended to increase in valence over time in tweets preceding the affect labelling tweet, with the greatest positive or negative emotion being experienced closest to the act of labelling. After the affect labelling tweet, the emotional intensity of the following tweets was found to fall off quickly, going back to baseline levels of valence. The results of this study support the application of affect labelling as an emotion regulation strategy in real-world settings, and show that social media users engage, potentially unknowingly, in affect labelling all the time.

Mental Health

A small body of work has begun to look at affect labelling’s potential as a clinical treatment in conjunction with exposure therapy for phobias, anxiety disorders, and other stress disorders.

One study found that subjects with high public speaking anxiety who chose from a set of predetermined emotion words to describe their feelings before giving a speech in front of an audience showed greater reductions in anxiety, quantified by physiological responses such as heart rate, than subjects who performed a control, shape-matching, task before giving their speeches. These results suggest that combining affect labelling with an exposure treatment is more effective than exposure alone. Notably, the affect labelling and control conditions found no difference in self-reported anxiety; however, physiological responses characteristic of anxiety were reduced for the subjects who performed the affect labelling.

Another study found similar results in spider-fearful individuals, exposing them to a tarantula over two days while simultaneously verbalising their feelings. Compared to subjects in reappraisal, distraction, and control conditions, subjects who engaged in affect labelling showed lower skin conductance response than the other conditions, although there was no difference between conditions in self-reported fear.

Although there is tentative evidence for the value of affect labelling in clinical settings, researchers acknowledge that there is still a need for many more studies drawing from clinical populations in order to deduce the value of using affect labelling in conjunction with other treatments before it can be safely adopted into practice.

Limitations and Concerns

The use of self-report measures of emotion in psychological research may invoke affect labelling, even in studies unrelated to the topic. Whether or not this poses a problem for emotion researchers is still largely unknown.

Although affect labelling appears be effective in laboratory studies with many participants, as with all psychological phenomena, individuals will vary in their experience. The reasons for individual differences in the effectiveness of affect labelling are in need of further research. Furthermore, paradigms used to study affect labelling differ widely, with some providing subjects with pre-prepared labels to select, while others require subjects to self-generate their own labels. These paradigms produce noticeable differences in results, with self-generative paradigms finding more long-term delayed effects of regulation, and pre-prepared paradigms finding immediate effects. The explanation for the differences in these results is still relatively unexplored, though some suspect it may be due to pre-prepared labels implying a kind of interpersonal emotion regulation, since it may be interpreted as a kind of support from the experimenter.

Whether or not the laboratory findings about affect labelling are applicable to affect labelling in the real world is another question researchers must ask. The situations in which people use affect labelling in real life are rich with context, and it is difficult to say whether the particular operationalisations of affect labelling used in a study allow the results to generalise.

What is Transportation Theory (Psychology)?


Narrative transportation theory proposes that when people lose themselves in a story, their attitudes and intentions change to reflect that story.

The mental state of narrative transportation can explain the persuasive effect of stories on people, who may experience narrative transportation when certain contextual and personal preconditions are met, as Green and Brock postulate for the transportation-imagery model. As Van Laer, de Ruyter, Visconti, and Wetzels elaborate further, narrative transportation occurs whenever the story receiver experiences a feeling of entering a world evoked by the narrative because of empathy for the story characters and imagination of the story plot.

Defining the Field

Deighton, Romer, and McQueen  anticipate the construct of narrative transportation by arguing that a story invites story receivers into the action it portrays and, as a result, makes them lose themselves in the story. Gerrig was the first to coin the notion of narrative transportation within the context of novels. Using travel as a metaphor for reading, he conceptualizes narrative transportation as a state of detachment from the world of origin that the story receiver – in his words, the traveller – experiences because of his or her engrossment in the story, a condition that Green and Brock later describe as the story receiver’s experience of being carried away by the story. Notably, the state of narrative transportation makes the world of origin partially inaccessible to the story receiver, thus marking a clear separation in terms of here/there and now/before, or narrative world/world of origin.

Relevant Features

Most research on narrative transportation follows the original definition of the construct. Scholars in the field constantly reaffirm the relevance of three features.

  1. Narrative transportation requires that people process stories – the acts of receiving and interpreting.
  2. Story receivers become transported through two main components: empathy and mental imagery. Empathy implies that story receivers try to understand the experience of a story character, that is, to know and feel the world in the same way. Thus, empathy offers an explanation for the state of detachment from the world of origin that is narrative transportation. In mental imagery, story receivers generate vivid images of the story plot, such that they feel as though they are experiencing the events themselves.
  3. When transported, story receivers lose track of reality in a physiological sense.

In accordance with these features, Van Laer et al.  define narrative transportation as the extent to which:

  • An individual empathizes with the story characters; and
  • The story plot activates their imagination,

Which leads them to experience suspended reality during story reception.

Similar Constructs

Narrative transportation is a form of experiential response to narratives and thus is similar to other constructs, such as absorption, narrative involvement, identification, optimal experience or flow, and immersion. Yet several subtle, critical differences exist. Absorption refers to a personality trait or general tendency to be immersed in life experiences; transportation is an engrossing temporary experience. Flow is a more general construct (i.e. people can experience flow in a variety of activities), whereas transportation specifically entails empathy and mental imagery, which do not occur in flow experiences. Phillips and McQuarrie demonstrate that immersion is primarily an experiential response to aesthetic and visual elements of images, whereas narrative transportation relies on a story with plot and characters, features that are not present in immersion. Identification emphasizes the involvement with story characters, while narrative transportation is concerned with the involvement with the narrative as a whole.

Narrative Persuasion

Since narrative transportation’s conceptualisation, research has demonstrated that the transported “traveller” can return changed by the journey. Subsequent studies have confirmed that a story can engross the story receiver in a transformational experience, whose effects are strong and long-lasting. The transformation that narrative transportation achieves is persuasion of the story receiver. More specifically, Van Laer et al.’s literature review reveals that narrative transportation can cause affective and cognitive responses, beliefs, and attitude and intention changes. However, the processing pattern of narrative transportation is markedly different from that in well-established models of persuasion.

A 2016 meta-analysis found significant, positive narrative persuasion (i.e. narrative-consistent) effects for attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours.

Rival Models

Before 2000, dual-process models of persuasion, especially the elaboration likelihood model and heuristic-systematic model, dominated persuasion research. These models attempt to explain why people accept or reject message claims. According to these models, the determination of a claim’s acceptability can result from careful evaluation of the arguments presented or from reliance on superficial cues, such as the presence of an expert. Whether receivers scrutinise a message depends on the extent to which they are able and motivated to process it systematically. As important variables, these models include empathy, familiarity, involvement, and the number and nature of thoughts the message evokes. If these variables are mainly positive, the receiver’s attitudes and intentions tend to be more positive; if the variables are predominantly negative, the resulting attitudes and intentions are more negative. These variables also exist in narrative persuasion.

Differences between Analytical and Narrative Persuasion

Analytical persuasion and narrative persuasion differ depending on the role of involvement. In analytical persuasion, involvement depends on the extent to which the message has personally relevant consequences for a receiver’s money, time, or other resources. If these consequences are sufficiently severe, receivers evaluate the arguments carefully and generate thoughts related to the arguments. Yet, as Slater notes, even though severe consequences for stories are relatively rare, “viewers or readers of an entertainment narrative typically appear to be far more engrossed in the message.” This type of involvement, or narrative transportation, is arguably the crucial determinant of narrative persuasion.

Though the dual-process models provide a valid description of analytical persuasion, they do not encompass narrative persuasion. Analytical persuasion refers to attitudes and intentions developed from processing messages that are overtly persuasive, such as most lessons in science books, news reports, and speeches. However, narrative persuasion refers to attitudes and intentions developed from processing narrative messages that are not overtly persuasive, such as novels, movies, or video games. Addressing the strength and duration of the persuasive effects of processing stories, narrative transportation is a mental state that produces enduring persuasive effects without careful evaluation of arguments. Transported story receivers are engrossed in a story in a way that neither is inherently critical nor involves great scrutiny.

Sleeper Effect

Narrative transportation seems to be more unintentionally affective than intentionally cognitive in nature. This way of processing leads to potentially increasing and long-lasting persuasive effects. Appel and Richter use the term “Sleeper effect” to describe this paradoxical property of narrative transportation over time, which consists of a more pronounced change in attitudes and intentions and a greater certainty that these attitudes and intentions are correct.

Plausible explanations for the sleeper effect are twofold:

  1. According to post-structural research, language’s articulation in narrative format is capable not only of mirroring reality but also of constructing it. As such, stories could cause profound and durable persuasion of the transported story receiver as a result of his or her progressive internalization. When stories transport story receivers, not only do they present a narrative world but, by reframing the story receiver’s language, they also durably change the world to which the story receiver returns after the transportation experience.
  2. Research demonstrates that people analyse and retain stories differently from other information formats. For example, Deighton et al. show that analytical advertisements stimulate cognitive responses whereas narrative advertisements are more likely to stimulate affective responses.

Following this line of reasoning, Van Laer et al. define narrative persuasion as:

the effect of narrative transportation, which manifests itself in story receivers’ affective and cognitive responses, beliefs, attitudes, and intentions from being swept away by a story and transported into a narrative world that modifies their perception of their world of origin.

The conceptual distinction between analytical persuasion and narrative persuasion and the theoretical framework of sound interpretation of narrative persuasion both ground the extended transportation-imagery model (ETIM).


ETIM contains three methodological factors that moderate the overall effect of narrative transportation, as van Laer, Feiereisen, and Visconti detail. The narrative transportation effect is stronger for stories:

  • In the commercial (vs. non-commercial) domain;
  • By users (vs. professionals); and
  • Received alone (vs. with others).

What is Group Emotion?


Group emotion refers to the moods, emotions and dispositional affects of a group of people. It can be seen as either an emotional entity influencing individual members’ emotional states (top down) or the sum of the individuals’ emotional states (bottom up).

Top Down Approach

This view sees the group’s dynamic processes as responsible for an elusive feeling state which influences the members’ feelings and behaviour. This view, that groups have an existence as entities beyond the characters that comprise them, has several angles.

Effects on Individuals

One angle of this approach was depicted in early works such as Le Bon’s and Freud’s who reasoned that there is a general influence of a crowd or group which makes the members of the group “feel, think and act” differently than they would have as isolated individuals. The reassurance of belonging to a crowd makes people act more extremely. Also, the intense uniformity of feelings is overwhelming and causes people to be emotionally swept to join the group’s atmosphere. Thus, the effect of the group causes emotions to be exaggerated.


Another aspect of the group as a whole perspective sees the normative forces a group has on its members’ emotional behaviour such as norms for the amount of feelings’ expression and even which emotions it is best to feel. The group’s norms control which emotions would (or at least should) be displayed at a specific situation according to the group’s best interest and goals. The norms help differentiate felt emotions, what the individuals actually feel, from expressed emotions, what they display in the current situation. This perspective has practical implications as shown by researchers. Thus, according to this angle the group causes the emotions to be moderated and controlled.

Binding Force

Another perspective emphasizes the importance of emotional attraction in group settings. It defines group emotion as members’ desire to be together, and finds that emotional ties are a type of glue which holds groups together and influences the group’s cohesiveness and the commitment to the task. This perspective focuses on the positive emotions of liking the other group members and the task at hand.


This perspective of the group as a whole approach studies the dynamic development of the group, from its establishment to its disassembly. Along the course the group changes in its interrelationships and interdependence amongst its members. These changes are accompanied by emotional processes which shape the outcome of the group. For instance, the midpoint in a group’s development is characterised by anxiety and anticipation about the capacity of the team to complete its goals, which drives teams to restructure their interaction patterns following the midpoint. Should the group harness these feelings and overcome the crisis stronger, its chances of completing the group’s goals are higher. In other cases, negative emotions towards members of the group or towards the task might jeopardise the group’s existence. This perspective sees the temporal changes of the emotions that govern the group.

Bottom Up

Contrary to the former approach, this approach views group-level emotion as the sum of its individuals’ affective compositions. These affective compositions are actually the emotional features each member brings with them to the group, such as: dispositional affect, mood, acute emotions, emotional intelligence, and sentiments (affective evaluations of the group). The team affective composition approach helps to understand the group emotion and its origins, and how these individual members’ affective predisposition combine to become one common entity. For the purpose of combining these individual characteristics, one can embrace several viewpoints:

Average Mood

Research has shown that by averaging the members’ dispositional affective tone it is possible to predict group-level behaviour such as absenteeism and prosocial behaviour. Also, when the average mood of employees was positive, it was positively related to the team’s performance.

Emotional Variance

Affective-homogenous groups are expected to behave differently from heterogeneous ones. The verdict is yet to be decided as to whether homogeneity is better than heterogeneity. In favour of affective homogeneity stand the notion that familiarity and similarity bring feelings of liking, comfort and positive emotions, and thus presumably better group outcomes and performances. It has long been found that people prefer to be in a group similar to them in many perspectives. A support for the positive effects of homogeneity can be found in a study that examined homogeneity in managers’ positive affectivity (PA) and its influence on several aspects of performance such as satisfaction, cooperation and financial outcome of the organisation. On the other hand, according to the view of opposites being beneficial, affective heterogeneity may lead to more emotional checks and balances which could then lead to better team performance. This was found to be true especially in groups where creativity is needed to complete the task appropriately. Homogeneity might lead to groupthink and hamper performance. It is necessary though for group members in heterogeneous groups to accept and allow one another to enact their different emotional roles.

Emotionally Extreme Members

Even if there is only one member in an otherwise averaged group which is extremely negative (or positive) in effect, that person might influence the affective state of the other members and cause the group to be much more negative (or positive) than would be expected from its mean-level dispositional affect. This mood shift might happen through emotional contagion, in which members are “infected” by others’ emotions, as well as through other processes. Emotional contagion has been observed even in absence of non-verbal cues, for example on online social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Combining Approaches

The above approaches can be combined in a way that they maintain reciprocal relations. For instance, members bring dispositional affective states and norms for expressing them to the team. These components are then factors determining the creation of group norms, which may in turn alter the moods, feelings and their expression by the members. Thus, the top-down and bottom-up approaches coalesce along the dynamic formation and lifespan of teams.

Empirical Definition

One study compared the reports of team members to reports of outside-observers. It showed that team affect and emotions were observable by and agreed upon by outsiders as well as by members of the team interacting face to face. So, it is possible to identify the group’s affective tone by aggregating self-reports of members of the group, as well as by viewing the group from the outside and looking for emotional gestures, both verbal and nonverbal.

Affecting Group Emotion

Studies show that the leader of the team has an important part in determining the moods of their team’s members. Such that members of a team with a leader in a negative affective state tend to be more negative themselves than members of teams with a leader in a positive mood. However, any member of the group might influence the other members’ emotions. The leader may do so either by way of implicit, automatic, emotional contagion or by explicit, deliberate, emotional influence in order to promote his interests. Other factors that affect the forming of the group’s emotional state are its emotional history, its norms for expressing feelings and the broader organisational norms regarding emotions.

Influence on Performance

The emotional state of the group influences team processes and outcomes. For example, a group in a positive mood displays more coordination between members, yet sometimes the effort they apply is not as high as groups in a negative mood. Another role emotions play in group dynamics and performance is the relation between intra-group task-conflicts and relationship-conflicts. It is assumed that conflicts related to the task can be beneficial for achieving the goal, unless these task-conflicts lead to relationship-conflicts among the team members, in which case the performance is hindered. The traits that decouple task from relationship conflicts are emotional attributes such as emotional intelligence, intragroup relational ties, and norms for reducing or preventing negative emotionality. Hence aspects of group emotion affect the outcome. Other findings are that an increase in positive mood will lead to greater cooperativeness and less group conflict. Also, positive mood results in elevated perceptions of task performance.

Evolutionary-Psychological Perspective

According to the evolutionary psychology approach, group affect has a function of helping communication between members of the group. The emotional state of the group informs its members about factors in the environment. For instance, if everyone is in a bad mood it is necessary to change the conditions, or perhaps work harder to achieve the goal and improve the conditions. Also, shared affect in groups coordinates group activity through fostering group bonds and group loyalty.

Emotional Aperture

Emotional aperture has been defined as the ability or skill to perceive features of group emotions. Examples of features of group emotions include the level of variability of emotions among members (i.e. affective diversity), the proportion of positive or negative emotions, and the modal (i.e. most common) emotion present in a group. The term “emotional aperture” was first defined by the social psychologist, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks and organisational theorist, Quy Huy. Analogous to adjusting a camera’s aperture setting to increase depth of field, emotional aperture involves adjusting one’s depth of field to bring into focus not solely the emotions of one person but also others scattered across a visual landscape. The difference between perceiving individual-level emotions versus group-level emotions is builds upon the distinction between analytic versus holistic perception.

What is Transference?


Transference (German: Übertragung) is a phenomenon within psychotherapy in which the feelings a person had about their parents, as one example, are unconsciously redirected or transferred to the present situation.

It usually concerns feelings from a primary relationship during childhood. At times, this transference can be considered inappropriate. Transference was first described by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, who considered it an important part of psychoanalytic treatment.


It is common for people to transfer feelings about their parents to their partners or children (that is, cross-generational entanglements). Another example of transference would be a person mistrusting somebody who resembles an ex-spouse in manners, voice, or external appearance, or being overly compliant to someone who resembles a childhood friend.

In The Psychology of the Transference, Carl Jung states that within the transference dyad both participants typically experience a variety of opposites, that in love and in psychological growth, the key to success is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process, and that this tension allows one to grow and to transform.

Only in a personally or socially harmful context can transference be described as a pathological issue. A modern, social-cognitive perspective on transference explains how it can occur in everyday life. When people meet a new person who reminds them of someone else, they unconsciously infer that the new person has traits similar to the person previously known. This perspective has generated a wealth of research that illuminated how people tend to repeat relationship patterns from the past in the present.

High-profile serial killers often transfer unresolved rage toward previous love or hate-objects onto “surrogates”, or individuals resembling or otherwise calling to mind the original object of that hate. It is believed in the instance of Ted Bundy, he repeatedly killed brunette women who reminded him of a previous girlfriend with whom he had become infatuated, but who had ended the relationship, leaving Bundy rejected and pathologically rageful (Bundy, however, denied this as a motivating factor in his crimes). This notwithstanding, Bundy’s behaviour could be considered pathological insofar as he may have had narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder. If so, normal transference mechanisms cannot be held causative of his homicidal behaviour.

Sigmund Freud held that transference plays a large role in male homosexuality. In The Ego and the Id, he claimed that eroticism between males can be an outcome of a “[psychically] non-economic” hostility, which is unconsciously subverted into love and sexual attraction.

Transference and Counter-Transference during Psychotherapy

In a therapy context, transference refers to redirection of a patient’s feelings for a significant person to the therapist. Transference is often manifested as an erotic attraction towards a therapist, but can be seen in many other forms such as rage, hatred, mistrust, parentification, extreme dependence, or even placing the therapist in a god-like or guru status. When Freud initially encountered transference in his therapy with patients, he thought he was encountering patient resistance, as he recognised the phenomenon when a patient refused to participate in a session of free association. But what he learned was that the analysis of the transference was actually the work that needed to be done: “the transference, which, whether affectionate or hostile, seemed in every case to constitute the greatest threat to the treatment, becomes its best tool”. The focus in psychodynamic psychotherapy is, in large part, the therapist and patient recognising the transference relationship and exploring the relationship’s meaning. Since the transference between patient and therapist happens on an unconscious level, psychodynamic therapists who are largely concerned with a patient’s unconscious material use the transference to reveal unresolved conflicts patients have with childhood figures.

Countertransference is defined as redirection of a therapist’s feelings toward a patient, or more generally, as a therapist’s emotional entanglement with a patient. A therapist’s attunement to their own countertransference is nearly as critical as understanding the transference. Not only does this help therapists regulate their emotions in the therapeutic relationship, but it also gives therapists valuable insight into what patients are attempting to elicit in them. For example, a therapist who is sexually attracted to a patient must understand the countertransference aspect (if any) of the attraction, and look at how the patient might be eliciting this attraction. Once any countertransference aspect has been identified, the therapist can ask the patient what his or her feelings are toward the therapist, and can explore how those feelings relate to unconscious motivations, desires, or fears.

Another contrasting perspective on transference and countertransference is offered in classical Adlerian psychotherapy. Rather than using the patient’s transference strategically in therapy, the positive or negative transference is diplomatically pointed out and explained as an obstacle to cooperation and improvement. For the therapist, any signs of countertransference would suggest that his or her own personal training analysis needs to be continued to overcome these tendencies. Andrea Celenza noted in 2010 that “the use of the analyst’s countertransference remains a point of controversy”.

What is ‘Honne’ and ‘Tatemae’?


In Japan, “honne” refers to a person’s true feelings and desires (本音, hon’ne, “true sound”), and “tatemae” refers contrastingly to the behaviour and opinions one displays in public (建前, tatemae, “built in front”, “façade”). This distinction began to be made in the post-war era.

A person’s honne may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne. In many cases, tatemae leads to outright telling of lies in order to avoid exposing the true inward feelings.

The honne-tatemae divide is considered by some to be of paramount importance in Japanese culture.

Refer to Smile Mask Syndrome.


In Japanese culture, public failure and the disapproval of others are seen as particular sources of shame and reduced social standing, so it is common to avoid direct confrontation or disagreement in most social contexts. Traditionally, social norms dictate that one should attempt to minimise discord; failure to do so might be seen as insulting or aggressive. For this reason, the Japanese tend to go to great lengths to avoid conflict, especially within the context of large groups. By upholding this social norm, one is socially protected from such transgressions by others.

The conflict between honne and giri (social obligations) is one of the main topics of Japanese drama throughout the ages. For example, the protagonist would have to choose between carrying out his obligations to his family/feudal lord or pursuing a clandestine love affair.

The same concept in Chinese culture is called “inside face” and “outside face”, and these two aspects also frequently come into conflict.


Contemporary phenomena such as hikikomori seclusion and parasite singles are seen as examples of late Japanese culture’s growing problem of the new generation growing up unable to deal with the complexities of honne-tatemae and pressure of an increasingly consumerist society.

Though tatemae and honne are not a uniquely Japanese phenomenon, some Japanese feel that it is unique to Japan; especially among those Japanese who feel their culture is unique in having the concepts of “private mind” and “public mind”. Although there might not be direct single word translations for honne and tatemae in some languages, they do have two-word descriptions; for example in English, “private mind” and “public mind”.

Some researchers suggest that the need for explicit words for tatemae and honne in Japanese culture is evidence that the concept is relatively new to Japan, whereas the unspoken understanding in many other cultures indicates a deeper internalisation of the concepts. In any case, all cultures have conventions that help to determine appropriate communication and behaviour in various social contexts which are implicitly understood without an explicit name for the social mores on which the conventions are based.

A similar discord of Japanese true own feeling and the pretension before public is observed in yase-gaman, a phrase whose meaning literally translates as “starving to [one’s] skeleton”, referring to being content or pretending to be so. Nowadays, the phrase is used for two different meanings, expressing the samurai virtue of self-discipline, silent moral heroism, or ridiculing stubbornness, face-savingness.